12 Great Chardonnays

Springtime picks worth checking out


2007 Perception Sonoma Coast Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard 14.3%, $55
Lots of caramel and smoky hickory nuts and raw almonds on the nose over floral-tinged pineapple and lime cream fruits.  Nicely layered on entry with a wood treatment that neatly frames the tense, clear dried tropical fruits of the mid-palate. This is marked by oak but more in the nutty, smoky vein than anything overly sweet or spicy. Finishing with elegance and length this is rich and full, creamy yet bright with moments of brilliance. 93pts

2009 Stuhlmuller Alexander Valley Estate Chardonnay 14.1%, $20

Intensely fruity, yet tense on the nose with crisp notes of peach, apple and bitter orange with gentle mineral and toast top notes and a hint of blanched almond. Focused and precise on entry, this opens with a floral, almost herbal component that leads to a rich, silky mid-palate full of clear tangerine topped apple fruit. There’s a hint of pineapple peel that floats through the mid-palate and onto the long, clean finish that ends with a lightly creamy orange and tea-scented finale. 92pts

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2008 Bouchaine Napa Valley Chardonnay Estate Vineyard 13.8%, $25

This starts off quite minerally and earthy in the glass with a gently funky edge of dried mango fruit, some toasty tobacco nuances, orange blossoms and minerals. Very bright and fresh in the mouth with real tension as it floats across the palate. This is so precise and really has unusual cut for a Napa Valley Chardonnay. There are lovely toasty nut nuances on the palate and this clear apple/pear skin-style fruit that’s accented with citrus peel and mineral notes. The finish is clear and bracingly refreshing with a hint of tannin coming very late. 91pts 

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2008 Davis Bynum Russian River Valley Chardonnay 14.9%, $20

Real fresh and almost piercing notes of almost quincey fruit, topped with nuanced notes of flint, ash, smoke, butterscotch and flowers. A little lighter-bodied in the mouth than one might expect from the aromatics; but there is still plenty of rich fruit here all wrapped up in a gentle layer of toast and butterscotch. The butterscotch gains more prominence on the back end, then yields to the return of zesty, apply fruit on the moderately long finish. Nicely done. 91pts

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2008 J. Lohr Arroyo Seco Chardonnay Arroyo Vista 14.9%, $25

Rather low-key on the nose with oak spice-inflected ripe peach and pineapple fruit. In the mouth this is broad and rich, but has nicely judged acidity that keeps the wine fresh and perks up the mid-palate. The flavors (again notably marked but not dominated by spicy oak) run towards the peach, baked apple and slightly sweet end of the spectrum but remain fresh and balanced. Definitely a big wine, but with lovely balance and freshness, and the finish shows a light mineral tone and some real elegance. 90pts

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2009 Pali Sonoma Coast Chardonnay Charm Acres 14.7%, $20

This has a nice fruit-driven nose with noticeable but well-integrated wood accents. It’s definitely a bit creamy with pineapple and lime-tinged fruit tones. The wine starts out with a soft edge, but quickly whips itself into slightly angry and youthful mid-palate. The alcohol sticks out a touch and while the wine has a soft, creamy texture, the acidity is vibrant and cutting – lending an almost spicy element to the generous, creamy apple and white nectarine fruit of the mid-palate. The finish is long and has more of a spicy oak aspect to it, ending on a fine, lightly gingery peach pit note. 90pts

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2009 Earthstone Sonoma County Chardonnay 13.5%, $10

Fruity on the nose, but with a springtime freshness to the fruit (even though it’s a bit sweet), nicely framed with a creamy, leesy character with a light floral top note. In the mouth, this is round and starts out with a gentle softness; but there’s fine acidity supporting the fruit here. A touch of mango and papaya creeps in on the palate, though the fruit is mostly citrus and crisp apple-toned. The finish shows a bit of toasty sweetness and is only modestly long; but it’s clear and has nice purity of fruit, then sneaks up on you for a second round of rather sweet fruit, which is where the wine lost me. 88pts

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  • Snooth User: nouser
    582397 88

    I am simply astonished you failed to mention Chateaiu St. Jean, Chateau Set Michelle and Columbia Crest Chardonnay. Year after year they are at the top ov the list for quality caliber Chardonnay. True too the varietal, these are delicious and affordable. Forget the scarce bottlings, these will hold up to the best in double blind tastings and they are redly available. I've done several of the same and these wines always score near the top.

    Feb 03, 2012 at 5:41 PM

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