WINEMAKER: Janet Myers
APPELLATION: Carneros, Napa Valley
BRIX AT HARVEST: 23.5°–24.5°
VARIETAL COMPOSITION: 100% Chardonnay
FERMENTATION: 100% barrel fermented, sur lie aged
AGING: 100% French oak, 86% new, 14 months
COOPERS: Dargaud & Jaegle, François Frere and Boutes
RELEASE DATE: August 2011
CASES PRODUCED: 1,503
Cuvée sauvage chardonnay
Appearance: Delicate lemon yellow
Aromas: Rich apple and pear fruit aromas are intertwined with notes of crème brûlée, honey, toasty oak, and vanilla. The nose is layered with subtle hints of Meyer lemon and white peach adding dimension and complexity.
Flavors: Luxurious and full on the palate, showing rich flavors of apple tart, honeysuckle, vanilla, and fresh cream, with ripe pear, hints of citrus, and abundant minerality. Very full and vibrant with a velvety mouthfeel and a long finish highlighted by poached pear and hints of apricot.
Franciscan was the first Napa Valley winery to produce a wild yeast fermented Chardonnay, starting in 1987. Following traditional Burgundian techniques, yeast is not added to the juice, but instead we let the native yeast that live on the grapes perform the fermentation. Unlike cultured yeasts, wild yeast comes in many strains, reflective of the vineyard terroir. They work in a relay, and as one strain finishes, another starts, each adding its own personality to the wine, giving layers of complexity – which is why we go to the extra effort of “going wild.”
For Cuvée Sauvage, we use exclusively our finest lots from cool Carneros, with the heart of the blend coming from our estate Larsen Vineyard. The Dijon clones planted provide concentrated fruit character, and give minerality, vibrancy, and complexity to Cuvée Sauvage, with consistency year to year of the wild yeast expression.
—Janet Myers, Winemaker
2009 was the third year of low rainfall, with a mild summer free of any major heat spikes, and consistently cool night temperatures. These perfect growing conditions lead to even ripening in Chardonnay, and delicious classic, rich, vibrant flavors. Hot weather arrived August 28th to propel the grapes toward ripeness, with Chardonnay harvest starting September 9th. September was notably cool, with a moderate heat wave returning on September 21st for a week. Our last Chardonnay vineyard from the Carneros region was picked on October 6th.