Terrien Chardonnay comes from an Old Wente planting at Kiser Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. Wente, a California heirloom traced from France at the turn of the 19th Century, has a tendency to produce many small berries. The “hens and chicks” phenomenon comes about at flowering when the number of seeds is set, which, at a maximum, can only be four. The virgin chicks have no seeds at all and the grapes grow only to the size of peas. Tiny though they are, their flavor is exquisite.
In making this wine, clusters are crushed and allowed to soak for hours before pressing. The juice ferments with the addition of Montrachet yeast, which, like Old Wente, is itself a throwback to earlier California winemaking. Fermentation takes place in tank and the wine settles through the winter before descending to barrel for a full year. Neither malo-lactic fermentation nor new oak influences the flavor of the wine, and for this reason it is best to wait several years before opening. In time, the bright acidity gives way to the increasing weight on the palate while complex flavors emerge.
Terrien Chardonnay bears less resemblance to the California flavor paradigm than one might expect. The 2007 is fresh and bright and still in its upswing.