What We Say 2008 Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s Chardonnay from Signorello Vineyards, along Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail, is a delicious example of how Chardonnay, when perfectly produced, can be provide a sublime drinking experience.
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Mission Codename: A Whole New Level
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Respond to reports that Signorello Vineyards’ newest Chardonnay is worthy of our Operatives exacting tastes. If the wine is as good as reports have led us to believe, procure an ample allocation for our Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Signorello Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2008 Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay
Winemaker: Pierre Birebent
Backgrounder: Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as ‘the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of immense quality would be hard, but look no further. Today’s selection, from Signorello’s own Vielles Vignes vineyard, is a great wine of distinctive character.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Glinting golden yellow with perfectly even coloration, right out the the very edge of the glass. When swirled, the wine keeps spinning and spinning, eventually settling – leaving behind tall columns of skinny legs that move slowly down the glass.
Smell – Bright and tropical, with immediate notes of pineapple, green mango, start fruit and white peach. These are neatly folded into white flowers, green melon, green apple, soft vanilla and Meyer lemon.
Feel – On the initial entry, the wine feels taught and lean. Then, something magical happens! As soon as the wine moves to the mid palate, it softens into liquid silk, treating your mouth to one of the softest, roundest wines you have ever felt. Even more intriguing is the fact that, at the edges off the tongue, the wine actually adds a soft dryness. After you swallow the wine, this dryness spreads inward, softly drying the mouth with a soft-white minerality.
Taste – Delicious and complex, lead by tart green apple, sweet golden apple, star fruit and Meyer lemon. Yellow pear, melon, dried white flowers, peach, custard and a hint of wildflower honey round, soft oak and a hint of vanilla out the flavors.
Finish – Long and delicious, starting with sweet flavors that then go slightly tart, as minerals and soft spice emerge as the wine drys the palate.
Conclusion – The 2008 Vielles Vignes Chardonnay, from our friends at Signorello Vineyards, is an exciting and delicious wine that leads off with an intriguing feel. This voluptuous and velvety character delivers flavors in a way that adds to the appeal of the wine – if you can get that far, as the lush aromas were enough to distract our tasting panel for a long while before we even took a first sip! Decant for best results, and we recommend that you drink this wine at just slightly above fridge-temp for best results. Pair with sliced pork with apple chutney and a creamy polenta. Be sure to purchase a few extra bottles of this age-worthy wine for your cellar!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Pierre Birebent
WINE EDUCATION: Upper technician degree in enology and viticulture from Macon, Burgundy ,France
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Costello Vineyard, Stag’s Leap Winery, Kuletto Estate. At Signorello Estate since 1998
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Making easy to drink wine with the potential of agibility.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: the art of grape growing is the first step of winemaking
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: My first vintage was the Signorello ‘98 Chardonnay, ‘98 semillon, but the winery has been producing quality wines since 1985
AGENT RED: Greetings, Pierre. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 “Vielles Vignes” Estate Chardonnay today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
PIERRE BIREBENT: It is my pleasure
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
WINEMAKER: Being a 5th generation winemaker, I grew up in the vineyards in southern France. It just came naturally.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
PIERRE: I believe wine should be drunk with food, so my style is to make a food friendly wine , European style, not to overpower the food . We should taste the fruit not the oak.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
PIERRE: I agreed with (owner) Ray Signorello to make a European style wine with California fruit. So we are making the style of wine we both like.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
PIERRE: It comes from our 30 year old estate vineyard, all French oak barrel fermented, undergoing 10 % malolactic fermentation, and aged in 28 % new oak barrels. The wine has some tropical fruit, minerality with citrus and sweet oak flavor.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
PIERRE: I like This chardonnay with sea food or smoked white meat, or poultry
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Napa Valley, and Signorello’s estate vineyard, so special?
