What did I find? A lot to like actually. While there where still some crap bottles, as there are at virtually all price points, the majority of these wines were both recognizable as Chardonnay and showed some style. The best wine was actually quite impressive and an excellent value.
Whether you'e looking for creamy oak, zesty and mineral laden fruit, or something in between, you can actually find pretty good options at 12 bucks, and that surprises even me!
Photo courtesy LollyKnit via Flickr/CC
2009 Tortoise Creek Wines Jam's Blend Chardonnay Lodi, California 13.4% $12
This shows some nice almond and cream notes on the nose over rather ripe pineapple and peach fruit. Big, broad and creamy, though with a fine core of bright acid that perks up the center of this nicely. This offers ripe peach and pineapple fruit, with lovely bright citrussy notes adding some energy here. The texture really is rather gossamer considering the nice richness. All that ripe fruit doesn't bring huge weight, and while the finish here is a touch short, it shows flashes of oak spice and ripe fruit with a hint of heat. 89pts
2009 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley 13.5% $12
Marshmallow, burnt sugar, ginger crème brûlée and vanilla all come together over the base of sweet yet indistinct orchard fruits. Another wine with a leading edge of sweetness, though this not only has plenty of balancing acid, but also has lovely citrus fruit flavors balanced by notes of blanched almonds and crème brûlée . Rich but well balanced in the mouth, with some wood spice emerging on the back end before the cream flavors return on the moderately long finish. Shows a hint of wood spice and tannin adding some mouthgrab to the finale. 88pts
2009 Cave de Lugny Les Charmes Macon de Lugny 13% $12
Tight on the nose with heirloom apple tones, dried lemon peel and sandy, salty soil tones. This is surprisingly caressing in the mouth, with excellent acids that keep this taut, focused and tall. The fruit is rather pure and faintly redolent of heather and rocks, all under the fresh apple fruit. Tight with good drive through the bright, moderately long finish. Excellent tension and weight, though this is a touch simple. 87pts
2009 Linen Chardonnay Wahluke Slope Washington 14.1% $12
This is pretty on the nose, with apricot tones, sweet apple undercurrents, floral top notes and a nice almond top note. A bit soft and lacking some focus on the palate though this has good acidity that helps to sharpen the ripe fruit flavors there alcohol lends a bit of sweetness and heat to the palate. The finish is rich with ripe orchard fruits and continues the rather silky texture of the palate, though here there is a touch of distracting heat. 87pts
2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay 13.5% $12
Caramel and butterscotch greet the nose with underlying notes of lemongrass, white pepper and pineapple. This is creamy and moderate in scale, but with a richness that shows off its warm climate heritage. Plenty of oak peppers on the mid-palate, with praline and cream flavors. There's a refreshing vein of citrussy acid here that keeps this bright and extends over the moderately long, crisp finish. Shows a bit more wood spice but plenty of apple fruit as well. This is everything people expect from California Chardonnay. 87pts
2010 Santa Julia Organic Chardonnay Mendoza, Argentina 13% $12
Earthy with notes of almond husk, soil and faint wood spice top the lightly citrussy and earthy apple fruit. Rather light bodied and fresh on the palate, with an edge of ripeness that helps to cover the solid acids. Very much in the apple end of the spectrum, with some creamed corn elements on the palate that lead to a dry, firm, earthy yet aromatically fruity finish which shows the sweetness of ripe fruit and good length. This is subtle, fairly complex and offers a lovely texture, though without much that is expected of Chardonnay. 87pts
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