Chardonnay Review

The Top New World Chardonnays


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Chardonnay Review As we all know, Chardonnay has taken more than its fair share of abuse over the years. It seems that no matter what the style, someone is going to have something to say about it, like me! Usually, and in particular with new-world Chardonnay, that complaint tends to focus around the oak and lack of acid. For old-world Chardonnay, complaints usually focus on the lack of fruit and high acid.

As you can see, there seems to be a solution here. Want to make a “good” Chardonnay? Move to the middle ground. While that doesn’t always work, it has been the trend over the past decade or so. And the results? Well, judging from this group of wines, a mixed bag. There remains a Chardonnay for any palate, many well made at that, but for better or worse Chardonnay remains a bit of minefield. Americans love a challenge -- that must be why Chardonnay continues to be our favorite white wine!

Mentioned in this article


  • These all sound lovely, but I've been looking for a nice, buttery chardonnay. Any suggestions?

    And I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I enjoy Snooth and have learned so much from your articles.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM

  • I am a bartender and the Angeline Chardonnay seems to be popular for that very reason...buttery and with some depth- budget conscious too! Good Luck!

    Oct 28, 2010 at 1:25 PM

  • Snooth User: csniezak
    536928 3

    I think Simi and Muirwood are good bets too!

    Oct 28, 2010 at 2:02 PM

  • Snooth User: rreichert
    Hand of Snooth
    30553 412

    Glad to see some love for Chardonnay here, and a Washington pick!

    Here are some great Oregon choices that straddle the line pretty well IMO too:

    Oct 28, 2010 at 2:10 PM

  • Chardonnay is the poor little grape that just can't win. Maybe because it's such a California staple that people are inured to its mass-produced availability and overlook some of the nuances a good Chard embodies. Then there are the heavy oak aging Chard drinkers and the light to unoaked Chard drinkers. I like both, though what Chard I'm going to enjoy depends on whether I'm pairing it with food or just enjoying a nice crisp glass or two to stave off the South Florida heat.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 2:32 PM

  • I don't object to some fruit with my oak. I guess the trend has been away from the over-the-top style; hence all the emphasis on "un-oaked." Personally, I admit to enjoying the hedonism. There again, I also enjoy the lean minerality of a Burgundian version. If it is well made, it can be good in any style.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 2:43 PM

  • Snooth User: Jtincknell
    Hand of Snooth
    37646 30

    Thanks for sharing the nice selection of Chardonnays. I especially like the diversity of price points and styles. There are three new world Chardonnays that I think are exceptional:
    1. Kimmel Vineyards 2007 Potter Valley Chardonnay $32
    2. Hanzell Chardonnay (any vintage) $40
    3. XumeK 2009 Zonda Valley Chardonnay $15.00 (a new release, great value from San Juan, one of the less known but great regions in Argentina.)

    Of the three, my favorite is Kimmel. This comes from a single-vineyard site in Mendocino that is just reaching its top potential. Low yields, careful and judicious use of aging in French oak give this wine incredible length on the palate, and a smooth creamy texture. We rarely rave about wines (we taste a lot of samples at my marketing company) but this is a wine I gladly buy.

    Hanzell is an emotional favorite for me, since I worked with the winery for several years and was very close to Bob Session's former wife Molly, and think of her fondly when we taste the wine. It too has layers and layers of flavor, that seem to improve with bottle age.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 3:23 PM

  • Snooth User: jjshutt
    267743 1

    To NYWINELADY: For a buttery chardonnay try "LA CREMA" (Sonoma), about $14. I've never had anyone say they didn't care for it---even non chardonnay drinkers.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 4:10 PM

  • Snooth User: lynwooda
    317164 4

    To NYWINELADY: Try Byron. Not for the price averse but I first had it in 1991 at Spanish Bay and was stunned at the sensation. Not sure it is as good now as it was then, (I have had it since and was not as impressed, but that was a couple of years ago) but it was still delicious.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 4:26 PM

  • Snooth User: monicagl
    365211 3

    Nice review, big fan of Mer Soleil Silver! Another great value and a lighter style of Chardonnay is Pepperwood Grove, and I'm so glad to see it is also availble in The Big Green Box---convenient & eco-friendly....just plain smart :)

    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:13 PM

  • Trader joes has a chardonnay under their label for 12.99 that is worth checking out! I love Sonoma Cutrer, but on a day on a budget i buy this trader joes chardonnay. But watch because there is a cheaper one, that I have never tried.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:21 PM

  • Snooth User: Brannman
    609142 25

    My suggestion to NY WIne Lady for a nice smooth buttery chard is any vintage of Hogue Winery Reserve Chard. have enjoyed their Reserve vintages since 1998....

