Myrna 2019 Chardonnay
Myrna’s focused intensity of fruit and texture reflects its two extreme mountain and hillside vineyard sites.
The word Myrna translates to “beloved”, a reflection of our feelings about truly great Chardonnay: wines that can translate from their sites intense minerality, texture and a dazzling spectrum of flavors.
Heading west up the Oakville Grade from Napa, or coming east on Trinity Road from Sonoma, is one of the rights of passage when you first visit Napa and Sonoma. Incredibly steep and full of twists and turns, you climb from one valley into the mountains and extraordinary redwoods of the Mayacamas range and come down into the other valley. The 11 miles take about half an hour. Halfway up, at the peak of the ridge, there is a side road that even those who have crossed the pass many times will not have noticed. You already feel remote within the majestic surroundings, but as you take the small side road and head north up the ridge, you feel you are in uncharted territory. The road leads to Bald Mountain, the second highest peak in the mountain range, and another steep side road sweeps you to the west side of the peak, where nestled into it you find one of the most stunning vineyard settings imaginable. We understand that vineyards were planted here early in the 20th century, and that the site was in fact a hideout during Prohibition; this latter point makes perfect sense when you stand in the vineyard, far from everything.
Planted in 1972, Bald Mountain vineyard has remarkable winegrowing characteristics, as well. In a cool bowl at the bottom of the site we found exactly what we were looking for in Chardonnay plantings. The vineyard is planted to heritage California clones that we believe thrive in poor soils, and develop a true depth of texture and flavor. Vines grow on pure fractured and tectonic rock, which is truly a dramatic sight. This mountain factor is very present in the finish of the wine, its chalkiness, salinity and minerality translating in a bright and genuine way.
Bald Mountain always takes our breath away. It is such an extreme location, and after you walk around, feel the Pacific winds coming in from the northwest gap, look at the undulating rows of vines, you simply have no desire to leave. The natural environment overwhelms everything else. As we commented on our first trip up: this is where the mountain lions live.
The wine produced by Bald Mountain is distinctive in so many ways. It has surprisingly delicate floral notes that move quickly to ripe yellow and more exotic fruits. The sappy texture of the wine makes its presence felt, and this grows into a more defined and powerful structure with layers of spice persisting through the finish.
Thornton Vineyard, the second source for Myrna, is one that excites us equally and adds a dimension that we believe Sonoma achieves almost uniquely well in California: Chardonnay carved by the combination of Pacific Ocean influence and vineyard altitude.
If you head up in the late afternoon you see and feel the coolness. The vineyard lies directly west of the town of Sonoma, at the southern base of Sonoma Mountain in an area that falls under both the Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations; this apt crossroads describes the various elements that make this vineyard so interesting. You climb and the washed colors from the daily Pacific afternoon fog give a different tint to the landscape. You feel the sea, and even the soils are cool to the eye, dark grey and rocky. However, the vines, nearly thirty years of age, look east and capture a ripeness that balances the wine on a knife’s edge. The wine bursts with brightness and citrus, with a firm mineral backbone. Salty, lime and green fruit-inflected, the results are so utterly up our alley. The only reason we didn’t bottle this wine separately as an homage to great Chablis is that the combination with the Bald Mountain fruit was simply too good and so harmoniously expressive of our vision of Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay.
The grapes were whole cluster pressed at fractional pressures, collected separately, and left to settle for 24-36 hours. The objective is to expose the must to oxygen at this stage, for elements prone to oxidation to drop out, and to have multiple pressings to follow through the aging process.
The must then goes right to barrels, 18% of which were new, with 1, 2, 3 and 4 year old barrels making up the rest of the total. There is lees contact throughout the aging, with stirring a bit more frequently early in the aging, down to once a month near the end. These phenolics from the lees, accentuated by the thick skins of the old Wente clone from Bald Mountain, develop into the notably sappy yet soft texture of the wine. 30% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation and we can say, as with the percentage of new oak as well as the length of aging, we believe that over-influencing the wine in any dimension detracts from the inherent qualities we feel every time we taste.
Finally, there is no racking from the time the must goes into barrel until the final wine is assembled before bottling. We believe this precise yet minimal approach ultimately gives us the intensely mineral and defined, rather than round, finish and aftertaste.
Our vision, or dream, has been to create a Chardonnay that moves well beyond fruit and exhibits texture, structure and persistence that to us, define not only great white wine, but great wine in general. The fact these characteristics are more apparent in white wine than red wine gives you a sense of where we place great white wine in the hierarchy of, well, life.
We are so pleased by the critical reception to our first releases. We're honored by the scores, but leave those aside to present just the review comments. We have set out to make distinct wines, and couldn't be happier that the comments reflect that objective.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media - "The 2019 Chardonnay Myrna shows just how compelling the vintage is for white wines. Lemon oil, white flowers, chalk and mint give the 2019 a brilliant upper register that almost comes as a surprise once the wine shows its superb depth and persistence. This highly expressive, nuanced Chardonnay has a lot going on and plenty to offer.”
James Suckling - “A polished, minerally chardonnay with sliced apple, lemon rind and some stone and flint. Laurel and other herbs, too. It’s medium-to full-bodied with a creamy texture and balance. Phenolic texture. Lively and stony.”
Virginia Boone, Wine Enthusiast - "High-toned and floral, this wine offers a generous mouthfeel of salty oak, mineral and wet stone. The elegant fruit profile combines pear, apple and Meyer lemon with ease, complementing the body weight with ample acidity."