Stony Hill Chardonnays are some of the most respected and highly-sought-after California wines in existence. Their style is best described as lean, bright, elegant and food friendly.
Fred and Eleanor McCrea first stumbled across the property that would become Stony Hill Vineyard in the early 1940s. By 1943, they had made the rugged hillside spot on Spring Mountain their home. Fred and Eleanor loved the white wines of Burgundy, and while they would have planted the entire property to Chardonnay, viticulture advisors from the University of California recommended they diversify. They planted the first vines on the property in 1948 to Chardonnay, Riesling and a small amount of Pinot Blanc, followed a few years later by fields of Gewurztraminer and Semillon. The 21st century has seen the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Syrah.
The first Stony Hill harvest came in 1952, and the wine was snatched up quickly by family and friends. By 1954, every bottle was sold via mailing list, with a waiting list growing by the day. Eleanor ran the business end of things and Fred made the wine, developing Stony Hill’s signature restrained style and minimalist approach. Upon Fred’s death in 1977, his assistant and protégé, Mike Chelini, picked up the winemaking mantle and has carried on Stony Hill’s winemaking tradition for now over 40 years.
After Eleanor’s passing in 1991, her son Peter and daughter-in-law Willinda assumed day-to-day management of the winery. And in 2011, their daughter Sarah joined the family business. Sarah’s entrepreneurial spirit, along with a commitment to maintaining Stony Hill’s reputation for wines of impeccable quality and longevity has brought the winery into a new era of renewed respect for Old World style winemaking with success and grace.
To achieve this style, we crush and press the grapes with minimum skin contact and ferment in neutral oak cooperage. When fermentation is complete, we rack the wine off the lees, in order to avoid the development of a yeasty flavor in the wine. We then age it in the neutral oak barrels, most of which are well over ten years old, allowing the wine to develop and mature without absorbing an oak flavor component that could mask the natural fruit. In addition, we avoid a secondary (malolactic) fermentation in order to maintain the original acid structure of the wine and protect the fruit’s inherent citrus and apple components.
Fred and Eleanor took the original Chardonnay cuttings from the Wente vineyard in Livermore in 1948. We have done one major Chardonnay replanting, in 1986, making the average age of our current vineyards approximately 30 years old again.