For this month’s Tasting Room, we are taking a bit of a different direction. Instead of the three tiers - novice, enthusiast and collector – we’re going with one general theme: Chardonnay. To be more specific, we’re focusing on “If you like Rombauer Chardonnay… “ We often hear consumers state “I only drink “enter wine here. One of the very common fill-in-the-blank answers to that question is Rombauer Chardonnay.
Rombauer defines a certain style of California Chardonnay – ripe fruit, vanilla-laced oak notes and an all around rich and buttery mouthfeel. The wine has such a stalwart following, it often faces a supply and demand problem - especially when certain vintages produce less than normal, which could be the case this year. So the idea behind this tasting room is to introduce Rombauer-loving palates to some other Chardonnays made in a similar style.
So what is it about Chardonnay?
Chardonnay is an interesting grape because on its own, it’s not that interesting. Chardonnay is a chameleon of a grape, meaning that the way it tastes truly reflects where it is grown and choices made by the winemaker. Winemakers often enjoy the variety because it’s a sturdy grape; it has reliably high ripeness and it responds well to a variety of winemaking techniques, so much so, that it’s hard to make a blanket statement that you love or hate Chardonnay. You just have not tasted enough of them.
For instance, in the cool-climate, chalky soils of Chablis, Chardonnay never sees new oak and the resulting wines are crisp, clean and mineral-driven, with high acidity and virtually no buttery tones to note. Take a Napa Valley Chardonnay and you’ll have a warm climate and heavier oak use, producing a wine that showcases ripe, rich fruits and vanilla and toast characteristics from the oak. Not to say one is better than another, but there are some stark stylistic differences when it comes to Chardonnay.
The style of Rombauer is in the latter. So that is what we are showcasing for you – rich and creamy Chardonnay. To achieve this, wineries typically pick their Chardonnay when it is qutie ripe. In the winery, the wine typically undergoes malo-lactic fermentation, a process that changes malic acid into lactic (or very soft) acid. Malic acid is the kind of acid in a green apple, while lactic acid is the kind found in milk. This creates a much more creamy mouthfeel in the wine. Oak aging is also an important part. Often the oak is new, which gives the wine stronger vanilla scents and round and rich texture.
When you are looking for a Chardonnay to match that buttery and oaky character, we recommend a few, like the Mer-Soleil Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay. Barrel-Fermented indicates this wine will have a great deal of that toast and vanilla flavor. Another great choice is the Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay. Created by the Jess Jackson family, this wine is rich and creamy, but still well-balanced.
Finally, our featured wine of this week’s tasting room, Landmark Overlook Chardonnay. Landmark is a classic Sonoma Valley producer and they have made a name for themselves in crafting incredible Chardonnay. In fact, their signature wine, the Overlook Chardonnay, has made the Wine Spectator Top 100 list seven times in since 1997. They were also just touted as the most “fairly priced Chardonnay in California” by Antonio Galloni of The Wine Advocate. Hear now, that ‘s in CALIFORNIA – not Sonoma or northern California, but ALL of the state. That’s quite a dose of praise and one I personally agree with wholeheartedly! Stock up my friends! Speaking of Tasting Rooms, this is one worth a visit. Just off Highway 12, it’s a stunning little piece of property and you’ll be sipping on some delicious wines.
Now go grab some Chardonnay (it is Chardonnay Day #ChardDay after all, so a good time to stock up).