Each year Landmark's winemaking evolves and continues to improve, as we strive to perfect our craft, and learn how best to interpret the qualities of each vintage. The key to flavorful and balanced wine is to capture these traits in the grapes. If we achieve this, the wine literally makes itself. With optimal fruit ripeness comes a perfect balance of sugar and acid, flavor and finesse, the hallmarks of great wine.
Our chardonnay fruit is picked cool in the early morning and delivered to the winery in half-ton bins, which we routinely fill to less than 1,000 lbs., to help to minimize juicing. All of the bins are loaded by gravity feed into one of our tank presses, which have a combined capacity of 18 tons of whole cluster grapes. By not destemming or crushing the grapes prior to pressing, we generate lower solids and less bitter compounds in the juice. In order to maximize rich flavors, we carefully monitor the yield of juice from each press load of grapes, taking only the low pressure yield, which has the best balance and leads to a richer wine.
This juice is then racked into French oak barrels where indigenous yeasts carry out the primary fermentation. This traditional practice results in a succession of yeast species, with each contributing its own unique flavor components to the wine. This results in an aromatically more complex wine, and one that is unique to the ecology of Landmark's cellars. A second fermentation, the malo-lactic, is carried out by bacteria. These microorganisms lend additional flavor and aroma components as they convert malic acid to the softer tasting lactic acid. This results in a wine that is judged richer, rounder, fuller on the palate, and is furthermore stable from a microbiological perspective, and can hence be bottled without filtration.
Maturation over 8-10 months in barrel, with periodic lees stirring adds weight and flavor to the wine. When the various lots (averaging about 45 over the past several years) have been evaluated for flavor, balance and quality, we are ready to begin our blending trials.
Each year nearly 85% of all chardonnay barrels from the vintage will get blended to our Overlook Chardonnay. Typically, this wine includes wines from all of the appellations in which we harvest chardonnay: Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara. Our Damaris Reserve Chardonnay will be a selection from the very best lots that will spend an additional several months in barrel. And finally, we select the very best barrels from the Lorenzo vineyard for this vineyard designate. These barrels will also undergo additional aging, up to thirteen months.
The final blends are settled in stainless steel tanks, lightly fined with isinglass and typically bottled without any filtration. This allows for greater aromatic richness and increased mouthfeel.