On several recent visits to Frog’s Leap, John Williams has detoured me from queries about Cabernet and Zinfandel to taste his Chardonnay. He and his team have been developing a new strategy: pick at the underside of ripeness; whole-cluster press; settle for two days, then rack into new oak barrels; allow the fermentation to begin on its own and reach its peak (four or five days); then, with half the sugar remaining in the grapes, rack the wine to lined cement tanks to finish whatever it’s going to do, undisturbed for another nine months. Up until now, I’ve been more curious about his quixotic focus on Chardonnay from Napa Valley, of all places, than about the wine itself. This vintage comes from Truchard and a nearby vineyard on Stanly Road, picking up on the best aspects of Carneros fruit—desert citrus cooled by the fog. It’s tart with baked lemon and grapefruit flavors, zesty in the middle and then richer in the end. The finish tastes like salted caramels, but it’s completely savory…and brisk. Williams’s goal is to make a great Chardonnay that’s expressive of its origins in Napa Valley and his 2015 may give you a new perspective on that possibility.
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