I was turned off by the incredibly high frequency of encounters with fat, buttery, indistinct wines, thinking that only Chablis really fit my palate. Well, I was wrong. The more I taste Chardonnay, the more I find that I can and do enjoy the wines.
While reviewing wines, many factors come into play including my personal preferences, but I try to convey the overall quality of each wine even if it isn’t exactly to my tastes.
I’ve recently tasted through a few cases of Chardonnay, and while many wines were excellent, these six wines were the standouts for my personal palate.
Photo courtesy Jeremy Brooks via Flickr/CC
2009 Alta Maria Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay California 14.1% $24
This is kind of subtle on the nose with aromas of almond, peach and orange slowly rising from the glass. It has a distinctly perfume quality with floral and aromatic wood tones. Very lavender. Rather focused in the mouth with lovely purity to the peach, apple and vaguely citrus flavors that are surrounded by soft wood tones. The texture is bright with a creamy, leesy edge that pops on the mid-palate but recedes as the wine regains tension on the back end and through the moderately long finish. This finish shows more peachy fruit and a slightly more aggressive, toasty oak profile, though it’s still a very harmonious wine. Damn, this is good. 93pts
2010 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Hemel-En-Aarde Valley Chardonnay South Africa 13% $26
This is obviously oaky on the nose with notes of cedar, toasted dark bread and butter cream, but the underlying apple and melon fruit is almost as assertive. On entry, this shows a rare combination of power and transparency, and while the oak is assertive the fruit is almost keeping apace. Toasty, nutty notes on the palate are underpinned by rich apple fruit. A touch of kiwi and green melon on the back end lead to a beautifully defined finish that shows oak and mineral notes under a fan of green fruit. This is really very fine. 93pts
2008 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay 13.5% $18
Lovely on the nose, with notes of pear fruit accented by floral tones, soft, sweet caramel/nutty wood spice, vanilla and dried lime zest. This combines richness with a certain inner mouth tension. The fruit is fresh and bright and framed with juicy acidity all over a lightly crème brulee, candied ginger oak, but the wine is not creamy. The finish shows an equally light touch, airy with integrated wood spice over bright quince and citrus notes that lead to a touch of mineral on the finale. This is my kind of California Chardonnay. 91pts
2010 Lange Willamette Valley Chardonnay Oregon 13% $16
Clean and fresh on the nose with almond lotion tones under crisp pear and lime fruit. This is lightweight and fresh on the palate with a finely integrated yet zesty vein of acidity. The flavors run to the crisp, white orchard fruit end of the spectrum- white peaches and pear topped with citrus notes. This turns just a little rounded on the back end but never gains any unnecessary weight. The finish is pure and crisp with more white orchard fruit tones over river stone minerality. 90pts
2010 Christian Moreau Chablis 12.5% $23
This offers up rather intense aromas of golden raspberry, chalk, steel, lemon zest and hints of peach and green tea. A bit firm yet finely balanced on entry, this shows great cut with wonderfully balanced mineral, yellow fruit and faint herb totes. There’s a walk in the forest quality to the inner mouth perfumes that is wonderfully refreshing. Fine fruit arrives a bit late on the palate but shows a fine balance of ripeness and freshness. The finish is more of the same, mineral and vibrant acids with growing perfumes of apple skins and pretty floral notes. Racy. 90pts
2009 Domaine Faiveley Montagny 13% $20
Nutty oak, apple fruit and a touch of mango come together on the nose with some sharp mineral hints that add nice focus. Very poised up front, a wave of sweetness from the nutty oak adds volume in the mouth. This has a light caramel/toffee edge to it that many people will find mysteriously appealing. The core of fruit, apple and quince is rich and attractively pure. This finishes with good inner mouth perfumes, apple skins and fresh evergreen notes that add to the fruit and mineral interplay. A lovely white Burgundy from a lesser known appellation. 89pts
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