"I'm a fiend for Chardonnay," says Justin Harmon. And indeed, there is something mischevious about the way he says it. We are tasting his 2011 Origami Chardonnay made from what he claims is the coldest vineyard in California.
On the floor of Bennett Valley, the fully phyloxerad vines are almost constantly under a blanket of fog. In 2011 it was a miracle he was able to make any wine at all — the botrytis was so bad he says his hands still hurt from sorting.
But it is what happens in the cellar that intrigues Harmon the most. The first wine he made was in his basement in Chicago and it is the interplay of yeast and oak — oxygen and sulfur that gets him excited. His Origami Chardonnay is inspired by Mersault — he ferments the juice in mostly new French oak barrels and stirs the lees (the dead yeast cells) weekly. The wine sees no sulfur until bottling, a practice Harmon believes gives the finish a brioche-like quality reminiscent of Jura. "Some people are looking for a crisp clean finish. I want just the opposite."
2011 Argot "Origami" Chardonnay, Bennett Valley: $42, available here.
Courtney Humiston is a sommelier at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg where she leads a wine list that includes over 500 labels from Sonoma County. Each week she will be selecting a Bay Area wine just for 7x7 readers.