Editor’s Note: This weekly column is sponsored by Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Road).
Chardonnay could be the world’s best wine grape. A resilient fruit that can be grown in almost every winemaking region, Chardonnay’s inherently neutral taste makes it extremely versatile, lending itself to support a myriad of flavors and styles.
Chardonnay gets much of its taste and style from the region it’s grown in and the particular winemaker’s techniques. There is a clear distinction between Old World Chardonnay and New World Chardonnay. In general, Chardonnay is medium-bodied wine with pear, apple, tropical or citrus fruit flavors.
When little to no oak aging occurs, Chardonnays tend to be more crisp and fresh.
With extensive oak aging, Chardonnays become creamy and buttery with vanilla, spice and oak flavors.
Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, where winemakers use old world techniques that produce wines that range from the minerally, unoaked Chardonnays from Chablis, to the decadent, full-bodied and toasty wines of Montrachet and Pouilly-Fuisse.
While French Chardonnays boast a wide palette of flavors, the California Chardonnay possesses qualities equal to its old world cousins with new world techniques, though with a consistency in flavor profile that reigns supreme in the U.S. market.
The flavor profile I’m talking about is the smooth, buttery and creamy flavor of California Chardonnays that comes from malolactic fermentation.
The malolactic fermentation process commonly used in California Chardonnay production converts the tart, malic acid, naturally present in the Chardonnay grape, with the softer-tasting lactic acid. In the end, this imparts the wine with that buttery flavor, while also creating a rounder, fuller mouth feel.
It’s the smooth, buttery, creamy and oaky notes in California Chardonnays that American consumers can’t get enough of. Here are a few of my favorite California Chardonnays we have to offer:
Annabella Chardonnay 2011 Napa, California
A great value California Chardonnay, Michael Pozzan’s “Annabella” label represents high quality from carefully selected vineyards. This wine sees six months of French oak, but does not have an overpowering oak flavor. With ripe aromas of lemon custard and tangerine and tastes of tropical fruit, this wine is bold and balanced with great acidity. It’s an excellent wine as an aperitif or with a full meal.
Cambria Chardonnay 2011 Santa Maria Valley, California
This is an oaky style of California Chardonnay with aromas of pineapple, peach and apple. It has flavors of light-toasted oak and vanilla and finishes clean, bright and crisp. We love this Chardonnay. It goes nicely with grilled vegetables, crab, lobster, calamari and any fish.
Rombauer Chardonnay 2011 Carneros, California
The original buttery, toasty Chardonnay, there’s no one who does it quite like Rombauer. It smells like figs and peaches poached in vanilla cream with a drizzle of caramel syrup. In the mouth it’s rich, with honeyed pineapple and apricot flavors. It’s one of our favorites but we have a very limited supply due to high demand.
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