Chardonnay tagged posts

Stunning Chablis from Louis Michel (Under $30)

April 18, 2017 90+ Bargains  No comments

Louis Michel ChablisThis weekend we held a blind tasting of three Premier Cru Chablis from Louis Michel.  I expected the wines to be good (they were), but what really surprised me was just how different they were.  Each 1er cru vineyard has a certain reputation and this tasting showed that the reputation is dead on - two tasters were able to correctly call all three of the wines.  The fact that 2014 is the Chablis vintage of the decade, doesn't hurt.

Before we get into the wines, let's discuss Chablis.  This is one of the few remaining cases where the very best examples of a grape can still be had for a value price.  Chablis is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes on the northern side of Burgundy.  The cool climate results in super crisp, high acid wines that, to my taste, are exactly what Chardonnay should

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A Top CA (Under $20) Chard with Simple Belgian Beer Mussels

September 29, 2014 High End Values  No comments

Chalk Hill and Mussels

Chalk Hill is known for their Estate Chardonnay. But what do you do if you don't want to spend the $48 for that wine but you still want their signature quality and style?  Until 2012, there was nothing you could do.

New for the 2012 vintage, Chalk Hill is releasing their first wine that is not from their namesake appellation.  This Chardonnay comes from the very cold Sonoma Coast appellation, not to be confused with the larger Sonoma County (of which it is a part) or the Southern Sonoma Valley appellations. Sonoma needs to rename these to lessen the confusion, but that's for another time.

The proximity to the cool Pacific Ocean makes this Chardonnay very crisp, but it still possesses the signature Chalk Hill oak influence.  The wine was a perfect

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Under $12 Deals – A Crisp White Burgundy (RP91, $11.95)

December 6, 2013 Under $12 Deals  No comments

Marie-Pierre ManciatWhite Burgundys are some of the most sought after and expensive white wines in the world with well rated, and even marginally rated examples selling for well over $100 per bottle.  So when I saw this Chardonnay from the Mâcon region had received 91 points from Parker himself and it was priced at $12, I had to try it.

Last night I grabbed this bottle and headed to our favorite BYOB where it went perfectly with the pan-roasted skate wing special.  This wine is a stark contrast to the big buttery domestic Chardonnay style.  It features crisp acid and beautiful notes of peach and pear.  It sees no wood, so you end up with a very focused wine that's a perfect fit for seafood.

I've been very impressed with several of the 2011's from the Mâcon region of Burgundy - an area increasingly

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Santa Barbara County Isn’t Just For Pinot

November 19, 2012 High End Values  No comments

Dierberg Santa Maria Chardonnay 2009Long time readers of this blog know I am a fan of cool climate, Central Coast Chardonnay.  Monterey and Santa Barbara counties are hot spots for this style of wine and big time value.  Take the wine I drank last night, Dierberg's Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, which was awarded 93 points from the Wine Advocate's Antonio Galloni.  Slap a Carneros label on this wine and it would be well over $30.  But at $22.95, this is both an awesome wine and an awesome value.

This wine pours a light straw color with a bright nose of tropical fruit accented with a nice smokiness.  Aging in larger than normal oak barrels imparts the smokiness, but allows the wine to keep a nice balance and finesse.  Furthermore, only 10% of this wine goes through malolactic fermentation, so it retains a nice crisp acid

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A Crisp Unoaked Chardonnay for $12

September 24, 2012 Daily Drinkers  No comments

A newish trend in U.S. Chardonnay is to forgo the oak, allowing the crisp Chardonnay fruit to shine through.  It was a warm late-summer weekend in Chicago and the Chamisal 2011 Chardonnay "Stainless" provided a delicious alternative to the Sauvignon Blanc and Rose we've been enjoying all summer.

