Tag Archives: chardonnay

Wine O’Clock: Cannery Row Cellars Chardonnay 2008

28 Jul

Another pick from my Wine Insiders haul, this Cannery Row Cellars Chardonnay hails from my old stomping grounds just outside of the Monterey Bay area of California’s Central Coast.   Central Californian Chardonnay has quickly become one of my favorite wines of Summer with plenty of bright tropical fruit and crisp acidity to cut through the humidity and pair with a wide variety of summer foods.

I may not have stepped foot on Cannery Row since I was wearing Ninja Turtle underwear, but at least now I can drink wine vinted in the foothills of one of this country’s truly spectacularly scenic places.

Cannery Row Cellars Chardonnay 2008

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay

Vitals: 12.6% abv

Company Line: “Fresh fruit aromas herald delicious flavors of apple, nectarine and ripe melon.  Oak aging adds depth and complexity with hints of toasty oak and vanilla.  Balanced acidity makes this wine particularly refreshing.”

My take: pale straw yellow in the glass.  Nose opens with sharp apple and tropical fruit flourishes ensconced in a veil of soft vanilla.  Apple and citrus blanket the palate with a satisfying acidity.  Body is emboldened with rich oakiness which also serves to taper the acid in the finish.

This sits right in the middle of the California Chardonnay spectrum between intense tropical fruits and buttery oakiness.  While I certainly wouldn’t call this example buttery, it’s oaky and vanilla softness acts as a nice counterbalance to the fresh fruit that dominates the front of this wine.  A nice summer drinker with the versatility to pair with poultry, fish, cheese or fruit and pastry-based desserts.


There’s More to South Africa than the World Cup: Chamonix Chardonnay 2006

29 Jun

So now that the emotional roller coaster that was following the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team, not United States Mutant Ninja Turtles) is over after a tough loss to Ghana in the knock-out stages of the World Cup, most fair-weather fans of the Beautiful Game have turned their attentions away from South Africa.  Beyond World Cup soccer and Apartheid (what, too soon?), South Africa has long produced the best wines on the Dark Continent.  As a former European colony, winemaking took hold in South Africa in the 17th century.  Only recently, however,  has their wine become widely available on the international market.

Initially dominated by dessert wines and niche varietals like Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, the influx of so-called flying winemakers on the New World wine scene brought popular Old World varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to the industry.  In particular, the Huguenot settlers of the Franschhoek (‘French Corner’) brought their rich winemaking tradition with them, transforming the Western Cape Province into the premier wine region of South Africa.

This past Friday saw me pouring a variety of Chardonnay from across the world to an intimate group at Barriques Wine and Spirits (tasting schedule) in Middleton.  Out of the 8 wines I poured (3 American, 2 French, 1 Australian, 1 Argentinian, 1 South African), the later was one of the more unique.  Aside from being the eldest of the group, the Chamonix Chardonnay 2006 stood out with its unique blend of fruit and oak complexity.

Chamonix Chardonnay 2006

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay

Vitals: 13.5% abv; nearly a year on mostly new French oak

Company line: none to be found for the 2006 vintage, 2008 notes here

My take: pours a vibrant golden yellow.  Ripe tropical fruit and grapefruit weave a juicy bouquet while richer notes of oatmeal, caramel and spice lay a smooth, oaky foundation on the palate.   Finish is clean with a pleasant, citric acidity and light buttery note.

This wine blends Old and New World chardonnay characteristics in a rich, complex, and ultimately satisfying way.  At ~$14.99 bottle at Barriques, this wine makes for a solid value for the level of fruit and oak interplay going on.  Notes on the 2008 vintage suggest their Chardonnays hit their peak around 5 years, so the 2006 is just reaching the height of its maturity.  Also available by the glass at Restaurant Magnus in downtown Madison.

Wine O’Clock: Bighorn Cellars Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay 2007

22 Jun

Chardonnay exploded onto the California wine scene in the 1970’s with the hometown boys of Chateau Montelena besting the French in the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976.  By 1988, plantings of Chardonnay in California surpassed those in all of France.  By 2005, California-grown Chardonnay accounted for 100,000 acres or 25% of the world’s Chardonnay plantings.  Those Left Coasters know their way around the grape.  I have come to love Chardonnay from Sonoma and Napa since I poured a Sonoma vs. Napa tasting at Barriques in Middleton  a few months ago.  The best examples I have tried have expertly balanced New World-style tropical fruits with soft, buttery oakiness for a sublimely complex-yet-smooth experience.

The Bighorn Cellars Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 comes from the Los Carneros AVA, which is in the Sourthernmost extent of Napa.  As such, the grapes are soothed by ample coastal fog and bay breezes that allow the grapes to develop complexity without ripening too quickly.  This offering is currently a tasting selection at Barriques Wine & Spirits in Middleton.

Bighorn Cellars Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay 2007

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay

Vitals: Los Carneros AVA (Napa); 14.4% abv; ~$25/bottle

Company Line: “Our 2007 Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay is an exquisite example of the varietal, showcasing an excellent range of fruit on the nose from pineapple and tropical fruits to ripe pear, orange-blossom and brioche. The palate is tantalizing, lush and full bodied with flavors of grilled pineapple and apricot…

Gold Medal Winner – 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting

My take: pale lemon yellow in the glass.  Nose exhibits ample overripe tropical fruits with an undercurrent of caramel apple and braised pear.  Full-bodied on the palate, bringing fruity notes of overripe pineapple, dried apricot and bright citrus over an undercurrent of smooth, understated buttercream.  Finishes clean with a mild lemon twist.  A highly drinkable chardonnay exhibiting the balance of fruit and oak that Sonoma and Napa examples are known for.  Reminds me of the fantastic La Crema Chardonnay from Sonoma that I poured during a recent early spring tasting.  I don’t think anyone does balanced, well-composed chardonnay like Bay Area winemakers.

