Did you once love California Chardonnay, but were dismayed by too much toasty oak and buttery bombast? Yeah, me too. I turned my back on the white wines that weaned me during the salad days of my drinking.
But now I’ve returned. And I’m finding that I like oak on my Chardonnay. I just don’t want a ton of it. Which is why it was serendipitous to accumulate six sample bottles from California’s 2012 vintage all in a relatively short time span.
So let’s check ’em out.
The first round of wines have all touched what I consider an acceptable amount of new oak barrels that give them some toasty flavor. What one winery calls “a mere butterfly kiss of oak”.
Plus, each Chardonnay has a little pat of butter. Or rather, buttery texture. And you’ll find fruit and zip to balance these flavors out.
These wines are ordered in what I perceive to be the most toasty to the least:
- Sequoia Grove Napa Valley
- Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Karia” Napa Valley (giver of butterfly kisses)
- Gundlach Bundschu Estate Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County
- Jordan Russian River Valley
All are worth a shot to decide for yourself if there’s a sea change in the use of new oak. (As in, using less.) You might also note another stylistic shift of not making Chardonnays so buttery-tasting you’d think they came from a dairy.
Now if you want wines a little more austere and steely, where oak shows up as more a component for richness and texture than flavor, here’s a duo from the Russian River Valley to look out for:
- Lioco (where you’ll find orange creamsicle aromas)
- Inman Family
Interestingly enough, the Inman Family was the only one of the bunch sealed with a screwcap rather than a cork. Also, get a bottle of their fantastic rosé. Now.
Curious about Jordan? Here’s a photo. Check out my podcast from the winery, too.
My advice when it comes to California Chardonnay? DO NOT FEAR THE BARREL! It comes in peace, and in the names of flavor and/or texture.
Still thirsty for more? Kick back with my podcast featuring California’s First Family of Chardonnay.
Butter stick via Eric Eisnor.