Grape Varieties at Fess Parker Winery
Few wine grape varieties have achieved such far-reaching worldwide exposure as Chardonnay has. Found in nearly every wine producing country, it's quality varies greatly from among the cheapest and least interesting wines in the world to among the most profound and legendary. Receiving its name from the village of Chardonnay in southern Burgundy, France, it has long remained the sole wine grape of the finest white burgundies. Over the ages it has been confused with Pinot Blanc and Aligioté which, as it turns out, is not surprising given its parentage revealed by DNA analysis which unexpectedly showed that Chardonnay is a natural cross of Pinot and Gouais Blanc.
On The Vine
Naturally vigorous and relatively thin skinned, Chardonnay is generally easy to grow and ripen in a wide range of climates though it does best in limestone or calcareous clay soils that aren't too dry.
Chardonnay is easily one of the most versatile varieties known for its ability, in the hands of a skilled winemaker and given optimum growing conditions, to distinctly express vineyard character, much like Pinot Noir. This is not surprising given its legendary status in a region that in many ways has become synonymous with terroir - Burgundy.
With its malleability and generally neutral character, a wide range of styles can be coaxed from Chardonnay, mostly as a direct result of chosen winemaking techniques such as the use or avoidance of malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and barrel fermentation as well as varying oak regimes or the use of stainless steel. Because of this, it is difficult to provide general characteristics of Chardonnay, though apple and melon are two common descriptors with crisp, lean, tart and refreshing styles being most common in cooler climates and rich, fatter, more unctuous styles in warmer regions.
Though stylistically it was once fashionable to produce rich, heavily oaked Chardonnay, the trend has definitely seen a reversal in the twenty-first century with consumers demanding much leaner, less oak-driven styles.
Burgundy, Languedoc and Champagne in France; Alto Adige, Trentino, Lombardia and Piemonte in Italy; Argentina; Chile; Australia; California and Washington state, United States.
Chardonnay in California
Chardonnay remains California's most planted variety (even having surpassed total acreage in France for a short time in the late 80s) and is produced in one form or another by virtually every wine producer in the state. For a long while, it would have been difficult to hear the words “California" and “Chardonnay" without the descriptors of ripe, oaky and buttery mentioned. And there is no doubt that Chardonnay from California has historically been sweeter and relatively higher in alcohol given the warmer climates where Chardonnay first achieved popularity in California - Napa Valley in particular. But many high quality producers throughout the state's cooler regions such as Sonoma Coast and Central Coast are embracing a more balanced approach that coaxes more acidity and minerality from the wine with much less emphasis on malolactic fermentation and new oak, this trend is all but reversed.
Chardonnay at Fess Parker Winery
Many fans of Fess Parker Winery know that Chardonnay remains one of our specialties having always been treated with the utmost respect it deserves. Sourcing fruit from Santa Barbara's cooler climates and a skilled winemaking team have allowed us to consistently produce Burgundy inspired, well balanced Chardonnay of uncompromised quality. While Chardonnay is best showcased among our lineup as varietal wine, it can also be found in our Parker Family Reserve White blend as well.