There’s no wrong time of year to drink Chardonnay. But when you’re holed up at home waiting for an ice storm to pass and dinner is a warming casserole, not ceviche, Chablis is probably not what you’re hankering for.
I’ve recently tasted a number of impressive Chardonnays that, though all medium- to full-bodied, are very different wines. On one end of the spectrum are fruit-dominant wines with a fresh feel, like the Villa Maria from New Zealand and Oregon’s Brick House. If you like Chardonnays with full-throttle oaky richness, Californian offerings like the La Follette and Beringer will be more your style. All the others fall somewhere in between in terms of size and richness. Enjoy!
Anaba 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($28) The nose shows stone fruit, plus a little mustard seed and cheese rind. In the mouth there’s a dollop of vanilla and leesy flavor atop the stone fruit, plus a hint of saline. Butterscotch and ginger on the finish, which I wish were just a little longer. Medium-bodied, solid, well-made Chardonnay.
Beringer 2012 Private Reserve Chardonnay Napa Valley ($44) Though there are pleasing peach and tropical fruit flavors at its center, this Chard gets its sass—caramel and vanilla aromas, with heaps of butterscotch throughout—from a lot (88%) of new French oak. The wine has legions of fans who admire its rich, oaky, full-malo style, but for me it’s a little over the top.
Brick House 2012 Cascadia Chardonnay Ribbon Ridge ($36) A delicious, clean, fruit-focused wine. Dust, pear and rosemary aromas are deep and wide, and there’s just a bit of nutmeg and fresh cream to distract from the peach/pear fruit. Nice structure and acidity. Biodynamic and certified organic.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon 2012 Édition Limitée Chardonnay Dundee Hills ($65) A rich, elegant Chard with focused pear, white peach, mineral citrus flavors. French oak lends the wine hints of fresh cream and nut throughout, which bloom into a round, full finish. It would surely work well with food, but is probably best appreciated on its own as an aperitif.
Gary Farrell 2012 Russian River Selection Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($35) This is what I’d expect Ladies Who Lunch to drink—it seems a natural match for fish, salad and lighter fare. Light peach and flan aromas, with more peach and citrus zest flavors. Enjoyable, with good length on the finish.
For a note on the Gary Farrell Durell Vineyard Chardonnay, see our winter wine guide.
Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux 2009 Premier Cru Meursault Perrières ($56) This Meursault’s pure fruit flavors are edged in dried herbal tones. Smooth, mineral-chalk feel in the mouth; at five years of age, its acidity is still hanging on nicely. Very good, and will show well with or without food.
La Follette 2012 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($38) There’s a lot to love here for fans of big, creamy Chardonnays. There’s vanilla and whipping cream on the nose, plus a hint of saline; crème brûlee, nougat and lees accent the palate. Medium-full with a slightly viscous feel; pleasantly dry mineral-citrus finish.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2013 Karia Chardonnay Napa Valley ($35) This Chardonnay’s aromas are quite nice—ginger, vanilla, licorice, lime zest—as are its yellow peach and olive oil flavors. Has some heft and richness on the front of the palate, the finish a little less so.
Like blanc de blancs Champagne? Check out our ultimate Champagne guide.
Villa Maria 2011 Taylors Pass Single Vineyard Chardonnay Marlborough ($40) This excellent New Zealand Chard is a clean, clear expression of the varietal, with stone fruit flavor dominating the palate, and mineral-citrus notes on the finish. Accents of mallow and graham cracker throughout tie it all together. A natural partner for food—try it with roast chicken.
Daryna Tobey lives in New York and has been writing about wine since 2001.
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