New World Chardonnay - October 2010

All Wines Tasted


Chardonnay Tasted - October 2010

2007 Freeman Ryo-fu Russian River Valley Chardonnay 14.1% $40

Smells like a bouquet of dried flowers. There’s also a distinct vein of toasty oak here, but the floral quality is distinct, adding nice detail to the rather restrained fruit. This is rich and soft on entry but with plenty of supporting acid. It has a very plush feel and fills the mouth but without much weight. In the mouth the wood also plays a fairly noticeable role, but this is quite well-balanced with a core of fruit that slowly unfolds, revealing sweet notes of apple, pineapple, lime, and a distinct walnutty background note. 93 pts

2008 Gainey Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay 13.9% $20

Intense and complex on the nose with layered notes at caramel popcorn, sandalwood, tropical fruit, honey and backed peach all topped with a light shaving of mace. Nice and bright on entry and somewhat tight right through the palate though, with rich fruit flavors that are both quite ripe yet superbly fresh due to the vibrant acidity. The texture is a bit light, lending elegance to the mouthfeel, and though there is enough new wood here to be quite noticeable, this wine lacks the overt sweetness and spice which that usually brings. The finish is fairly long and very well defined with surprising freshness. Really lovely Chardonnay. 92pts

2007 DeLoach Russian River Valley Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 14.5% $40

Smoky on the nose with immediate aromas of butcher’s wax and lemon oil candles, followed by praline, dried peach and a touch of blond tobacco. On entry this glides into the mouth with an ethereal feel and wonderfully fresh fruit framed by integrated yet firm acidity. The mid-palate offers up a bit more assertive wood yet this retains fine focus and vibrancy right through to the gently steely, fairly long finish. This is particularly fresh and complex with a lovely, balanced, precise feel. 92pts

2008 EOS Estate Winery Central Coast Chardonnay 13.5% $15

Very soft and low-key on the nose, with a distinct vanilla bean underlay over which one finds lightly gamy fruit notes framed by notes of dried herbs, grass, and tea. The fruit is rather peachy/apricoty with a touch of pear. A bit soft at first but quite suave and enveloping in the mouth, this is really broad with weight but it doesn’t feel massive. Really bright with a bit of wood on the mid-palate, but it’s balanced by yellow fruit as well as that floral/dried herb note from the nose. This really has stuffing but shows a deft hand, lending it a sense of restrained power that falls a bit short on the finish, though the backend and finish do offer lovely lemon curd flavors. 91pts

2009 Patterson Cellars Columbia Valley Chardonnay 14.1% $20

Hard on the nose with a nice musky edge to the lightly dried fruit. This is a bit milky and smoky on the nose, smelling of raw wood and lees. Lovely and bright on entry with a fleshy, freshly fruited feel. The flavors are gently framed in oak tones, allowing the bright pineapple, orange and apple flavors to expand across the palate. The finish regains a bit of tension, is impressively long, and ends on an almond, honeydew and creamy oak note. Really expressive and fresh Chardonnay. 91pts

2009 Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family Carneros Chardonnay 14.5% $18 

Intensely fruity on the nose, yet retaining an attractive freshness to the pear fruit, which exhibits a really well-integrated butterscotch sweetness and light vanilla overtones. A sneaky wine, fairly large scaled but with a sense of delicacy. The oak treatment is obvious but hasn’t much weight to the palate here, which allows the clear, light, floral-edged apple fruit to extend onto the moderate long finish, where the oak becomes a bit more prominent, as does the somewhat elevated alcohol.  Not for the oak-averse. 90pts

2008 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 14.1% $28 

Lemon oil, roasted pecans, toasty oak and licorice greet the nose. This smells fairly oaky and not for the meek. On entry there is some oak-influenced roundness but this tightens up nicely on the mid-palate. The oak component remains dominant but the fruit does rise to meet it. The texture is light and fairly fresh with good acids serving as a counterweight to the wood-induced sweetness. It’s really a lovely wine in many ways, with a moderately long finish, but the smoky, spicy oak is way too dominant for my palate. If this is your style, it is seamless and very well made. 90pts

2008 Mer Soleil Silver Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 14.8% $25

Very perfumed, super-ripe pear, melon, guava and pineapple fruit with a touch of almond on the nose and some subtle background spicy floral notes that eventually blossom. Rich and round on entry with a soft, broad feel in the mouth. This is all about the fruit, yet the fruit carries with it spicy tones of dried fruit and minerals that add complexity. This is a big wine, but well-balanced with a moderately long finish of dried fruits and a touch of pollen, before ending on a gentle blanched almond note. Very easy drinking, and quite rich if just a tiny bit hot on the finish. 90pts

