Winemaking

The quest for quality is the basis for all winemaking decisions on the Chalk Hill Estate. The vineyardists coax Mother Nature to create perfect fruit that, once harvested, is delivered to the winery with only the most delicate touches. In the Winery, the Winemaker, Steve Nelson, and his dedicated staff gently shepherd the grapes through the fermentation process to the bottle. With an estate-wide, shared aesthetic, the process is light-handed, non-invasive, and sustainable, allowing each bottle to emulate the essence of the vineyard.

Red Wine

A Bunch of Red Grapes Hanging on the Vine

Grape Sorting Selects Only the
Most Perfect, Optimally Ripe Grapes

The clusters of red grapes arrive at the winery in small, individual, picking containers that protect the bunches from damage. Starting in the vineyards, and before they enter small fermentation tanks, they are inspected and sorted a minimum of five different times, saving only the most perfect, optimally ripe grapes. Once destemmed, these whole berries are gently conveyed to the fermenters.

A cold maceration precedes fermentation to extract color, fruit flavors and silky tannins. When the optimum textural profile is achieved, fermentation is allowed to slowly build. Many strains of indigenous yeasts provide layers of texture and nuance. At the close of fermentation, the lush free run juice is gently drawn to barrel. Here, a slow malolactic fermentation harmonizes the wine with the French oak, and softens the wine during its months in the cellar.

The amount of French oak, either new or neutral, is carefully chosen to add complexity and compliment the mid-palate sweetness of the wine. We take great pride in bottling our wines without filtration, allowing the most complete expression of the grape's potential to enter the bottle.

White Wine

The clusters of white grapes arrive at the winery in small, individual, picking containers that protect the bunches from damage. The clusters are inspected and sorted, culling out any imperfect bunches or imperfect berries within the individual bunch. The whole bunches are taken directly to the press and gently pressed. For Sauvignon Blanc, a variety that is sensitive to oxygen, a protective blanket of carbon dioxide keeps the juice free of contact with damaging oxygen. Chardonnay juice can tolerate oxygen contact without any deleterious impact.
 
The white wines are 100% barrel fermented, using a combination of new and used French oak, as well as stainless steel barrels for a small select percentage of our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. Chalk Hill's various strains of indigenous yeasts vie for supremacy in the fermenting process. This struggle provides layers of texture and nuance. Malolactic fermentation is allowed to soften the Chardonnay wine during its months in the cellar, while the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris do not undergo malolactic fermentation. A prescribed regimen of bâtonnage, the periodic stirring of the lees in the barrel, serves to add texture and mouthfeel.
 
The amount of new or neutral French oak is carefully chosen to compliment the weight of the wine and add complexity. The finished wine goes to bottle as the most complete expression of the grape's potential.

A Bunch of Green Grapes Hanging on the Vine

Grapes are Inspected and Sorted,
Culling Out Any Imperfect Bunches