Style: This is a ripe expression of Hardscrabble Chardonnay. Aromas of ripe pear and grilled peach with vanilla toast and nutmeg. The palate starts assertively with a lush, creamy texture. This vintage shows more volume than verve on the finish.
Food pairings: Roasted chicken, roasted root vegetables, mushrooms.
Vineyard: Hardscrabble Vineyard (100%), Fauquier Co. on top of the Blue Ridge at 1,300 to 1,400 feet with an eastern to southern slope. Deep, well-drained, rocky, mineral soils give depth, structure and length. Chardonnay vines for the 2016 Hardscrabble were mostly from old vines ranging in age from 23 to 32 years. Yields range between 2 to 3 tons per acre (30 to 45 hl/H). Wente clones. VSP and Lyre training.
Vintage: A somewhat uneventful winter gave way to a warm, dry March that stimulated an early bud swell. Late April through most of May was very wet and cloudy. The vines did not look healthy with pale green leaves, slow shoot development, and a fair amount of phomopsis scars.
The wet weather pattern broke in late May and flowering was very successful under ideal conditions. The rest of June and early July was typical with occasional thunderstorms. By late July we saw browning grass and cessation of new growth, always a welcome sign. Heavy thundershowers in early August stimulated some vines in more clay-based soils, but vineyard blocks in low water holding capacity soils remained in balance.
The rest of August through most of September was very dry. September was uncommonly warm, including high nighttime temperatures. Acids dropped faster than normal. Picking decisions focused on preserving acidity and freshness. Harvest was September 13 through 16, 2016.
Winemaking: Grapes were sorted and lightly crushed into the press. Fermentation started in tank, then was racked to French oak after a week. Aged in barrel, on lees for 11 months with little stirring to preserve freshness. About 15% new oak with the balance in barrels ranging from one to ten years old. Aged an additional 7 months on lees in tank. Alcohol 12.9 %. Bottled in March 2018. 3,179 bottles produced. This vintage will improve over several years and plateau around 2021 to 2023.