Tropical fruit and honey on the nose leads into a palate that is at the same time crisp, but also huge.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the winemaker is a Kiwi who clearly takes a Sauvignon Blanc approach with this wine, allowing the fruit flavors to shine through rather than "outside influences" of oak and malolactic fermentation.  Here is a nice video of the winemaker talking about his process with this wine:

I appreciate both styles of Chardonnay but think this is a very well-executed

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My Go-To Chardonnay Under $15 – Talbott Kali Hart

July 30, 2012 Daily Drinkers  No comments

Talbott makes some incredible Pinot and Chardonnay from their estate vineyards in Monterey County, and the Kali Hart, named after proprietor Robb Talbott's youngest daughter, is always a great value.  This 100% estate wine is their entry level, and as I've said many times, some of the greatest values come from entry level or second wines of higher-end producers.

If I see this wine in a shop or on a restaurant list, I know, no matter the vintage, that it's going to be a good bet.  This held true for the 2010 vintage which shows the bright acid signature of Monterey County balanced by round oak and beautiful yeasty flavors from 9 months of aging on the lees (dead yeast).

I applaud Talbott for bottling this and other wines under screw cap.  Hopefully more domestic wineries wake up and

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’09 Gary Farrell RRV Chardonnay – WS93 for $26.95

June 25, 2012 High End Values  No comments

There is a lot of debate around what's the "best" style of California Chardonnay.  Oak vs. Steel, malolactic fermentation or not, buttery vs. crisp.  Unfortunately, this debate has caused producers and consumers to focus more on style and less on the quality of what's in the glass.  So many California wine tastings start with a pour of Chardonnay followed by a statement like "Now don't expect some sort of buttery/overoaked Chardonnay.  We take a different approach".  Here's a different approach: focus on making good wine out of good grapes, and let the wine speak for itself.

Gary Farrell did just that with his 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  This wine has some oak influence, but it doesn't taste like a campfire.  It's crisp, balanced, has an exceptional

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A Top Notch Chardonnay Under $9 – Hahn Estates 2010

April 23, 2012 Daily Drinkers  No comments

This is another one of those instances where I ask myself "how do they make this wine for $9?"  It really is shocking.  But Hahn Estates keeps cranking out values as fast as I can try them.  If you are looking for great wine values, particularly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, look at the the Central Coast, which covers the area between LA and San Francisco.

Hahn's 2010 Chardonnay comes entirely from the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation in Monterey County, which is a sweet spot for this varietal.  For a wine that's priced like a generic "California" or "Central Coast" Chardonnay, you are getting an appellation labeled wine, aged in 100% oak (18% new).  In other words, a BMW for Hyundai prices (although Hyundais are pretty nice these days).

Tropical fruit notes combine with a rich

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My New Daily Drinker Chardonnay: Rutherford Ranch

November 17, 2011 Daily Drinkers  No comments

Rutherford Ranch is another example of a high volume producer that consistently delivers a fantastic product.  As a wine enthusiast (not capitalized), I love nothing more than finding a small producer that produces an incredible product that's completely under-the-radar.  The problem is, one of two things generally happen.  1.) The small producer starts buying more grapes and becomes a bigger producer with lower quality or 2.) They get discovered and prices skyrocket.  Bottom line: it's great to find some go-to lables that produce wine in such a quantity that it's easy to get a hold of and has a high level of consistency.

My Short List of High Value/High Volume Producers (sticking to the U.S. here):

Hahn Estates (All)
Beringer (Regular, Reserve)

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The Next San Simeon? ’09 Maddalena Chardonnay $9.95

September 27, 2011 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  No comments

Loyal readers probably remember the incredible San Simeon Chardonnay.   It was one of the first wines I wrote up and LA Wine Co. sold literally thousands of bottles of it.  Maddalena has produced a Chardonnay in a similar style at an equally amazing value.

If you are looking for Chardonnay values, look outside of Napa and Sonoma and toward the south.  Monterey's cool climate is perfect for growing Chardonnay grapes and with less name prestige than its neighbor to the north (Napa, not Canada), the prices are considerably lower.

The 2009 Maddalena Chardonnay pours a golden straw color and has a beautiful nose of smoke and honey.  The honey texture continues on the palate with a smooth, caramely, melt-in-your-mouth warmth accented by smoky oak and balanced acid.  It's the perfect wine

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