Chardonnay reigns as the go-to white of the world due to its crisp, lively, vibrant, and lush makeup. People love it. Consider one of these on this Chardonnay Day—celebrated the Thursday before Memorial Day. (Some wines were sent for editorial consideration and all are available at Total Wine unless noted otherwise.)
Burgundy’s limestone-filled soils are the home of Chardonnay. Thirty-year-old vines grown in mineral-rich limestone are the base of Domaine Costal Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons ($35, Sigel’s). A pure expression of classic Chablis, presenting a focused, racy wine with wet-stone minerality. Chateau de la Cree “Les Tourelles de la Cree” ($45, wine.com) from Premier Cru Montagny showcases the variety’s delicate nature, with character sometimes lacking in New World expressions.
Old-World-style Chardonnay thrives in Willamette Valley with structured freshness and balance. I continue to find intriguing selections from the region, like Gran Moraine, Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve, Stoller Dundee Hills, and Winderlea. Van Duzer Beitz Vineyard ($36) balances ripe fruit with freshness in a beautifully layered wine of golden apple, lemon zest, and honeydew. Biodynamically and organically farmed Cooper Mountain Old Vines ($25) delivers toasted hazelnut with ripe pear. (Available via their websites.)
Chardonnay shines in Sonoma. Cooling winds blow off the San Francisco Bay, through the Petaluma Gap and up the Russian River ensures freshness is always present. Consistent favorites like Jordan, Ram’s Gate, Buena Vista and Ferrari-Carano deliver elegant, approachable wines.
Landmark Damaris Reserve ($35) blends fruit from Flocchini Vineyard in Petaluma Gap and Sangiacomo Family’s Kiser Ranch in Carneros. Melding the two creates a wine opening with floral honeysuckle and orange blossom, leading to citrus, lychee, and melon on the palate. Landmark’s single vineyard Sangiacomo Chardonnay ($45), sourced from a single block of the Kiser Vineyard, reveals the complexity of Carneros with ripe citrus and tropical notes. (Available via their website.)
Sonoma-Loeb Envoy ($38) reveals sophistication and complexity in their Carneros fruit. Layered, with creamy richness showing lemon tart and stone fruit flavors. Mi Sueno Los Carneros Chardonnay ($42) melds tropical pineapple and mango with toasted spice and citrus for a food friendly, textured wine.
Russian River wines have an overall delicacy, beauty, and delicious flavor. Ladera Pillow Road Chardonnay ties toasted brioche with golden peach and pear, finishing with punchy, crisp acidity.
Dutton Estate Kyndall’s Reserve ($42, wine.com) blends fruit from three Dutton Ranch Vineyards, each carefully selected to showcase the natural freshness and crisp acidity of Chardonnay, creating an easy-drinking selection. Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay ($42) accentuates the purity of the fruit when produced with a hands-off approach with an orchard fruit-filled palate.
Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros Chardonnay ($52, at Pogo’s) melds honeysuckle and jasmine with white peach and flinty minerality. Textured, with baked apple and spice, Frank Family Carneros Chardonnay ($35) ideally paird with roasted pork or chicken dishes.
Napa Valley’s Pahlmeyer Jayson Chardonnay ($50) pops with aromas of wisteria, and honeysuckle, leading to golden melon and citrus. Duckhorn’s Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35) blends fruit from Oak Knoll and Atlas Peak with Carneros for a steely expression of fruit on the front palate, leading to a well-rounded finish. Groth Hillview Vineyard ($30) showcases tropical notes the slightly warmer part of Napa’s Oak Knoll gives to Chardonnay fruit.
Moving down California’s Central Coast the maritime Pacific influence continues. J Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay ($25) from Monterey fills the palate with toasted honey, lemon and grapefruit. Floral aromatics leap from the glass of Sea Smoke Santa Rita Hills Estate Chardonnay ($60, via allocation) with honeysuckle, peach blossom, and lemon leaf. Hahn SLH Chardonnay ($25), from Santa Lucia Highlands, brings vanilla custard to an apricot filled palate. Edna Valley Vineyard Heritage Chardonnay ($40) celebrates the history of growing premium Chardonnay in Edna Valley with ripe pear and baked apple.
A few weeks ago I posted on Chile’s lovely, lively Pinot Noir wines. Similarly, Chile’s cooler climate is the ideal playground for producing pleasing Chardonnay. Veramonte Ritual Chardonnay ($20, wine.com) delivers lemon-lime, almond and a hint of sweet cream, great for seafood or pasta pairings.