Wine Talk

Snooth User: cma238

Heavily-oaked Chardonnay recommendations?

Posted by cma238, Jun 25.

Is it me, or are oaky chards out of fashion? Nowadays most every producer I encounter boasts about their stainless steel tanks. All I want to experience with my Chardonnay is toast with a big ol' pad of melted butter on top. 

Can anyone recommend some excellent oaky chard producers? Thanks! 

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Replies

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Reply by duncan 906, Jun 25.

Although Chablis is not usually oaked some of the other white Burgundies are. I recently had this one

www.snooth.com/wine/domaine-patrick-javillier-borgogne-blanc-cuvee-oligocene-2007

I can also suggest and recommend this one

www.snooth.com/wine/blason-de-bourgogne-montagny-vieilles-vignes-2009

 

Good luck

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Reply by cma238, Jun 25.

Thanks! I'm excited to give these a try. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 25.

If you're going Burgundy, Meursault by Jadot is definitely one to try, but it's not as heavily oaked as many CA Chardonnay or Australian Chardonnay for that matter.

How much are you willing to spend? New French Oak costs money and those wines usually aren't very cheap.

Ramey from CA might be one to try if $40+ doesn't bother you

Sonoma Cutrer

and then Rombauer is known as the ultimate oak bomb.

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 25.

Lots of recos in the latest Wine Spectator.  On the cheap end, K-J, of course.  In fact, I thnk we had a whole bunch of posts on here asking about the buttery part and, usually, if you put it in oak, you also let it go through full malolactic.  So there's a good correlation there.

Don't forget Pahlmeyer.  Now that Kistler has abandoned the unrestrained use of oak and malo, he's the old guard producer.  Not cheap, but there you go.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 25.

I recommend you save your money and buy a good wine. But that's just snarky me. ;)

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 26.

La Crema is one of the usual suspects.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Jun 26.

The obvious inexpensive buttery oaky chard that is available almost everywhere is toasted head as well as the lower end from Rodney Strong.

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Reply by cma238, Jun 26.

Such great recos! Thank you again. I'd be willing to invest in a few $40+ bottles. Is it mostly accurate to say that the higher priced bottles you've all mentioned will end up being age-worthy? And on the value-end, will a Rodney Strong or La Crema (both decidedly "yummy" choices) last longer than the average bear? 

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Reply by duncan 906, Jun 26.

An interesting discussion but most of the US wines mentioned are not available on my side of the pond

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Reply by catsmiler, Jun 26.

Agree with Jonderry...Rombauer is the ultimate bottle of butter...Love this wine...This is the only Chard I will drink...around 40 bucks...The French oak being replaced by stainless steel because of economic challenges is not the only reason for this rapidly disappearing Chard style...New York wine writers pushed the fruity stuff in the early 80's for pairing with the new haute cuisine developing on the East Coast at that time... 

There is a small winery near Philo ( Northern California ) named Husch...They had a wonderfully malolactic Chard that sat on your tongue and allowed you to skip the butter on lobster...They succumbed to the citric Chard which paired really swell with salads and smarmy cheeses...    

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Reply by Vinogger, Jun 26.

Oaky butter Charodnnay is not my cup of tea but to answer your question

Rombauer is the ultimate big oak and butter Chardonnay

Finger Lakes has some big oayk Chardonnays that you might want to check out

Some less expensive oaky Chardonnays from CA are J Lohr & Kendall Jackson

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 26.

Big oak is one thing that isn't a disaster in and of itself. It's the rest of the winemaking that is key.

Too much alcohol, too much residual sweetness, mis-managed malolactic, etc., etc. Several problem wines have also been listed.

Go through them, CMA238, and see which wines you think are balanced and good and tasty and refreshing for the style, and which are just plain flabby and lacking acidity, disjointed, blowsy-and-overblown-fruity, overly hot, cloying and even gagging.

Only buy one bottle each first time around. Then when you find what you like, stock up!

Will be interested to hear how your journey pans out. Post here some of your tasting notes when you can. That's the only cost of our advice!  ;-)

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Reply by gregt, Jun 27.

Barrels are not being replaced by stainless steel for economic reasons. I don't know who started that story but it's utterly false. Back in the 1970s when the US wine industry was first taking off, women were entering the workplace for the first time. They used to have all kinds of bars around that served a "businessman's lunch", because most people out at work were men. They'd have a few drinks with their lunch. Under the Carter administration, the tax code was changed and the "three martini lunch" became less common. In addition, women can't drink the same amount of alcohol and they wanted something to drink that was something less kick-ass than Seagram's or Cutty Sark.

What to do? The entire culture was changing and these things called fern bars started opening and those places served things like quiche, which was very avant at the time. What to have with your quiche? What seemed classy and sophisticated? Well, white wine. The US was still enamored of all things French, and the wine industry was looking to France as the model for wines, so we ended up with Cab, Merlot, and for whites, Chardonnay.

Jess Jackson knew that Americans liked a bit of sugar and people the world over seem to like vanilla, so he made a Chardonnay with a bit of residual sugar and slavish oak to produce the vanilla and butter. He called it "reserve", which was utterly meaningless, and charged a dollar a bottle more than the going rate. It made him a billionaire. He made more money from wine than anyone else in Napa, and I think that's still true. That wine taught Americans that Chardonnay had to come with a little bit of oak and a little bit of sweetness.

