A musician friend likens the tasting of wine to music appreciation: you start with enjoying the basics and then develop an ear over time as you gain exposure to a wide range of styles. Foot-tapping and smiles can come from enjoying the basic beats of bongo drums and strumming ukuleles, to warming to complex symphonic orchestrations, such as Beethoven’s Ninth, which unfolds like a great wine.
The analogy works for recent tastings of Chardonnays in a wide range of prices and styles. We enjoyed a $6 Columbia Valley offering at a picnic with sandwiches and pasta salads, a $16 Carneros wine with a seafood buffet and a $72 big and clean, fresh Napa Valley wine with fresh-caught halibut. We probably found the best value to quality ratios in the $12 to $15 range – perhaps the wine-drinking equivalent of rock and roll in the music world. Great fun now, but probably not music (or wine) for the ages in most cases. That said, here are some recent finds, in alphabetical order, as Tweeted over the past two months:
Alexander Valley Vineyard 08 Chardonnay $12. Clean varietal nose; mid-body to fat/soft; quaffing wine; for those who like this style.
Albert Bichot, Chateau Long-Depaquit. Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines from Chablis, under $50. Subtle oak, super Chardonnay noses in all. http://bit.ly/a9EwxQ
Crab dip, bread and appetizer Chardonnay 08 Bonterra organic Mendocino $11. Toasty/tropical nose; fat grapey style.
Value Chardonnay 08 Chalone Monterey County $11. Bigger style; tropical nose; round/ripe/mid-high viscosity. 13.5 alc. w/seafood pasta
Rich Napa Chardonnay 08 Chappellet $28. Varietal/oaky nose; bigger style, long finish 14.8 alc. w/sea bass caper/lemon/wine sauce.
Nice wine with BBQ chicken: 08 Concannon Livermore Chardonnay $12. Tropical nose; fat, ripe, decent acids. 13.5 alc. so not as heavy as some.
Value Napa Chardonnay 08 Flora Springs $15. Screwtop. Tropical/vanilla/Chard nose; round, ripe, 14.2 alc.
Value Napa Chardonnay 08 Folie a Deux $12. Mid-dark gold; tropical, toasty vanilla nose; mid-body; pleasant crispness. w/seafood.
Chardonnay value 07 Ghost Pines $12 Sonoma/Napa/Monterey grapes. Made at Martini. Varietal nose; decent acids; mid body. w/salad/apps.
Hanzell 2006 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay, $70. Mid gold; distinct Chardonnay with French oak in the background; mid-body; round, ripe; bigger style; tasty but a little short.
Great value in picnic/party Chardonnay 08 Hogue Columbia Valley $6. Screwtop. Tropical fruity nose; mid-body to fat; quaffing wine.
Nice Santa Lucia Highlands find. McIntyre 08 Chardonnay $28. Dijon clones; varietal nose, light oak, good acids, long finish.
Santa Lucia Highlands tasting. Paraiso 07 Eagle’s Perch Chardonnay $30. Oaky, vanilla, ripe fruit; decent acids. w/halibut.
Patz & Hall Chardonnay 07 Napa vs. 08 Sonoma. Both fine wines. Napa more oaky, round. Sonoma crisper; clean varietal nose. $30@.
2005 Stony Hill Napa Chardonnay. Classic varietal nose, light oak; balanced. Cult winery worth trying.
Stony Hill 2003 Napa Chardonnay. Sharp gold; older Chardonnay nose; light oak; clean fruit; mid-body to soft; good Chardonnay flavor. Great with Halibut.
Value Chardonnay w/character 08 Vichon France vins du pays $10. Varietal nose, FR style; mid-body, 12.5 alc., nice change from 13.50-14.
$16 Carneros Chardonnay worth trying 08 Waterstone. Vanilla/Chard nose; round, ripe but w/good acids, long finish. w/scallops.
Value Chardonnay, bigger style 08 Wente Riva Ranch $12. Toasty/tropical nose; round, ripe, soft. w/ripe cheeses, appetizers, crab dip.