    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:47 PM

  • Chauteu St. Michelle, Columbia Valley - smooth chard, no bite and very afforadable $8/btl.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:57 PM

  • Snooth User: debare
    235813 21


    I found two different Sonoma Cutrer at very different prices here in BC:

    Price: $ 59.99 Volume: 750 mL Country: United States

    Price: $ 29.99 Volume: 750 mL Country: United States

    It might be obvious based on the price tag which one you're recommending, but can you specify? Thanks.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:59 PM

  • Snooth User: kentrosi
    511324 22

    Cakebread, DuMol, Peju, and Miner Family are some of the best Chardonnays I have ever had. I also like the BV Reserve Chard.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:07 PM

  • Snooth User: Diderot
    104965 104

    Hedonism! I;m glad to see others on this site also enjoy big, buttery, oaky Chardonnays. Mazzoni, Sonoma-Cutrer, Frank Family and Steele are favorites of mine. At one time I also wallowed in some great ZD. I cannot agree about La Crema, however. It has a quality I can't really describe but "greasiness" comes close. Non-Chardonnay drinkers love it and it's on most local wine lists but I just don't care for that style.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:12 PM

  • Snooth User: tonystro
    554776 26

    I enjoyed this article very much. The Chardonnays you've cited clearly illustrate that there's no need to break the bank to get a good bottle of wine. I frequently drink the Jacob's Creek and Alamos. In my opinion the greatest values right now are the Trapiche bottlings from Argentina; their $9 Chardonnay is a delicately light-bodied wine with loads of fresh fruit on the palate and their Brouquel bottling ($16) is absolutely the equal of many wines costing more than twice its modest price. I can highly recommend both and can hardly cite a better buy anywhere.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:15 PM

  • Snooth User: cbadcock
    335010 1

    I fail to really understand this article at all, where is the chablis, the meursault, the montrachet even macon is missing, what's the point of an article which misses all the best chardonnay available

    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:25 PM

  • Snooth User: jimgab97
    548489 1

    Good article on Chardonnay. My wife & I actually went from liking ours more on the crisp/acidic style to preferring those oaky & buttery ones. Everyone's palate changes/evolves over time. That being said, on the low end, I think Ravenswood's Vintner's Blend & Sebastiani's Sonoma chards are probably the best "budget" chards for those who like the buttery style. Going towards the higher end, if you can find any, Arger-Martucci has a terrific buttery chard that can't be beat at its price point. And, Staglin Family makes two chards not to be missed as well, one called "Salus" along with their Estate..... a MUST try!!

    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:29 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    Good to see the response to this chardonnay piece. Think Snooth should pay more attention to the grape and its better practitioners.

    Greg, though, this slide-show-for-everything overkill is getting old. I want to compare several wines all at a glance, and click-fatigue, small-window-squint annoyance, etc. are making me lose the desire to wade all the way to the end. A lot slower, smaller, even tiring experience in this format.

    Please rethink your current policy and do this kind of review back in the old article style. You can still embed photos throughout, and got just as much traffic from them when the topic was right. Seems too much of kid-with-a-new-toy, and not enough proper best-info-flow and user-experience design....

    Oct 28, 2010 at 6:37 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749


    did you see this?

    New World Chardonnay - October 2010
    All Wines Tasted --

    One of the issues is that we can not embed articles in the recent old style, as opposed to the older old style, but rather have to use the media sidebar to host the images.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:00 PM

  • Snooth User: hklatveria
    334591 25

    Adelsheim is tops in my book. Completely unoaked

    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:05 PM

  • I am enjoying an Australian wine, Little Roo and Tisdale, a California wine. You won't believe the prices of these two wines. I find them to be very buttery.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:50 PM

  • Snooth User: rwor
    426656 17

    Your interesting Chardy peice reminded me that I put on a wine tasting dinner 2 weeks ago.

    We tasted:

    2008 Marchant & Burch Chardy from Great Southern, West Aust
    2004 Stefano Lubiana Chardy Tasmania.Aust
    2007 Cullen Kevin John Chardy Margaret River, West Aust
    2000 Giaconda Chardy Beachworth, Victoria, Aust
    2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis, France

    All were wonderful in their own ways.
    The 2007 Cullen won the International Trophy from Decanter World Wine Awards recently.

    I think Australian Chardonnay is making a big comeback in Australia although it’s not inexpensive.
    All these Australian wines would cost between $AU 40-80 while the single French example sells for about $AU 35.
    You can find very good examples especially of Margaret River Chardies for about $AU 25.

    Then we got into the Brunellos!


    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:58 PM

  • Snooth User: 2dunns01
    121379 1

    Andeluna Cellars Reserve Chardonnay: 2006 current vintage, best bang for the buck!


    Oct 28, 2010 at 9:05 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    Yeah, I saw the second article, Greg, and that was a good addition to your publishing practices. Not sure, though, exactly what you're trying to say in the last paragraph of your comment in this thread.