Of course, in time, that spawned a backlash and people started saying ABC - Anything But Chardonnay. Fashion changed and nobody wanted to be drinking something that was fashionable ten years ago, so Chardonnay remained a huge seller but the hip, sophisticated, cool crowd moved on and learned to disparage Chardonnay in general. But that was in the later 1990s and meantime, producers like Kistler were making big, blowsy, sweet, oaky Chardonnay and getting big points from Parker. Rather than charge $20, they charged $65 a bottle.

Also in the 1990s, Burgundy started to become a lot more trendy as they started to gain some traction with their marketing of what they claimed was their special terroir. So you could like Chardonnay if it was from Burgundy. And of course, some jerk would always mention knowingly that the white Burgundy was really Chardonnay.

Come to the 2000s and some a-hole coined the term "food wine".  All the rebels and hipsters pulled on their black pants and black plastic frame glasses and got on that bandwagon. "Food wines" were whatever Parker didn't like. Ripe, tasty fruit was to be eschewed in favor of acid, the more the better. And  oak was disparaged. You see, a big Cabernet can't be enjoyed with food, food being a generic term that includes virtually anything a human might eat. But a lean, green, vegetal, unripe Cab Franc with uncontrollable levels of volatile acidity and astringency, that could be a food wine. Goes with anything matter of fact. Even sushi.

Smart producers saw a possible market niche here so they started to make "unoaked" Chardonnay. Some producers make both types. And why not? Smart marketing. Has absolutely nothing at all to do with the cost of barrels.

So these days, if you're a cool pencil-neck hipster, and you live in New York, you probably don't drink Chardonnay at all but if you do, you bet your black leather jacket that it's unoaked. If you're a divorcee in New York, you drink Rombauer, which is known as "cougar juice".  So most men aren't going to drink that. It would be like a man going to fern bars in the 1970s. Of course, a few smart guys figured out that heading into a place that's 90 percent female increased their odds of having a great night. So heading to a fern bar back in the day, or ordering some Rombauer today, isn't really a bad strategy for a guy, even if he hates the stuff. Sometimes we make sacrifices for a greater reward later.

If you're a schlub from mid-America, you are the market demographic for Kendall Jackson. If you're a poor student or some working-class guy who wants to bring something home to the wife, you guy BV Coastal.  If you're a guy from Cleveland who owns a few dry cleaners or a Chevy dealership, you buy Kistler instead.

So that's the story of Chardonnay in the US.

Besides the wines mentioned, look to some Chardonnay from Argentina and Chile. Prices might be better.

And I will confess, for about 20 years, I pretty much ignored Chardonnay. But these days, it's a whole new area for me. The nice thing is that like Cab, there's pretty good Chardonnay grown in almost every wine-producing region, whether in the north or south hemisphere.

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Reply by gregt, Jun 27.

Thank you again. I'd be willing to invest in a few $40+ bottles. Is it mostly accurate to say that the higher priced bottles you've all mentioned will end up being age-worthy? And on the value-end, will a Rodney Strong or La Crema (both decidedly "yummy" choices) last longer than the average bear?

No. It is never accurate to say that higher priced bottles of any wine will end up being age-worthy.

Rodney Strong and La Crema are the average bears, so they won't last longer.

What are you expecting to get out of aging them? And by age, I don't mean five years because that's not age. I mean twenty-five or thirty years. Ideally, you start to get flavors and aromas that couldn't exist in the young wine. Molecules break down and new molecules are formed and that needs a lot of time.

But you say the La Crema is yummy. So do you really like old Chardonnay with oxidative notes?

Most of those wines are better off consumed in the first five years of their lives.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 27.

Had some oaked Chilean chardonnay last night. It was a very good match for cajun duck salad, crawdad cakes, scallops etouffee, jambalaya and even New Orleans-style bbq pork (the whole table was sharing from each dish).

Sounds like a food wine to me.  ;-)

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Reply by outthere, Jun 27.

"Sometimes we make sacrifices for a greater reward later."

Like taking the time to read one of your novels.  Always worth the sacrifice! Great stuff Greg.

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Reply by napagirl68, Jun 27.

Fern bars and cougar juice...  Love it, Greg!!!  lmao

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Reply by EMark, Jun 27.

As usual, Greg, you have written a very interesting essay with, probably, more truth than BS.

I have always looked on wines with some acidity to be better-than-average food accompaniments.  The theory that I once read was that acid in the wine stimulates the salivary glands and this addition wetness in the mouth spread chewed food over more taste buds (or something like that).  It may be BS, but it has worked for me.

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 27.

Mark, you are correct. Greg was just commenting on how the hipsters take that to an extreme and praise the acidity/no to little fruit wines to give themselves cred.

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Reply by cma238, Jun 27.

GregT, that was a truly wonderful piece of informational writing! Wow. Perhaps I'll open a fern bar in my next life.  

These comments have got me thinking more broadly: I feel that it is the wineries who speak most about how stainless steel/acid/fruitless wines are "better" -- are THEY, the wineries, the true hipsters? Everyone wants to be on the cutting edge, to offer something NEW AND IMPROVED. Are the wineries creating the ILLUSION of hipsters who hate on sugar and oak? Perhaps it's just the nature of a pendulum's swing?

With regards to age on oaky whites, I'm hoping for some caramel/hazelnut/ooey gooey notes. Is that what you would consider oxidative notes? And, can you tell that I have a sweet tooth? : ) 

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