2008 William Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay 14.3% $22

A bit sweet on the nose with a deep core of lemon oil fruit framed by notes of smoky oak and sweet peach/peach blossom fruit. Silky and almost a touch lean on entry with nice lemon oil/lemon cream fruit notes over a gentle underlay of well incorporated wood and some side notes of nectarine and baked orange. This is well-integrated and stylish, if a tad simple, yet offers good length and a very attractive mouth feel. The flavors are pure and fresh right through the palate. A somewhat retrained and fairly elegant Napa Chardonnay that turns a bit more vanilla and caramel-driven on the finish than I generally prefer, though I quite like this. 89pts

2009 Alamos Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina, 13.5% $10

This exhibits rather balanced tropical fruit, wood spice and baked fruit tones on the nose. Nice and bright on entry with a lovely integrated feel in the mouth. The flavors are nicely balanced, giving the vanilla, honeycomb, peach and pear fruit a nice pure feel. There’s a nice spicy top note, a hint of white pepper in the mouth on the backend, before the acid on the fairly long finish brings in a wash of light baking spice-framed apple and candied citrus rind flavors that end on a fine note of pink grapefruit. Eminently drinkable. 89pts

2006 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay 13.5% $18

Nicely perfumed with gentle wood tones and bright, spicy pear fruit topped by smoky mineral tones. Bright in the mouth with an aggressive edge of acidity up front supporting melon and sweet citrus fruit tones. The backend shows a bit of wood and smoke, but this is rather well balanced with a light feel and good length on the finish that shows some vanilla custard tones under the acid-driven apple and citrus fruit. 89pts

2009 Scott Arroyo Seco Chardonnay Dijon Clone 13.5% $20

Very floral nose rich with apple blossoms, apple fruits, integrated spice notes and an underlay of lightly toasted wood and toasted almond ice-cream, even a hint of coconut. Rich on entry yet with plenty of acid to help keep it feeling lively. The weight becomes a bit more tedious on the mid-palate and this feels a bit unintegrated, though the peach and sweet apple fruit is particularly rich and intense in the mouth. On the finish there is a honeyed sense of sweetness that even the pronounced acidity has difficulty keeping in check. An intense wine, rich and round in a popular style that just misses the mark, though this is young and can certainly improve a bit with some time in the bottle. 89pts

2009 Lander Jenkins Vineyards Spirit Hawk California Chardonnay 13.5% $12

Opening with nice intensity on the nose, this offers up nicely balanced peach and lime aromas with a faint, well-integrated underlay of sweet baking spices and caramel. Soft, supple and opulent in the mouth, if a bit simple, this nonetheless features a very attractive palate impression. The fruit is bright, tense and clean, lime and apple-flavored with mineral and faintly almond-like accents. The acid is bright but integrated and lends a sweep of refreshment to the finish, where the oak becomes a bit more prominent, lacing the pineapple finale with gentle spice, cream and vanilla notes. 88pts

2008 Waterstone Carneros Chardonnay 13.5% $18

Fairly intense yet balanced nose of pineapple, vanilla, and crème brûlée. Nicely balanced in the mouth, with a touch of bergamot up front then ripe orchard fruit and pineapple tones on the moderately creamy mid-palate, which remains bright and lively. The finish shows more bright orange fruit, accented with gentle, almost steely mineral tones. Citrus tones and good length to the creamy, vanilla and lightly spiced flavors. Archetype California Chardonnay. 88pts

2007 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 13.5% $15

Sweet on the nose with a fair amount of wood and lots of caramel and wood spice tones. Some dried pineapple fruit tones and a bit of waxy red fruit as well. Develops a bit of a citronella edge. In the mouth this is a fairly restrained, middle-weight Chardonnay that is most distinguished by its lack of distinguishing features. Nothing sticks out; it’s smooth and balanced nicely towards the acid. The flavors are very Chardonnay-ey, but beyond a touch of pear and orange rind a bit anonymous.  There’s a bit of blanched almond on the finish, which is fairly long and that is where  this wine redeems itself with a very finely balanced, moderately long, and nicely layered finale. 88pts

2008 Ferrari Carano Sonoma County Chardonnay 13.9% $20

Creamy and fairly woody on the nose, with a touch of fennel, apricot fruit, and lime leaf tones, that even shows a bit of sandy minerality. Rather soft on entry, yet round and seamless with gentle flavors of tangerine, peach, and melony fruit. This is round, and easy, pretty classic New World Chardonnay in a very friendly package. The finish reveals a bit more verve, with flavors of green apple and some lightly toasty oak tones, before ending with a small burst of fresh fruit. This is a bit simple at the moment, though it might improve a bit with some time in the bottle. 88pts

2007 Chalk Hill Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley Chardonnay 14.8% $30

Deeply aromatic with a faintly meat tone under the more assertive toasty oak, buttery peach pie, and Asian pear fruit that is laced with flinty mineral notes. Nicely rich up front, though this quickly becomes a bit heavy on the palate with fruit tones that are skewed slightly to the marmalade end of the spectrum. The alcohol, lightly noticeable on the nose, becomes quite obvious on the backend and slightly distracting. This is rich and powerful but lacks detail and freshness. The finish is long but clumsy. 87pts

