Welcome to the Inaugural post of “Question of the Week.”
This week’s chosen question is week from a Facebook follower/friend Janey Patton Russell who enjoys wine, and learning. (One of the things I love about wine, is you are never done learning.)
I have a chardonnay question for you. You will laugh or may think my every day choice of chardonnay wine is gross. I really enjoy Clos Du Bois for my “everyday” wine sometimes I step it up to Rombauer or Sonoma Cutrer. That said do you have a suggestion for me for a nice, dry chardonnay? I like Sonoma, Russian River Valley. Tried Toasted Head here and there but over that. Prefer dry, a little buttery, but certainly not a lot. Come to think of it I like it dry and oaky!
Great questions. Long time friends of mine may find it ironic I am doing reviews of chardonnay and being asked questions. Until the last few years, I generally shunned chardonnays, my palette not enjoying most of the US made highly oaked, buttery styles. As I have dove headfirst into exploring whites, (especially Rhone varietals) I have learned more and more to be open minded, and explore more styles and countries.
Explore and Branch Out: The many names of chardonnay
I am hardly a Franco-phile, but I have been embracing French wines more (don’t worry Sonoma County, my heart is yours forever), especially white wine from Burgundy…..which is chardonnay. You may hear or see “white burgundy” or “chablis” or “pouilly-fuise” – don’t be confused. All of these are chardonnay, the latter two being appellations (regions) of Burgundy, France. Unfortunately many people hear ‘white burgundy’ or ‘chablis’ still have memories of low quality white jug wines from decades ago, in a travesty of marketing.
How to Pick a Wine, Where to Buy
One of the challenging things of recommending wine to the average consumer outside of this area, is there is little consistency, even in a national chain, of what you can buy. Even Costco varies what they offer by location. There are certainly a few brands you can find many places, but I have to say as a general rule, I shy away from a bottle of wine that had one million cases made. I am buying and tasting more larger production wines for review (my personal cellar still stays mostly small producers) to assist with this, but it will always be a challenge.
(It is worthwhile to note that even the million+ case wineries will bottle a release in much smaller scale. I was amazed at a visit to the La Crema winery (not the tasting room) to taste through 5 pinot noirs and 5 chardonnays. I knew of their massive scale releases, but was pleased to enjoy bottles of limited small lot production as well.)
So when asked, in addition to exact bottle/wine recommendations, I am will often give you some broader guidelines.
My answer to this enquiry:
” I generally drink a newer style of chard, which is unoaked and non ML (not buttery)…odds are you won’t find many of these in a every day retail store. Rombauer and Sonoma Cutrer are definately higher end better chards. If you ever see say, a Lynmar or Hartford Court (won’t be at Safeway) try them, although more pricey. They will have the oak and ML components, but be beautifully balanced.
One you could try, that should be easily found, is La Crema…they have several mass produced chardonnays that are widely distributed and decent, and they also have some great ones here that don’t make mass market. I haven’t tasted through Kendall Jackson’s chardonnay releases entirely, but enjoyed some of their whites at the Heirloom Tomato Festival this fall.
My best suggestion – try your local wine shop. Explain your tastes, and what you like, and what you want to spend. for the same money you will get something from a smaller winery. Let them recommend a few and buy 2-3 of those for comparison.
Be opened minded to other countries as well: French, Australia, Chile. I shunned France for years, but have re-opened that, especially now that I drink more chardonnay. Chardonnay from Pouilly-Fuissé region of Burgundy tend to be reasonable. I had one last night actually that I really enjoyed, I picked up at K and L Wines.
Don’t apologize for drinking chards, its one of the world’s most planted and consumed varietals, and the French still make really great, original style. The bad name came from the over oaked US garbage. Instead embrace it, and see what you can learn about styles, different areas. Australians’ make good chards as well.
My friend responded back with one more comment I thought worth sharing.
Thanks so much! I will try your suggestions. I had a feeling you being a real wine person would not drink chardonnay. I was told by a guy at the store to try this one French but I did not….I will go back and ask him again what it was. I’m going to embrace my love of chardonnay and learn as much as I can. Thanks for the boost of confidence! I’m told by my wine friends that real wine drinkers don’t drink anything bit reds.
I’d tell her the wine friends are clueless, but frankly I was one of those for 12+ of my 20 years drinking wine. It took some pushing and exploration at first, but once my mindset and palette cracked, and I discovered gems like Viognier, Torrontes, Rousanne, Marsanne, and now some chardonnay, pinot gris, chenin blanc and more – my experience and enjoyment of wine has increased many fold – so many more options, things to learn, and tastes, aromas to experience. Open your minds and palettes, try things, wine is a never ending journey, or should be.
And as I will constantly repeat, do not drink your white wine overchilled. (Unless its not very well made, then by all means drink it right from the fridge.) You can not experience the aroma, mouthfeel, and nuances of a wine if you drink it out of the fridge at 52 degrees.
Hope you found this useful, I’d love comments. You can also reach my on Facebook, Twitter, or the Contact Me, tab.