    One reason why I didn't initially see the connect, to the second article on the last screen of the first article, was because I crapped out a few slidescreens into the first article, first time around. I stand by my statements about how inefficient and slow slideshows are for presentation of dense infopacks. They're better when the picture is the story, with only a short sentence attached. And the picture should be bigger... ;-)

    I'm sure I'm not the only person you lose partway through, in this manner.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 9:22 PM

  • Snooth User: cyngirl
    624243 1

    OMG...Michaud Vineyard Estate Chardonnay from his vineyard in the Chalone AVA. It rocks, Montrachet style and vintages from 2002-2005 are drinking beautifully. Michael Michaud was the winemaker under Dick Graff at the Chalone Winery before it was sold...old Wente clones that are an amazing expression of this beautiful fruit. French oak and no malolactic...I'm in Burgundy halfway through a glass.
    A must add to your amazing list!

    Oct 28, 2010 at 9:42 PM

  • Snooth User: karat
    541180 345

    tried the charles krug last week- LOVED IT! great find to add to my long list of white favorites.

    Oct 28, 2010 at 10:09 PM

  • Snooth User: kikipoo
    273278 1

    If you like a butter chardonnay, like the French wines...I suggest JLohr.....or La Crema....two of my faves....also love Sterling and Simi....and others, lol

    Oct 28, 2010 at 10:21 PM

  • Snooth User: jsman
    227487 1

    Husch Vineyards Chardonnay

    Oct 28, 2010 at 11:15 PM

  • Snooth User: ZEEDINE
    542043 9

    Hanzell is an emotional favorite for me, since I worked with the winery for several years and was very close to Bob Session's former wife Molly, and think of her fondly when we taste the wine. It too has layers and layers of flavor, that seem to improve with bottle age.

    Am i being naughty. ?? Do i take it Molly is like the wine, with layers and layers of fat ? sorry flavor, !! silly me...

    Oct 28, 2010 at 11:30 PM

  • Go USA!
    To the NEW YORK WINE LADY, and to SNOOTH: for buttery, read Meursault that is a few years old.

    Oct 29, 2010 at 4:37 AM

  • Snooth User: cori55
    422207 1

    sorry , i have a great sense of smell and taste, that being said is it just me ? but all these reviews are a little over the top , we all love wine love the taste , smell ... but sometimes i feel its a little over board, the references to blonde tobacco, what , and how do you reference that? There are so many other references that also make it hard now (after reading this) to be able to enjoy any wine with out feeling like a fool. I'm so sorry to be the downer on what may have been a great report( lots of writing errors on various pages) but i just think the tasting has gone to far ,...... really for all the hints in the wine one would have to be a specialist in many fields.. ect baked peach as opposed to dried peach really?? blonde tobacco as opposed to ???? I cook , I drink wine .... I sell wine, I enjoy wine, I love wine ... 50 years ago opening and enjoying wine was not this difficult ...

    Oct 29, 2010 at 5:56 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    cori55, good point, though the smells and tastes are commonly there, to a surprising degree, between people who have disciplined themselves to detect them. Doesn't mean they have a better sense of smell, just they've learned to split those olfactory hairs, so to speak. Also doesn't mean that people who do that enjoy wine any more than those who don't.

    A great topic for further exploration. Why don't you go to the Snooth Forum and introduce yourself there and start talking about this subject? I'm sure you'll get a lot of interesting, and welcoming, responses....

    Oct 29, 2010 at 8:09 AM

  • Snooth User: Bonge
    602350 18

    I enjoy many wines. I particularly enjoy Chardonnay. What I find difficult to understand is that if one doesn't like the oak or buttery notes...drink a chablis, or a riesling, or viognier get it. I am not fond of unoaked chardonnays- that is not a chardonnay. I understand that some wineries may go too far with the oakiness and it s/b restrained...however...get your paws off my chardonnay.

    Oct 29, 2010 at 9:21 AM

  • Here are a few of my favorites in various price categories: Edna, La Crema, Simi, L'Ecole 41, Ferrari Carano, Chalone, Chalk Hill, Rombauer, Sonoma Cutrer, Abeja, Patz & Hall.
    The more oak the better in my opinion.

    Oct 29, 2010 at 11:05 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    Well, Bonge, hate to break it to you but Chablis is chardonnay. ;-) And even within that French region itself there's been a long-simmering controversy over how much oak to use.

    I agree with you that there's a bit too much of a witch-hunt in certain quarters against that 'devil' oak. Judicious use of it does add layers of complexity, as producers in the Cote d'Or of Burgundy know from generations (or even centuries) ago. But IMHO there is a place for the unoaked versions, too, especially in pairings, for example, like with fresh, raw oysters. I just want my chardonnays with a bit of oak (not forests full) on them, too, for other pairings....