PIERRE: Napa Valley is a first class grape growing area, known throughout the world, I am proud to call Napa Valley my home. And, Signorello is an estate vineyard, so we control the entire process ,from the pruning of the vines all the way to bottling. Also our location is unique as we are on a hill with the vineyard facing both side (east and west facing), and the winery on top, all our neighbors are on the flat valley floor. It is a unique location on the eastern side of Silverado Trail.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
PIERRE: Being that it is winter time, we are pruning vines in the vineyard, racking the 2010 vintage and getting ready to blend the 2009’s.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
PIERRE: “Connoisseur” or novice , taste them, you will know if you like them. Drink what you like.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
PIERRE: They are all welcome to stop at the winery to taste the wines and chat with me.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Signorello Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
93 POINTS – “An intense, nervy Chardonnay, grown on the estate along the Silverado Trail. Shows good acidity and a minerality that makes it elegant and firm, giving a bracing structure to the oak inspired flavors of pineapple tart, peaches and cream.” – Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast, June 2010
90 POINTS, ONE PUFF – “Presenting a bit of a conundrum in that it leads with very rich aromas of sweet fruit and abundant oak but follows with tight, still nascent flavors that fall short in delivering fully on the fruity promise of the nose, this big-bodied working seems held back just now by its youthful acids. That said, its richness and weight make it a good candidate for aging, and another year or two in the bottle should do the trick.” – Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine
4 STARS – “Full bodied and complex in style, this is a supple, well balanced, moderately rich chardonnay, with a long finish, tasting of white peach, apple, honey, grapefruit, toast, and baked bread.” -Ronn Wiegand, Restaurant Wine, Issues #133 & #134
About This Wine:
We are proud to present our 2008 “Vieilles Vignes.” Estate Chardonnay. The grapes sourced for this native yeast fermented Chardonnay were hand picked and carefully selected from our original vineyard planted in 1980. These old vines yielded an average of 1.8 tons per acre. This Chardonnay was grown exclusively on our estate vineyard located on the Silverado Trail. The shallow, rocky ensure intense varietal charac ter. We employed a variety of techniques in managing each vineyard’s microclimate including ver tical trellising, leaf removal and crop reduction.
The nose opens with intense tropical fruit, creme brulee, honey suckle and melon aromas. The layered palate has flavors of green apple, butterscotch, meyer lemon and poached pear. French oak provides a touch of spice with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. This rich and medium bodied offering has great balance and a soft mouthfeel. Drinkability: 2009 to 2014
Winemaking Notes: Careful pressing of whole clusters minimized skin contact. This gentle process helps the wine achieve balance as well as develop a silky mouth-feel and enhances the aging potential. Using native yeasts, the wine fermented at 50 degrees in French oak barrels with 8% of the wine undergoing a second, malolactic fermentation. Tonnelleries: François Frêres and Damy. Oak types: Allier, and Troncais. 28% new oak.
Harvest Report: The 2008 growing season started off with intense storms, but quickly disappeared by spring as the valley received about about 60% of normal rainfall. The spring produced one of the longest frost periods of the last 30 years with over 21 days at below freezing and caused many sleepless nights. A cold spring turned to triple digit heat in early summer. From a season that might have set a larger than normal crop, after the fruit set, fewer clusters with smaller berries appeared to be the norm. A week-long heat spell in early September ratcheted up the picking and all fruit decided to be ready at once. Overall, the 2008 crop will have lower yields, but will be of the highest quality.
About The Winery:
Ray Signorello Jr. began his journey as winemaker and vineyard owner in the Napa Valley during the mid 1980’s. Ray, born in San Francisco, California, moved to Vancouver, Canada where the Signorello family continues to maintain a home. Ray divides his time between Napa, San Francisco, Vancouver and business related travel. Ray’s father, Ray Sr., initiated the vineyard project during the mid 1970’s by purchasing the 100-acre estate located on the Silverado Trail in the beautiful Napa Valley. Ray Sr. worked side by side with Ray Jr., establishing the winery’s reputation for excellence until his passing in the fall of 1998.
No Turning Back – Signorellos’ original plan was to grow quality grapes to sell to existing wineries, but the harvest of 1985 changed this plan into a new level of evolvement. The bountiful crop allowed Signorellos to custom crush the excess grapes. This opportunity demonstrated what fabulous wine their vineyards were capable of producing. The project continues to grow, as do the spectacular 42 acres planted in several different varietals. Ray’s continuing effort represents the invested energies that created this reality from a dream.
In 1986 the Signorellos began the second phase of the venture, this was the building of the main winery structure. This beautiful building is used for barrel storage, wine tasting and retail sales. Along with the building of the winery, wine production was expanded to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. By the end of the 1980’s the Signorello family was thoroughly committed to making wine as well as growing grapes.
The decade of the nineties proved to be pivotal for Signorello Vineyards. In 1990 the first planting of red varietals began on the property- Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.
What brought the Signorellos to the Napa Valley was the romantic side of winemaking; growing grapes, working the land, and enjoying the wine country lifestyle of camaraderie, good wine and great meals. While the Valley lifestyle is a very real part of the business, there is a serious responsibility to making a dream become a reality, both father and son realized this fact early in the endeavor.
This venture was a dream; now it is reality. We have enjoyed every moment of it, and we look forward to continuing on to make quality wines from the Napa Valley!
Appellation: 100% Napa Valley Estate
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Harvested: September 6, 8-9, 2007
Brix at Harvest: 24.2
Total Acidity: 0.61
Total Production: 640 cases