2008 Liberty School Central Coast Chardonnay 13.5% $12

Light and fresh on the nose with pear and peach fruits, lovely polleny floral tones, a hint of underlying honeycomb and a mist of orange oil on top. A bit blocky at first and, while this freshens up nicely, it does remain a bit foursquare. The fruit is nicely fresh and intense, if simple and presented in a rather blocky way. This is well-balanced and well-put-together in a very friendly style. But it flails around on the mid-palate a bit before snapping together on the moderately long finish, which shows the slightly more honeyed notes found on the nose before unleashing a surprisingly long, mouthwatering and almost mineral tone. Solid Chardonnay. 87pts

2008 Valley of the Moon Unoaked Russian River Valley Chardonnay 13.5% $14

Lightly spicy on the nose with floral tones and a hint of sassafras framing the rather obvious, slightly musky almost persimmon-scented core of melony fruit. This is simple on entry: bright, easy, balanced and simple, with a direct appeal that allows the moderately intense fruit to take center stage. The flavors are rich with a hint of orange cream adding depth to the Asian pear and peachy fruit. The acid really adds verve to the mid-palate and drives the medium-length finish. Very refreshing and lively, if in a fruity style. 87pts

2009 Jacob’s Creek South East Australia Chardonnay 12.5% $8

Very lightly scented with a gentle base of vanilla, over which is layered the lightly sweet/sour aroma of baking apples. Very light on entry and, while the flavors are much like the nose, with a bitter/sweet apple core wrapped in a light shroud of oak wood influence, this is fresh and balanced with succulent acidity and enough heft to give this small-scaled wine an attractively round feeling in the mouth. The finish is driven by acid and has a nice, subtle bitter appleseed edge that offsets the sweet-sour fruit well. Nothing fancy but a solid easy drinker. While the finish might be off-putting to some, I find it very enjoyable. A lovely little wine. 86pts

2009 Lake Sonoma Winery Russian River Chardonnay 13.5% $16

Spicy raw wood on the nose is joined by low-intensity aromas of dried orchard fruits and a touch of crème brûlée and of green walnut. In the mouth it is well-balanced, with good acids balancing a nice level of sweet fruitiness. The wood spice and frankly wood tannins are a bit aggressive, but the core of peach and pear fruit can support it fairly well. The acid takes control on the refreshing finish. 86pts

2009 Jargon California Chardonnay 13.5% $10

Fruity, mineral, lean and fresh-smelling with apple, spicy wood, vanilla, and VA nose.  A little carmel apple up front, bright acids, rather ripe flavors that veer over to tropical fruitiness with notes of guava, honeycomb, and almond over the ripe Asian pear fruit. A bit short and bitter on the finish, but this is greater than the sum of its parts, with a nice texture and odd flavors that work reasonably well together. 85pts

2008 McWilliams Hanwood Estate South Eastern Australia Chardonnay 13.5% $10

Curiously sweet on the nose with very figgy dried fruit tones, floral notes, wood spice and mineral notes. Rich and round on entry, with lots of rich, sweet fruit that extends across the palate, where it picks up a bit of vanilla and notes of ginger and clove while retaining the dried fig/apricot edge right through the moderately long finish, which reveals an electric vein of acidity that blazes electrically across the palate. A bit clumsy with unintegrated acidity and over-ripe flavors. 84pts

2009 Black Swan South Eastern Australia Chardonnay 13.0% $6

Vanilla/bubblegum-fruity sweetness on the nose that’s backed up by Fruit Stripe gum, freshly sliced fennel, and a touch of wood. Nicely acidic on entry with unusually and noticeably sweet flavors of very ripe, slight acetic apples. There’s a touch of astringency here as well, which actually helps balance the sugar here. Some banana notes on the mid-palate as well as a vanilla streak all add to the sweet impression this makes. The acid kicks in again on the cleansing finish, which ends with more banana tones. Serviceable. 81pts

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  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    I'm not sure what a well made Chardonnay should be. Should it be very dry or should it have lots of fruit?
    My favorite Chards come from the Margaret River area of Austrailia. Am I missing the boat on what a classic Chard should be?

    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:39 PM

  • Snooth User: schellbe
    Hand of Snooth
    247770 225

    Very dry and lots of fruit are not mutually exclusive. Fruity wines may seem sweet, but may be totally devoid of sugar, by definition "dry".

    Most would say the best Chardonnay have balance between fruit, oak, and acidity. What that proper balance is, is a matter of opinion. I like the Burgundies, with subtle fruit, moderate oak, creaminess, and good acidity. Most New World Chardonnays seem out of balance to me, but that is personal preference.

    Nov 21, 2010 at 2:20 PM

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