Chardonnay and More Chardonnay

Styles of Chardonnay
Chardonnay and more Chardonnay

What is in your Chardonnay wine glass?

Oh, the ways Chardonnay can be made: Stainless steel, barrel fermented, aged in oak, malolactic fermentation, partial malolactic, no malolactic fermentation. The results are very different, from lively and fruity to heavy- duty oak and butter flavors. Like a painter’s canvas, the winemaker has many ways to create his or her Chardonnay. 

Chardonnays come in all price ranges, from under $10 to over-the-top. The latest Wine Spectator features California Chardonnays and lists the top- rated Chardonnay wines. They are all over the map, with the most expensive a 2017 Vintage for $170.  When I see a wine with a price like that, I always wonder why someone, even if they can easily afford it, would want to spend that much money on a bottle of wine. I wonder how many of those wine drinkers can tell the difference between an expensive bottle of wine and a good bottle of inexpensive wine.

Take the Chardonnay Challenge

Are you game for some Chardonnay wine education? Try two or three different styles of Chardonnay. Learn the difference, and see how they match with food and your mood. You will need one “Naked” Chardonnay, and one or more bottles ranging from medium to a very bold, buttery and creamy Chardonnay.

chardonnay grapes
What is the destiny of these Chardonnay grapes? Stainless steel or French oak barrels?

I polled the Vintage Wine Tasters and asked them to help me with recommendations for each type of Chardonnay style. Here is what we came up with.

Naked or Stainless Steel Chardonnay

  • Blue Quail Chardonnay – Mollie Stone’s $15. The organic Chardonnay grapes come from the Potter Valley in Mendocino. This is a clean-tasting, refreshing wine. A lovely wine for a cocktail and with light appetizers or meals.
  • Joel Gott Unoaked California Chardonnay – Safeway for around $12.
  • Pelligrini Unoaked Russian River Valley Chardonnay – lovely pear and apple fruit from the Russian River Valley – Mollie Stone’s $19.99.

Medium-to-Heavy Duty Chardonnay

We have a lot of recommendations from our Vintage Wine Tasters:

Mike – “The Calera Central Coast is at KL Wines and has a great price at $14.95. It has multiple layers of flavors and perfect acidity. I rate it at 92 Points. The price at the winery is $25.”

Joe B – “The Carol Shelton Chardonnay Wild Thing is a most interesting Chardonnay. It tastes like no other. There is an aura of freshness to the wine, with topical fruit and a lovely, lingering finish. Safeway and Mollie Stone’s carry this wine for around $15 – $17. 90 Points.

Joe B – “The Navarro Mendocino Anderson Valley Chardonnay is my favorite Chardonnay at the moment. The Navarro Chardonnay did not go through malolactic fermentation, but was aged in older French barrels. There is no butter or oak, just beautiful apple and other floral flavors. You can only buy it online at Navarro for $22, and it’s worth every penny. If you buy a case, mixed or otherwise, the winery offers 1-Cent shipping.”

Jim A is a Chardonnay aficionado. That means he likes pricey Chardonnay and his recommendations are the Hafner Chardonnay and the Stuhlmuller Chardonnay. Both are at their online wine stores.

Bruce and his wife are Chardonnay lovers and search often for the right mix of oak and butter. His and his wife’s favorites are as follows:

  • Toasted Head Chardonnay – a good amount of butter, but not over the top, 89 Points. Total Wine for $9.
  • Cameron Hughes Russian River Valley Chardonnay $16 at Cameron Hughes online shop. Good solid butter and oak flavors and good mouthfeel. 90 Points.
  • Pedroncelli Frank Johnson Vineyard – light on the oak and butter, delicious balance. 89 Points. At Weimax Wines for $14.
  • Farmworker Napa Chardonnay – $17.99 – The Maldonado family makes this second label using Napa fruit. Dry, not oaky, crisp and fresh. Weimax Wines for $18. 89 Points.

The best way to compare your two to three wines is to open them and taste them side-by-side. The good thing about white wines is they will keep in your refrigerator for several days. You can sip them slowly and try them out with different foods.

Now what Chardonnay wines do you enjoy? What are we missing?

Speak Your Mind