For years I shied away from Chardonnay (I almost hate to admit it.) But it was years ago, when finances were such that I couldn’t spring for a classic Chablis or great Montrachet, so heavily oaked options were some of the affordable ones.
Thankfully Chardonnay production has changed a bit in the past few years. More and more producers are creating Chardonnay without oak or with limited oak aging, and limited malolactic fermentation, resulting in wine that showcases the true aromatics and flavors of the grape, as well as the land and region they are made in. And, great selections are available for incredible prices, if you know what you are looking for.
Along with that, and somewhat oddly enough, as I have gotten older and learned to appreciate wine in all forms and flavors, sometimes that creamy, oaky Chardonnay hits the spot. Amazing how your palate changes over time….
Follow the jump for few selections I am drinking now:
Miner Chardonnay and Miner Wild Yeast Chardonnay: One of my favorite wineries in Napa is Dave Miner’s place on the Silverado Trail, with an absolutely fabulous balcony overlooking the vineyards to enjoy your tasting. The Miner Chardonnay is crisp, with clean flavors of peaches and pears. The Wild Yeast Chardonnay is a richer, creamier Chardonnay resulting from 15 months of oak aging and fermentation from wild yeast cultures on the skins of these Chardonnay grapes. My sister and I both love this wine, and winery, and find it is a great option for enjoying with anything from a goat cheese tart to a roast chicken.
Newton Chardonnay: I had the pleasure to enjoy a bottle of this recently while tailgating in the majestic setting of the Red Rocks in Colorado prior to a Lyle Lovett concert, while enjoying a tasty selection of cheese, hummus and fruit. With a setting like this, I knew I would like the wine. With one taste, I loved it. Rich, balanced and well structured, filled with pear, apple and peaches with nutmeg and vanilla undertones.
Domain Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay: Gorgeous Oregon Chardonnay made in a Burgundian style, that is crisp, clean and filled with earthy mineral and stone fruit notes. Created by fourth generation winemaker Veronique Drouhin using traditional techniques started by her family of the Joseph Drouhin winery in Burgundy the wine is elegant, concentrated and flavorful.
Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Chardonnay and Reserve Chardonnay: The Sonoma County is made from grapes grown throughout Sonoma County, California, the wine is one of the richer selections, utilizing barrel fermentation and sur lie aging (aging the wine on the lies or yeasts) in French and American oak for five months. Stone and tropical fruit aromas, with a rich palate of peach, apricot and cream. The Reserve is like elegant honey, with golden apple, pear and tropical banana aromas opening to caramel, vanilla and hazelnut flavors. The 2006 received a Parker 92 point rating.
Tandem Kent Richie Vineyard Chardonnay: Only 901 cases are made of this special wine was made. An intense wine filled with apricots, pear and baked apple with a long, luscious finish. The 2006 won a silver medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Frank Family Chardonnay: Classic Napa Chardonnay from one of the regions favorite families. Filled with citrus aromas of lemon and lime, with spicy peaches the wine opens up to rich baked apple pie flavors with sweet spice, baked apples and a buttery finish. Aged for about 11 months in oak the wine is creamy and elegant.
Alamos Chardonnay: This selection from Argentina is light and crisp with welcomed acidity, balance and softness for a refreshing, drinkable option. Some oak aging brings out spicy, creamy characteristics in the wine, with subtle citrus and floral aromas finished with flavors of sweet spice and subtle vanilla. This wine goes down dangerously smooth, and with an incredible price point around $12-$15 and an 87 point rating from Parker.
Chateau Montelena: One of my favorites. In 1976 this wine upset the French by being the highest scoring Chardonnay at what has become the Judgment of Paris, and it continues to impress. Very clean with hints of mineral, apricot and stone fruit characteristics with nuts and vanilla on the finish. Rent the film Bottle Shock and enjoy a bottle with a decadent wheel of St. Andre for the full experience. Year after year this wine receives at least a 90 point rating.
Solaire from Robert Mondavi: Mondavi’s making an award winning Chardonnay from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands region of California. The vineyards receive full morning sunshine, enhanced by maritime breezes,creating an exceptional environment for growing grapes. The wine is approachable and easy drinking with tropical fruit, citrus and spicy flavors.