2019 William Hill Chardonnay Napa Valley
2019 William Hill Chardonnay Napa Valley Our Napa Valley Chardonnay is smooth and elegantly balanced. Aromas of caramel and buttered croissant lead to beautifully integrated layers of Bosc pear, yellow apple and Meyer lemon. The indulgent, velvety mouthfeel gives way to sparkling acidity that lingers on the finish.
William Hill Estate Winery is a special place. In 1978, visionary vineyard developer William Hill saw the incredible potential of the Silverado Bench, where he built his namesake winery. More than three decades later, our winemaker Ralf Holdenried is making modern wines that speak to the unique terroir of this virtually unknown area of southern Napa Valley.
A confluence of characteristics makes our 140-acre estate an ideal vineyard. Set on a benchland – off the valley floor, but below the steeper slopes of the hills – with a southwestern exposure, the vines bask in abundant sunlight. The vineyard is close to the valley floor climatically, but the volcanic soil and the size and vigor of the vines means William Hill is more like a mountaintop vineyard. These elements translate to elegant, expressive red Bordeaux wines.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted. Although the most highly regarded expressions of the variety are those from Burgundy and California, many high-quality examples are made in Italy, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America.
Describing the flavors of Chardonnay is not easy. While many Chardonnay wines have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety’s intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavors. Because of this high level of winemaker involvement, Chardonnay has become known as the “winemaker’s wine”.
The variety itself (although often said to be relatively flavor-neutral) is responsible for most of the fruity flavors found in Chardonnay wines. These range from the tropical (banana, melon, pineapple and guava) to stonefruits (peach, nectarine and apricot), citrus and apples.
Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavors a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California, Chile and much of Australia tend to give more tropical styles. Temperate zones such as southern Burgundy or northern New Zealand create wines marked out by stonefruit notes. The very coolest Chardonnay vineyards (those in Chablis, Champagne and Germany) lean towards green-apple aromas.
Mineral descriptors such as chalk, wet stones and crushed seashells also find their way into Chardonnay tasting notes. These are sometimes attributed to the soils in the vineyard, although the relationship between soil and wine flavor has become widely exaggerated. The most famously minerally Chardonnay wines are those of Chablis, one of the very few wine regions to focus on a largely unoaked style of Chardonnay.
Although most famous for its still, dry wines, Chardonnay is used to produce an impressively diverse range of wine styles. The variety is put to use in sparkling wines all over the world (most famously Champagne), when it is usually paired with Pinot Noir. It can also be found in sweet botrytized and late-harvest wines; Canada even produces sweet Chardonnay ice wines.
Chardonnay is particularly popular with wine producers, not least because it has a reliable market of keen consumers. The variety produces relatively high yields, will grow in a broad spectrum of climates and can be made into wine of acceptable quality with relative ease. In poor vintages, deficiencies can be covered up with oak flavors, reducing the financial impact of a bad harvest.