    Oct 29, 2010 at 4:07 PM

  • Snooth User: bpkrug1
    585913 6

    New world Chardonnay comes in many forms. I, however, prefer wines whose producers that use clonal selection, (old Wente, a favorite), low yield, harvest at just the right phenolic ripeness, utilizing French wine-making techniques, (barrel fermentation and lees stirring), make wines that are a pleasure to drink. The Chardonnays I enjoy most are from: Kister, esp. Kistler Vineyard bottling, as well as, the Vine Hill Vineyard and the McCrea Vineyard. Those who prefer their Chardonnay buttery, thick and rich in style, should opt for the Dutton Ranch bottling, can't miss. The wines produced at Walter Hansel Winery, (not to be confused with Hanzell), offer similar style and complexity, at a more reasonable price. Favorites are the Cuvee Alyce, the Cahill Lane, and the North Slope, and if looking for a bargain, the Estate bottling is always good. Peter Michael, also, a producer using French wine-making practices, makes great Chardonnay, my preferences are the La Carriere, the Belle Cote, and the Point Rouge. Lastly, if you can even find the wine, Morlet Family Vineyards, any of the bottlings, will provide a thrill to drink. All these wine reflect the combination of the Old World with the New. None can be confused with the Great Chardonnays of France, however, because of the soil, growing conditions, phenolic ripeness reached, and acid levels, that make them unique. Not necessarily better. This is yet another discussion entirely.

    Oct 29, 2010 at 6:27 PM

  • I am feeling somewhat guilty for not drinking more chardonnay. Maybe I dont drink as much of it because there is just so much of it out there and I am more excited by the less common varietals (Torrontes,Albarino&some of the newer Verdejo/Viura blends). In the past, I usually went for a less oaky chard.J Lohr riverstone Arroyo seco seemed to have a nice balance of oak ,fruit and mineral charecter. I dont mind ones with heavier oak but those I tend to like for sipping alone with out food. BTW any reccomendations on an affordable white Burgundy?

    Oct 29, 2010 at 7:42 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    rw&brew, look for Olivier Merlin's St. Veran or Pouilly Fuisse from the Macon area. Many more out there, but the Maconais & Challonaise are the easiest Burgundian regions on the pocketbook to start your hunt, and he's a youngish winemaker making waves there. Then move north to the Cote d'Or, but expect to pay more, though values can be found there, too.

    North Berkeley Wine is an online merchant (also have a shop in the East Bay in Northern California) that's good at sourcing very interesting wines from Burgundy and elsewhere in Europe at quite reasonable prices. Thus another good place to start your hunt. You can also go online to K&L Wines (on the San Francisco side of the Bay) and filter your searches to find reasonable Burgundies. Their staff is very good at making recommendations. Both these places will ship all over the States (and further afield) as long as your State allows it. Kermit Lynch, also in Berkeley, would be another merchant to check out. Interesting wines across a range of prices. You can cover a lot of ground with these three merchants.

    Oct 29, 2010 at 8:27 PM

  • I agree with Rodger the Margaret River and Tasmania chardonnay's are excellent and expensive , however I recently had a Mike Press Adelaide Hills chardonnay 94 pt rating for A$ 11 !.

    Oct 29, 2010 at 9:43 PM

  • In Woodinville Washington, home of some incredible small batch winemakers, can be found one of the most incredible Chards I have ever tasted. XSV Vineyards. It is the white wine for red wine only drinkers. Rich, intense, balanced, and very well made, it is a heady burgandy style that will be remembered for a long time. Tough to find retail outside of Washington State, but worth checking their website.

    Nov 01, 2010 at 9:51 AM

  • I love Gary Farrell Chardonnay, but drink it on special occasions. I am also glad Snooth included a variety of price ranges in this article, so I can actually try some of these w/weeknight dinner.

    Franciscan is a nice buttery chardonnay in the $15-20 range.

    Nov 02, 2010 at 11:00 AM

  • You missed Rombauer -- a superb Chard

    Chuck Bohle

    Nov 02, 2010 at 6:22 PM

  • Snooth User: gatosgirl
    626914 13

    Hellooooo????? KISTLER and Newton. Enough said. Oh, and I agree about Rombauer. Delightful.

    But Kistler is some of the finest chard on the planet. Always has been, always will be.

    Nov 06, 2010 at 10:57 AM

  • Certainly agree about Kistler, and about the fact that Chardonnay sometimes falls victim to "wine fashion." I've definitely found that there are people out there who shun it just because it is "en vogue" to do so. We explored the state of Chardonnay in a panel tasting a few weeks ago. Here's the results, if you're interested:

    Sep 17, 2012 at 2:26 PM

  • Snooth User: GraceBliss
    1160043 8

    This is a WONDERFUL format for learning, sharing experience, new exploration and camaraderie!

    Nov 15, 2012 at 7:57 PM

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