Today is National Chardonnay Day, and we are celebrating with several glasses. Our Chardonnay has always been fan-favorite. We are also excited that our Carneros Chardonnay was recently named the #1 most popular by the glass wine in America’s best restaurants by Wine and Spirits magazine. The Carneros Chardonnay is as delicious alone as it is paired with a range of dishes, from truffle popcorn to chicken parmesan.
Seize the Chardonnay
The Carneros Chardonnay is as rich as it is fresh, and it is one of several different styles of Chardonnay we make at Frank Family. We grow all of our Chardonnay grapes in our 78-acre Lewis Vineyard—because the southernmost Carneros region is the coolest of the Napa Valley due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, creating the optimal environment for thin-skinned, delicate grapes to grow. The maritime climate causes fog and wind, and combined with clay soils, the resulting yields are extremely low, producing grapes that have refined acid and high concentration of flavors.
Blanc de Blancs
Our Blanc de Blancs (which literally means “from white grapes”) is made entirely from—you guessed it—chardonnay grapes. Crafted in our cellars using the méthode champenoise, this sparkling wine can only be purchased at Frank Family because we make such a limited amount of it. We harvest our chardonnay for bubbles a little earlier in the harvesting season (usually early/mid-August), because at this time, acid levels are still quite high and sugars are lower, which are two defining characteristics of sparkling wines. To learn more about the process of making bubbly, click here.
Upon sipping, the Blanc de Blancs expresses many of chardonnay’s varietal characteristics: the flavors and aromas of lemon zest, brioche, and crème brûlée that exist in our Carneros Chardonnay also exist in our bubbles…but in a slightly different way due in part to the three years the wine spends on the lees. A fresh and vibrant wine with rich structure, this fizzy elixir brings balance and intensity to the flavors of zesty green apple, toasted almond, wet stone, and white flowers. The mid-palate flows into a luscious creamy crush with flavors of freshly-baked bread and ripe pear, and finishes with remarkable length marked by vibrant minerality and effervescent citrus and stone fruit linger.
Possibly the best dishes to pair with Blanc de Blancs are dishes with an elevated level of richness—to balance the acidity and lean effervescence of the wine, creating a delicious balance. Think caviar, creamy pasta with truffles, fried chicken, and potato chips (we’re not judging!). On the other hand, matching the wine’s freshness with a similarly fresh and zesty dish like fish tacos, arugula salad, and spring rolls. But let’s be honest, a good bottle of bubbles is fabulous on its own as well.
Lewis Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay
While our Carneros Chardonnay is a taste of several different vineyard sites in the Napa Valley, our Lewis Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay is a taste of one very specific site. The Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay is a small-production wine because all the grapes are sourced from our small vineyard in Carneros.
A refined, elegant wine, this golden straw-colored Chardonnay has pronounced notes of lemon peel, butterscotch, and toasted brioche on the nose. The wine’s bracing acidity is balanced by finessed richness, due partly to its 11 months of aging in new French oak barrels. Full-bodied on the palate, concentrated citrus flavors and a delicate creaminess carry the wine through its long finish.
One of Lewis Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay’s strengths is its backbone—its complex, opulent body can stand up to heavier dishes—think duck confit or lobster macaroni and cheese. But thanks to its brightness, it does not outshine even the simplest of dishes (perhaps hard cheeses or fresh salads.
Late Harvest Chardonnay
Lastly, our Late Harvest Chardonnay is radically different than the drier wines we talked about before it. As the name suggests, the chardonnay grapes are picked later on in the harvest because the longer the grapes stay on the vine, the more sugar collects within the grapes. Botrytis, or noble rot, removes all the water from the chardonnay grapes, leaving behind only solid matter (sugars, fruit acids, and minerals). Noble rot can only occur in specific conditions such as low-lying fog and still mornings.
Late Harvest and botrytis wines are very difficult to harvest as the grapes must be inspected and thinned to remove individual grapes that qualify. As you can imagine, only a small amount of grapes make the grade, and when that small amount arrive at the winery, they are pressed. Because botrytis removed most of the liquid, they resulting pressed juice is very viscous. Then, fermentation occurs within new French oak barrels for a number of months, because the high sugar content is an exceedingly challenging environment for yeast. After several years of ageing and thorough analysis, the resulting wine has an unmatched intensity of flavor, with pure aromas of dried apricots, quince paste, and pear blossoms. The mid-palate is awash with waves of wet stone minerality, a botrytized classic characteristic. Beautiful layers of spice, honey, and candied fruit meld into a luxurious, honeyed finish.
Fascinatingly, the sweetness in this wine is not saddled with a syrupy texture thanks to the chardonnay’s vibrant acidity—sweet wines typically walk the line between layered, honeyed complexity and overly cloying. We think our Late Harvest Chardonnay is a great match for dishes with matched strength, such as blue cheese. If you’re pairing this wine with dessert, a good rule of thumb is to always make sure the wine is sweeter than the food. If the wine is less sweet than the food, it will taste bitter.
No matter which style of chardonnay you choose, we hope your National Chardonnay Day is delicious!