Published on September 27th, 2011 | by Greg0
Three Good Whites: Two Chardonnays And A Unique Blend
As palates become more refined, the vocabulary improves. Tasting hundreds or thousands of wines doesn’t simply give you more experience to draw on and comparisons to find, but also allows one to notice distinguishing features. At first, most wines of a varietal may taste quite similar, but after having quite a few you’ll be able to piece together the description from the label and match it with what you are tasting or smelling. Eventually, you can probably tell a varietal by taste and small and color, but even experts can have trouble with this so don’t expect certainty.
Chardonnays are a good starter wine, but are likely to be often dismissed for sweeter whites or more expressive and less subtle ones. Today, we’ll start with the Domaine Ste George 2009 Select Reserve Chardonnay, a wine inexpensive enough that anyone can afford a bottle but nice enough that oenophiles will find something to appreciate. This isn’t an amazing wine- but it’s $8. One telltale sign- it’s appellation is simple “California” meaning that they could have grabbed grapes from any number of vineyards in the area, though their homepage does say that the vineyards are in Sonoma. And while it looks nice- the bottle, label, and wine itself are appealing- the nose is immediately a little nutty and astringent. Tasting it against the others today made clear that price does mean something, and though this was a decent value wine, almost no one finished their pours. Good for the relatives, perhaps, and perfectly fine, the body is lively but the finish is sour.
Upwards and onwards to the Stuhlmuller 2009 Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($24). You can immediately tell it’ll cost you more, since the appellation is listed (and is a premiere one to boot). The bottle itself has a bit more character, and this is continued in the nose- immediately upon opening, you’re greeted with a dancing tropical fruit being drizzled in honey and set on fire. That last part might seem odd, but the overall effect is interesting, and this chardonnay offered plenty of smoky, roasted flavors with a bit-too-thin body that felt at odds. The buttered popcorn effect was present, making some novice wine drinkers really like it but others dismiss this one. The mineral finish and clean end made it good for pairing with complex foods, and there was definitely some character here. Our standards are high for California Chardonnay, and this one was good but ultimately unmemorable.
Last up, the complex and clever 2010 RGB Santa Ynez Valley Camp 4 Vineyard is an even blend of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc. We popped this one open while looking for something to stand up against a creamy soup and bitter greens salad course, and it did the trick nicely. Others have pointed out jasmine and honeysuckle, and we can agree. The color is bright straw, and is a sipping wine- there’s enough acid to stop you from trying to drink this one too fast, but enough earthy tones to balance it out and make for a great evening glass. The aftertaste felt a little unbalanced- a bit too chalky- but almost everyone kept coming back for more, making this the clear winner of the trio. And at $20 or so, it’s a good deal to boot.