Thursday, February 22, 2024 Feb 22, 2024
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What To Drink Now: Christmas Chardonnay

By Hayley Hamilton Cogill |

We drink a lot of Chardonnay in my house. Like many wine drinkers that have helped make this the number one selling white in America, it is an easy go to for us on many nights, pairing well with our typical dinners of salad, fish, chicken or hot buttered popcorn at a movie (the ideal pairing,) and being a very vineyard friendly grape, can adapt nicely to many styles of wine making.  My sweetie and I have different tastes in Chardonnay, he liking a more buttery, oak aged Chardonnay and me liking something steely and unoaked, allowing us to constantly seek wines that may please both our palates without too much oak or the wine being too mineral rich, or either of us making a happy compromise to enjoy the others favorite style.  Here are a few we have found that will pair nicely with anything from roasted chicken, broiled fish or pork tenderloin this holiday, just in time to be served at your festive gatherings. Some selections were sent for editorial consideration.

If you are looking for a wine that defines the versatility and approachability of California Chardonnay open a bottle of  Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay, filled with layers of fresh citrus, stone fruit and honeysuckle with just the right amount of sweet cream balanced with a touch of herbal, mineral notes to keep this wine rich and balanced without being overly complex.

Winderlea in Willamette Valley is best known for producing stellar Pinot, but they also successfully farm delicious Chardonnay on their Dundee Hills estate, as well as fruit from the Chehalem Mountains and McMinnville AVAs.  Golden apple, citrus and herbal notes fill the wine that is aged for 10 months in both partially new French oak and stainless steel, with the goal to keep the wine fresh and satisfying, capturing the personality of the valley. 

It would be difficult for me to do a Chardonnay post without including the Wild Yeast Chardonnay from Miner Family Vineyards, it is a consistent favorite with each vintage proving that using native yeasts and allowing these yeasts to do their magic on their own can create beautiful wine.  This one is toasty and rich with balance and texture, and ideal if you are a white wine drinker all year long as this will warm you on a cold winter night.  Luscious and lovely, always.

Along with great Pinot Noir, Russian River is known for producing some of the best Chardonnay in California.  Laguna Ranch Chardonnay, a part of the Gallo family of wines, from the heart of Russian River in California’s Sonoma County, celebrates their cool, maritime climate with over 260 acres of Chardonnay planted throughout their Laguna Ranch estate.  With coastal breezes maintaining cool temperatures this Chardonnay has an exceptionally long growing season producing wine with balanced fruit and acidity, richness and great character.

Jordan Chardonnay, as they end a year of celebration, toasting their 40th anniversary this classic California Chardonnay from Russian River vineyards is a symbol of how the region makes approachable and easy to enjoy Chardonnay with complexity, personality and a definite California style.  Their 2010 release had a bit more acid than in past years, keeping it vibrant and fresh with layers of apple, pear and toasted spices on the finish.

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay completely non-malolactic, creating a fruit forward, vibrant and refined Chardonnay from Sonoma County fruit.  Refined and elegant, with good acidity, viscosity and freshness with Chardonnay is all about the fruit, highlighting the traditional melon, ripe pear, apple and citrus notes of the Chardonnay grape.

Chateau St. Jean Belle Terre Chardonnay from Russian River shows how changing location can truly change the flavor of a wine.  Very fragrant, this Chardonnay is filled with layers of white flowers and herbal notes intermingled with peach, apricot, baking spice and lemon curd.

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Chardonnay is also a consistent, varietally correct, inexpensive go to for enjoying any time.

Though Steven Kent Winery is dedicated to crafting the highest quality Bordeaux style red to compete with the best Cabernet blends in the world, he also make one fine Chardonnay from his Livermore, CA fruit.  His small production (less than 300 cases) Merrillie Chardonnay, named after his grandmother, was aged for 16 months in partially new French oak, and bottled without fining or filtration to maintain the true flavor of the fruit, creating a wine filled with pear, apple and tropical banana, pineapple and mango with a touch of sweet cream on the end.

New Zealand is better known for producing Sauvignon Blanc than Chardonnay, but some producers have proved you can do both well, including Craggy Range.  Their Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay from Hawke’s Bay highlights the mineral notes with balanced acidity that the region is known, making a wine filled with fresh herbs, notes of chalk and flint and bright citrus, while still bringing in a bit of peaches and cream flavors.  Lively and delicious, a great wine to start an evening with.


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