Question of the Week: Recommendations for an Every Day Wine (chardonnay in this case)

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.

cheers!

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10 Responses to “Question of the Week: Recommendations for an Every Day Wine (chardonnay in this case)”

  • William, it’s great to see this dialog about the new chardonnay winemaking styles (or just a move away from extreme oakey-syrupy goop). It’s also refreshing to read about being open to wines of other countries. Local loyalty is a good thing, but it’s good to break away.

    Back to Chardonnay: that syrupy style turned me off to Chard for a decade or two. Recently I was exposed to a few Chardonnays I liked in tasting classes. Today was a milestone. On a Dry Creek tasting run with a friend, I bought my first Chardonnay in ages. This is a very special wine for Janey if you want to treat yourself sometime. From what you say about your preferences, you would love this wine: Mazzocco 2007 Alexander Valley Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay. “Elegant tropical flavors and crisp acidity” only begins to tell the story. Only 650 cases produced, aged 22 mos in French oak, bottled unfined. Winemaker Antoine Favero. $36 retail. It won’t be the same next year, so don’t let this one get away!

    Please keep us updated on this adventure.

  • Well, of course I’m going to be a little biased, but if you are looking for a reasonably priced Chardonnay that’s great tasting by itself and really nice paired with a a wide range of food styles, you might want to try our Estate Chardonnay. 2007 is our current vintage in the market. In crafting the wine, our winemaker uses 60% barrel fermentation followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is certainly not a butter bomb but let’s its great fruit and acidity do the talking. Produced from our estate vineyards here in the Sonoma Valley (we are a 100% estate grown operation), you can expect a consistent flavor profile year after year. Soft notes of caramel and toast give added complexity to the finish from it’s short time spent aging in French oak. If you are looking for an unoaked Chardonnay, you might want to try our Chardonnay Nu, which we like to refer to as our Naked Chardonnay.

  • [...] here to see the original:  Question of the Week: Recommendations for an Every Day Wine … cellar, [...]

  • janey russell:

    Thank you Katherine for that suggestion, I will try & find that. cheers!

  • EquineandWine:

    Yesterday, we tasted at Londer Vineyards, in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. We are generally “ABC” drinkers – Anything But Chardonnay – but took the opportunity to taste their 2007 Corby Chardonnay. It was surprising how “atypical” of the bold, buttery, oakey Chards it was. This was a time where this Chardonnay really benefitted from ML. In this case, ML complimented the gorgeous fruit from the vineyard, adding complexity while not making the wine overly heavy. This chardonnay was very lemony on the nose, and racey (crisp and citrusy) through the palette. The finish on the wine was particularly pleasing, long and refreshing, without the “stickiness” of a buttery Chardonnay.

  • davesonoma:

    If you were steering a visitor during the Winter Wineland coming up in a few weeks, what wineries would you urge them to visit? To tie it into this week’s question, who has some great everyday chardonnay that visitors from out of the area may not have been able to try?

  • I will definitely seek out the Kunde. And since I’m “ABC”, the Londer too. Thanks for raising this question and the responses that bear it out – the “new” chardonnays have arrived on the scene!

  • William:

    As a follow-up to Marcia (thanks for gracing the blog :) )
    I tasted your 2006 Reserve chardonnay and the Naked Chardonnay yesterday at the winery. (I have a bottle of the 2007 Estate referenced to try at home.)

    Both were great! I am usually not a fan of new oak, ML, which the 06 reserve had, but it was really well balanced, I am a fan! The time on the lees gave it really nice mouthfeel and body.

    The Nu Chardonnay (I think naked chardonnay is a brilliant marketing term) was REALLY great! I am somewhat biased I admit by my personal palette preference, but I have been tasting a lot of this style wine recently and this was a superb portrayal of chardonnay in its purest form.

  • Hi William -
    Glad you were able to stop by the winery and taste. Even better that you liked the wines! What’s fun with all of these styles of Chardonnay, there is always something for each person’s personal preference.

    Did you have a chance to try one of our Vineyard Designate Chardonnays?

    Marcia Kunde Mickelson

  • [...] lovely and talented Wine Road ladies (and I) will select a question, which will be answered in a blog article, published, and the selected person will receive a pair of tickets for the  Barrel Tasting event, [...]

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