We have made a vineyard-designate Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay since our debut 2000 vintage. Originally planted in the early 1980s, Conner Lee is located at an elevation of approximately 1,200 feet on the plateau of Radar Hill south of Othello, Washington. Farmed by Jerry Bookwalter and Tom Thorsen, it is a cool site in a warm, sunny region. In our Eastern Washington desert environment, the spring and fall nights can be 50 degrees cooler than the daytime temperatures. The hot summer months of July and August ripen the fruit, while cooler fall temperatures keep the acids high and the pH low. We work with Conner Lee's prized 1989 block and 2005 'clone #95' block. Both are planted with ungrafted vines in well-drained sandy-silt soils. To achieve the clean and complex style this wine is known for, we prune for optimum fruit positions in February, shoot thin in May and cluster thin at veraison—all to promote concentration in the fruit early in the year.
Vintage and Harvest:
2015 began with a very warm February and March, followed by abundant heat from mid-May to late June. To address the early season heat, which spurred the vines to a very early start, we tailored our irrigation, crop size and shading to the needs of the vineyard. From July on, the weather returned to seasonal averages, allowing us to fine-tune our viticulture in the run-up to harvest. Though harvest was our earliest ever, thanks to knowledge gained from other warm vintages, the quality of the fruit was exceptional. With an eye toward acid levels (as opposed to sugars) we picked our 1989 block chardonnay on August 28th and Sept 7th at 22.5 ̊Brix/3.3 pH, and 23.0 ̊Brix/3.3 pH respectively, with our clone #95 grapes arriving on September 1st at 22.3 ̊ and 3.65 pH.
This wine was 100% whole-cluster pressed. 55% was fermented in predominantly mature Burgundy barrels, with a total of 11% new French oak. To enhance texture and richness, we fermented the other 45% in concrete. To maintain Conner Lee’s bright, fresh character, only 40% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation. In keeping with our gentle winemaking approach, and a belief in preserving nuance and complexity, this wine was not cold stabilized. As a
result, if stored exceedingly cold, it may shed natural tartaric crystals.