Although many wine critics have predicted the decline of Chardonnay popularity because of marketing decisions to develop low-cost wines with a bland sameness, we’ve found good value wines with some style in tastings over the past two months. The following alphabetical list is expanded from recent Tweets on the wines.
For added detail on what to look for, wines from the Russian River Valley and Carneros tend to have better acids, which makes the wines better matches with seafood and shellfish (although we prefer Sauvignon Blanc, Pouilly Fume or Sancerre with shellfish).
The quaffing, party and summer sipping wines tend to fall into a fatter style with a tropical nose (different varieties of ripe fruit, including peach, melon, mango), versus a distinct Chardonnay varietal nose. Some of the quaffing wines also have hints of residual sugar and softer acids to make them easier to drink (a technique pioneered by Kendall Jackson). These wines go well with breads, cheeses, appetizers, chips and dips and other finger foods.
The wines were purchased at local wine merchants, Costco and through different online outlets including Wine Access (www.wineaccess.com) and Wines Til Sold Out (www.wtso.com). Get on the email lists for both. The latter offers a good mix of domestic and imported wines from low-cost regional wines ($12 to $14) to reserve and premier cru wines being cleared out of warehouses to make room for new inventory. For your sipping pleasures:
· Fatter style Carneros Chardonnay 09 Artesa $13. Tropical nose; some varietal nuances; decent acids; round, ripe. w/cheeses, bread.
· Hot weather sipping Chardonnay 09 Bichot Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes $10. Clean varietal nose, hints of French terroir; crisp, fresh. Good w/munchies, seafood.
· Bigger style Chardonnay 07 Cambria $15. Tropical, stone fruit nose; mid-fat body; softening; a little hot (14.5 alc.). w/fowl, fish.
· Calif. quaffing Chardonnay 09 Cannery Row $10. Tropical nose; mid-body to soft; decent flavor. w/cheeses, munchies.
· Fruity Carneros Chardonnay 09 Cuvaison $15. Tropical, varietal nose; round, ripe, decent acids. w/seafood, chicken, pasta.
· Tasty value Russian River Valley Chardonnay 09 Frei Bros. $12. Clean varietal nose; crisp, balanced, good flavor, finish. w/shellfish.
· Fine value Russian River Valley Chardonnay 09 Fritz $14. Golden; honey-vanilla nose; good acids, fruity finish. w/seafood, shellfish.
· Good value summer quaffing Chardonnay 09 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands $9. Tropical nose; fat, soft body, decent flavor. w/munchies.
· Value Calif. Chardonnay 09 Lander Jenkins $10. Toasty, stone fruit nose; soft, semi-crisp; fruity finish. Summer quaffing wine.
· Well-made value Chardonnay 07 Keller Sonoma Coast $14. Light oak, tropical, varietal nose; mid-body, good fruit, long finish. w/seafood
· Summer sipping and party Chardonnay 08 Maddalena Monterey $9. Light varietal nose; mid-body, semi-crisp. Good value. w/munchies.
· Complex Shafer 09 Chardonnay Carneros Red Shoulder Ranch $45. Montrachet-like varietal/oak nose, hints of vanilla, butterscotch; crisp, fruity, long finish. w/seafood, lighter sauces.
· SHV 09 (2d label of Napa stalwart Stony Hill) $18. Steely varietal nose, light oak; crisp, mid-viscosity. Tasty w/seafood.