Chardonnay

Chardonnay comes in many shapes and sizes and the style of the wine reflects not only the location where it is grown but also the goal of the winemaker. When we started, we were in our twenties and untethered and could have gone anywhere to plant a vineyard. We chose to grow Chardonnay on this piece of land on purpose. We knew the cool temperatures would keep tropical flavors at bay and allow the more citrus and mineral qualities of the variety to sing.
We planted 7 Old Wente and Dijon clonal selections of Chardonnay on 7 of the chilliest acres in the vineyard. Regardless of clone, our Chardonnays have a distinct signature that can best be described as a combination of chalky, citrus, apple and pear notes combined with vibrant energy from the brisk acidity. These are not rich, buttery and fat wines.

We make three Chardonnay. As with our Pinot noir and Syrah, we first make the Estate blend blind of production information (# of cases, % new oak, etc.) and select what we feel best represents Peay Chardonnay in that vintage. The remaining barrels are blended with a few barrels we make from a vineyard in the southern portion of the West Sonoma Coast and make the Sonoma Coast. In exceptional vintages, we also make 50 cases of a tête de cuvée named Elanus.

Vanessa cut her teeth as winemaker at Peter Michael Winery in the 1990s. It was there that she learned the craft of making superior Chardonnay from various sites with distinct personalities. She has adapted her approach to suit our cooler site and makes some of the most compelling expressions of Chardonnay in the U.S.

Growing Chardonnay at Peay

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A collage of photographs and graphics that represent this Cuvée. This image is also used as the product image for wines of this Cuvée.

Estate Chardonnay

The most frequent comment we receive when we pour our wines for people is, “I hate Chardonnay, but I love yours?” Hmm. Do you hate Chardonnay, or do you hate a certain style of Chardonnay that has become synonymous with California Chardonnay? Chardonnay can be rich, fat and buttery or steely, green, and chalky. And, of course, everything in between. Peay Estate Chardonnay falls somewhere towards the leaner style of Chardonnay but we do not wish to forfeit complexity, depth, and texture to the gods of acidity. That is why we chose the West Sonoma Coast as our home. Due to the cold, moderate weather we have an abundance of acid in our grapes and can wait to pick our fruit until October when the grapes are ripe, the flavors are still in the orchard fruit realm, and sugars are low. As a result, we can use traditional Burgundian winemaking methods to bring forth complexity and nuance as we don’t risk losing verve and ending up with heavy, weighed down wines. These methods include primary fermentation in barrel instead of tank, secondary fermentation (the much maligned malolactic-fermentation) to soften a wine and add texture, stirring of yeast to enhance silkiness and add some flintiness at times, and in the end, we bottle wines unfined and unfiltered.

The result? Our Estate Chardonnay is singular and outstanding. There is a transparency to our site unadorned with clunky winemaking decisions or overt ripeness. The wine often features a floral top end with a whiff of smoke, mint leaf, and some Marcona almond notes supported by a salty, lemony finish. The silky texture and creaminess of the mid-palate hints at richness but is held taut by bright acidity that tells you this is a Peay Chardonnay. And our Chardonnay will improve with age. On release, they are vibrant and edgy and quite pleasing and with a few years become more integrated and nuanced. I have had 15-year-old Peay Chardonnay that are still kicking. Not all our Chardonnay will age for decades but we can assure you they will evolve and develop for at least a decade from release.

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A collage of photographs and graphics that represent this Cuvée. This image is also used as the product image for wines of this Cuvée.

Sonoma Coast

Though we select the barrels for the Estate Chardonnay first, the Sonoma Coast is not an after-thought, or even a lesser wine. Regional wines – what we refer to here as AVA wines – are usually composites from grapes grown at many sites within an AVA. That is the case for the Peay Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, too. Over 75% of the blend, however, comes from our Estate Vineyard and is farmed to the same exacting standards. The remaining quarter (just a few tons) comes from the Searby Vineyard in the southern portion of the West Sonoma Coast near Occidental. Searby is one of the most highly sought-after vineyards for vineyard-designate Chardonnay in Sonoma County. As it is a touch warmer in Occidental, that portion of the blend offers a little more richness and silkiness while the structure and fruit profile of the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is very much one of a Peay Estate Chardonnay and has a similar intensity and complexity.

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A collage of photographs and graphics that represent this Cuvée. This image is also used as the product image for wines of this Cuvée.

Elanus

Driven and Rare

With grace and power, the white-tailed kite Elanus leucurus soars above our coastal vineyard riding the afternoon wind. At great heights she hovers, scanning the hillside for prey and diving with impressive precision.

Elanus (“driven” in Greek) is a selection of three barrels that best captures the singular expression of our terroir. It is made only in vintages worthy of elevation.

Over the years customers have asked us, “what is the best wine you could make from your vineyard, production goals aside?” This caused us to ruminate.

We make four Peay Pinot noirs and two Chardonnay from our vineyard. What if we made only one of each wine from the “best” barrels, what would they taste like? How good could they be? Bottling just a single clone would not deliver the diversity of aromas and senses that make our Estate blends so compelling. But, what if we blend just a little bit from a handful of clones, perhaps the clones that serve as the backbone of our Estate blends? What would that taste like? Well, it would taste like Elanus.

Elanus Chardonnay and Pinot noir are barrel selections; tête de cuvées to borrow a term from the Champenois. Vanessa tastes through the barrels and when one or two stick out as superior, she marks the barrel in chalk with a flying E for further consideration.

We do not make Elanus Chardonnay and Pinot noir every year, however. Some years we do not have enough wine to pull aside a few barrels. Sometimes the vintage needs every superior barrel we have to make the other Estate blends. We make Elanus when there is something worthy of being captured that must be shared. The only downside is we make less than 3 barrels, around 50-75 cases, or 600-900 bottles. That’s it. They are for our loyal mailing list customers and we hope you enjoy them.

Upcoming Release

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We produce small quantities of each wine, some under 100 cases. When we have new wines to sell, they are offered to subscribers of our mailing list for first-pick. After they have made their purchases, what we have left in stock is made available to the general public. Thanks to our supportive following, our wines tend to sell quickly. If you don't want to miss out, and would like to receive an email when we have a new release available, please join our seasonal newsletter here.
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Chardonnay Archive

For wines no longer for sale through our online store, you can read tasting notes, reviews and scores here:

Wine Archive
If you've purchased a bottle or have wine in your cellar, you can find Aging Recommendations here.

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Our Wines

Pomarium, Scallop Shelf, Ama, Sonoma Coast, Savoy, Elanus
La Bruma, Les Titans
Estate, Sonoma Coast, Elanus

Want Some Wine?

Our wines are made from grapes grown on our 53-acre hilltop vineyard located above a river in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast, 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. We grow Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. You can browse our current offerings in our online Wine Shop.

Shop

Want Some Wine?

Our wines are made from grapes grown on our 53-acre hilltop vineyard located above a river in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast, 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. We grow Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. You can browse our current offerings in our online Wine Shop.

Shop