Wine is fine: Le Grand Noir Chardonnay 2008

26 Jan

Bliss: feet off of ground, in slippers, sipping chardonnay

14 hours on your feet.  Don’t even think about sitting down.  There are shots to be pulled. Milk to be steamed.  Sandwiches and salads to assemble.  The masses need their fix.  The payoff?  A long weekend in LA.   Escape.  Sunshine.  Good company.  The tony life.  You’re battered though.  You need a little medicine to numb those barking dogs.  Forget Advil.  You sell wine.  Your fix? Le Grand Noir Chardonnay 2008 ($9.99 @Barriques). Life is good again.  And about to get better.

Wine: Le Grand Noir Chardonnay 2008

Vitals: 13%abv; 85% chardonnay, 15% viognier

Region: Languedoc-Roussillon (Limoux, Minervois, Carcassone), France

Company line: “Winemaking: The grapes are harvested at optimum ripeness, cold macerated, pressed, cold settled and then fermented. 60% of the Chardonnay is barrel fermented, remaining on the lees in barrel for 6 months. The Viognier is stainless steel fermented, seeing no oak. The wines are then blended and bottled. The Viognier from Minervois is considered the finest from the region of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Characteristics: Vibrant yellow color, intense aromas of lime and mango with hints of toasted vanilla. Rich palate with lemon-lime flavors and subtle oak influences. Excellent length and finish. The addition of Viognier to the blend makes this offering very “consumer friendly”. A perfect match with hors d’oeuvres, seafood, poultry, and pork dishes. This wine also balances nicely with exotic Asian dishes. -prestigewinegroup.com”

My take: pale straw yellow in the glass.  Tropical fruit dominates the nose with sticky, ripe pineapple and mango cut by acidic lime, with oaky vanilla lingering in the background.  Tropical citrus characterizes the palate, with the rich vanillin and oak featured in the aroma  much less forward in the mouth.  Pleasant acidity and mellow alcoholic presence makes for a smooth and crisp finish and lends high drinkability.  Le Grand Noir exhibits great balance throughout and pairs well with my exhaustion and general lack of energy and mental acuity at the moment.  Another great value from the Barriques Wall of 100.  I’m OUT.

Wine is Fine: Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2007

4 Dec

Tonight’s beverage selection includes a popular chardonnay from the Barriques Middleton tasting menu.  The Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Estates Chardonnay 2007. Not much background on this one.  I’m drinking it with some chicken scallopini (recipe forthcoming) I made for dinner tonight.  Let’s get to it.

Wine: Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Estates Chardonnay 2007

Style: Sonoma Coast (California) Chardonnay

Vitals: 14.2% abv

Company line: “I know of no other wine that better captures the spirit, passion, and dedication of those who grow and make it.  -Terry Adams, Winemaker”   Umm, ok, guy.

My take: straw yellow and crystal clear in the glass, notes of honeyed pear, pineapple and buttery oak.  High minerality leads to a clean, mostly dry, lightly acidic mouthfeel.  Great balance all around yields high drinkability.  To use a beer analogy, this is the casked English bitter of wines – clean and refined, more than the sum of its parts.  Class in a glass.  I could go on.  I won’t.  $18-$20/bottle range.  Or come to Barriques and I’ll pour you a glass.  Lord knows I could use the company.

Wine is fine: Three Buck Chuck International Chardonnay 2008

23 Nov


It'll get you drunk.


One of the hardest things about moving to Fitchburg is not living within walking distance of Trader Joe’s anymore.  I was recently at Barriques Wine Cave for some wine training and couldn’t help making a stop at TJ’s before I headed home.  Now I don’t really need to espouse the phenomenon that is Charles Shaw wine.  Depending where it is you call home, you may know it as Two-, Three-, or Four-Buck Chuck.  Here in Madison, it’s Three Buck, and aside from a wine called Tisdale that I found at Woodman’s that matches it, is just about the cheapest you can get for wine made from actual grapes in a corked bottle.  Before my foray into the world of wine, Chuck was generally only found in my home as a cooking aid, but now that I’m a burgeoning oenophile on a budget, I’m always on the lookout for bang-for-your-buck grape drink.

Wine: Charles Shaw International Chardonnay 2008

Origin: South Eastern Australia, Bottled in Napa, CA

Vitals: 12.5% abv, $3 a bottle

My take: Pours a pale straw color.  Nose is vibrant with bright with notes of tropical fruits – banana and pineapple come to the front – with a light lemongrass back end.  Tropical fruits continue through to the palate where the overall impression is “pina colada” and citrus.  Mouthfeel is full and lingering, with a robust acidity cutting through to keep it drinkable and a hint of butter in the finish. I’m doubting this is oaked (from a quantity, efficiency and price-point perspective), but I could be wrong.  Certainly much more tropical and funky than the more traditional chardonnays I have had, though I’m not sure whether that may owe to its Aussie roots or its quick and dirty production.  Either way, this is a fun and flavorful, if not refined wine that is certainly worth its asking price.  It’s $3, folks.  It doesn’t taste like nail polish remover.  That’s saying a lot.


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