"I am starting a small vineyard here in Washington and have planted 100 chardonnay and 25 syrah. I would like to make a nice rich buttery chard with a nice deep yellow color. Do you have any recipes...?" M. Mertz Wuts, eastern Washington State.
This white grape of Burgundy was for a long time the sole source of that region's white wines. It is also the grape of choice for some of the best sparkling wines made throughout history. Today it is grown in widely varying climates and geographies, from Austria to Australia, from Chablis in France to Napa in California, and from south Texas to eastern Washington State. The vine is capable of high yields, but its propensity to bud early exposes it to late spring frosts and it thin skin is easily attacked by rot if the rains come during harvest. It possesses a fragile acidity which can be lost during the latter stages of ripening, but it responds well to cold fermentations, lees stirring and bold oaking.
Chardonnay's popularity as the white wine is probably attributable to its ability to deliver a full-bodied, buttery white and its easy marriage to oak. For winemakers, however, this white grape responds to a wider variety of winemaking techniques and styles than any other white. It blends well with Chenin Blanc, Sémillon and Colombard without giving up its own fruity character, while as a varietal it is capable of improving in the bottle for 10, 20 or even 30 years. In short, what a grape!
The recipe below is just a basic recipe. Because the grape will respond to different techniques, I encourage you to experiment to coax from it its many possible nuances.
Grapes may be destemmed and crushed or whole-cluster crushed. Stir pectic enzyme into crush, cover, and let sit 4-6 hours. Press grapes and put juice in primary or 6½-gallon secondary. Stir potassium metabisulfite into juice, cover (or attach airlock to carboy) and let sit additional 6 hours or overnight. Adjust acidity and sugar if required and stir in yeast nutrient, activated yeast and oak powder. Re-cover and set in cool place (65° F.) to ferment. On 5th day of vigorous fermentation, add malo-lactic culture. When specific gravity drops to or below 1.000, rack into secondary. Store carboy in cooler place (55-60° F.) for 6 weeks. Rack, sulfite (¼ tsp potassium metabisulfite), top up, reattach airlock, and return to cool place. Repeat racking every 6 weeks until wine clears, fining after 3rd racking if necessary. Keep wine cool for 2 weeks after it clears or 4 weeks if fined. Filter if deemed necessary. Sweeten if required and rack into bottles. Allow 3 months before tasting. [Author's own recipe]
My thanks to M. Mertz Wuts, eastern Washington State, for this request.