The top 20 include nine from California and eleven from Burgundy. On the former, I’ve been a fan of Stony Hill of Napa and Hanzell of Sonoma for some 40 years. I prefer more classic styles, which these small producers consistently offer, versus the popular big oak and buttery styles, with high volumes and, to my palate, little varietal character or sense of place. Is the wine a tasty little gem for easy sipping or of more substance to go with a wide array of cuisines and no attacks on the tastebuds?
In Burgundy, we turn first to Chablis for great value in well-balanced, crisp, mostly unoaked wines to serve with appetizers and seafood (classic with clams, mussels and other shellfish). Further south, in the Cote de Beaune, the wines of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Montrachet and Meursault tend to be lusher and have more oak aging, with terroir, weather and the winemaker’s style adding nuances. A key: good acid structure and deep fruit, not overpowered by the wood, to create great combinations with seafood, chicken and other dishes. Since most of us can’t afford Le Montrachet at $700 a bottle and more, we look for other appellations, including in less famous regions (e.g., Côtes d’Auxerre Blanc; Givry Les Grognots Blanc). Some examples below.
- Sonoma Chardonnay, 2017 Hanzell. Dark gold, viscous; oak, vanilla, honey, stone fruit and lime nose; mid+acids; medium full depth; long semi-lush crisp, wood finish, 17-17.5 UC Davis, 92-93 other scales.
- Napa, Spring Mountain District, 2016 Stony Hill Chardonnay ($50 in 2018). Similar to previous notes. Mid yellow gold; stone fruit, citrus, vanilla, light honey nose; medium-plus acids; medium body, alcohol (13.0); good Chardonnay fruit on the palate; stone fruit; long balanced deep finish. w/halibut. 17/92.
- Sonoma Chardonnay, 2015 Hanzell ($70 in 2017; $40 in January 2021 in Vivino sale). Mid-dark gold; complex nose; honey, oak, stone fruit; mid-acids, starting to soften; oak, honey on the palate, too; long lush finish. w/seafood. 17/92.
- Santa Maria Valley, Calif., 2018 Ojai Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, $32. Mid-straw green gold; lemon, stone fruit, slate, wine lees nose; mid-plus acids; tight; long semi-lush finish. w/seafood. 16.5.-17/91-92
- Napa, Spring Mountain, 2018 Stony Hill Chardonnay ($75). Sharp mid-gold, viscous (13.5 alc.); light stone fruit, citrus, honey, oak nose; mid+ acids; some depth; seems more tart than previous tasting; long semi-lush slightly hot finish. 16.5/91.
- Napa, 2019 Trefethen Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District ($19 on sale at wine event). Sharp mid-dark gold; citrus, peach, vanilla, wine lees nose; mid-plus acids; round, ripe, lush Chardonnay fruit; long stone fruit, citrus finish; slightly hot (13.2 alc.). w/seafood pasta. 16.5/91.
- Salem Wine Company 2020 Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon ($25). Sharp light-mid green gold; citrus, lime, wine lees, light floral nose; mid-plus acids; good, deep Chardonnay fruit; semi-long, crisp, wine lees finish, almost Burgundian. 16.5/91.
- $25 Sonoma, Russian River Valley 2020 MacRostie Chardonnay. Mid-dark gold, viscous (14.2 alc.); citrus, stone fruit, light oak nose; mid+ acids; mid+ depth; long crisp slightly hot citrus finish. w/scallops. 16-16.5/90-91.
- $33 California Chardonnay 2019 FEL Anderson Valley. Light-mid gold; viscous; stone fruit, apple, wine lees nose; mid acids; round, ripe semi-lush finish. 16/90.
- Bouchard Pere et Fils 2012 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. Sharp mid-gold; bright citrus, stone fruit, buttery, wine lees nose; mid-to-big body; mid-plus acids, still evolving; very long, deep fruity finish, rich and with a crisp edge. 18/94.
- Bouchard Père et Fils 2008 Chevalier-Montrachet Domaine. Light-mid gold; stone fruit, vanilla, mineral, wine lees nose; mid-acids; mid-full depth; round, ripe, long, lush and complex finish (13.5 alc.). w/swordfish. 17.5-18/93-94
- Bouchard Pere et Fils 2008 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. Tragically, half the bottles of our case at a Chevaliers du Tastevin event had premature oxidation (pre-mox). Notes from a good bottle: sharp mid-gold; stone fruit, citrus, floral, vanilla nose; mid-big body; good acids; long, lush, buttery finish. 17-17.5/92-93.
- Domaine Louis Michel 2017 Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir ($65 in 2020). Sharp mid-gold; mid-viscosity (13.0 alc.); citrus, vanilla, lime and slate nose; medium acids, medium-plus depth; long, round, ripe semi-crisp finish. w/salmon. 17/92.
- Fine village wine 2018 Remoissenet Père et Fils Puligny-Montrachet, $85. Sharp mid green gold, viscous (13.5 alc.); stone fruit, vanilla, steely, citrus nose; mid+ acids; medium body; crisp stone fruit finish; rounds out with air. 16.5.-17/91-92
- Girardin 2016 Chassagne-Montrachet, Caillerets. Sharp mid-dark gold, viscous; vanilla, wine lees, stone fruit, lime nose; mid+ acids; mid body; some depth; long semi-lush oaky and wine lees finish. 16.5-17, 91-92
- Lower-priced white Burgundy 2018 Domaine Pascal & Mireille Renaud Pouilly-Fuissé Cuvée Vieilles Vignes ($19.99 in April 2021, WTSO). Similar to previous notes. Sharp mid-dark 24k gold; wine lees, stone fruit, citrus, lime, floral, oak nose; mid-plus acids; good depth of Chardonnay fruit; almost New World in style; long, crisp, semi-lush woody finish. w/seafood pasta. 16.5/91.
- François Gaunoux 2016 Meursault 1er Cru Gouttes d’Or ($54 in 2019). Mid straw gold; honey, vanilla, lees, stone fruit nose; low-mid acids; softening since last tasting; decent fruit; medium-long semi-lush finish (13.5 alc.). Good match w/shrimp appetizers. 16-16.5/90-91.
- Chablis-like 2020 Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre Blanc, $26. Sharp mid-dark green-gold; stone fruit, citrus, lime, peach nose; mid-plus acids; mid-plus body; nice structure; opens with air; long crisp stone fruit and Chardonnay finish. w/scallops. 16-16.5/90-91.
- Good $20 white Burgundy 2020 Domaine Pascal & Mireille Renaud Pouilly-Fuissé Cuvée Vieilles Vignes. Sharp dark gold; stone fruit, green fruit, lime, mineral nose; mid-plus acids; mid-depth; long semi-crisp stone fruit Chardonnay finish. w/apps. 16/90.
- $35 white Burgundy 2019 Domaine Buisson-Battault Bourgogne Blanc. Sharp mid-dark gold; low viscosity (12.5 alc.); peach, tropical mineral lime, green fruit nose; mid+acids; medium full body; different Chardonnay style; long semi-lush citric and vanilla finish. 16/90.
- Michel Sarrazin et Fils 2019 Givry Les Grognots Blanc, $32. Sharp mid-dark gold; some viscosity (13.0 alc.); citrus, peach, stone fruit nose; mid acids; some Chardonnay depth; semi-long, semi-lush, peachy finish. 16/90.