Tag Archives: chardonnay

Tasting Room: If you like Rombauer Chardonnay (or Rich & Creamy Chardonnay)

 


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).

WineShopper Tasting Notes

A few of the Wine.com staff got together to taste some of this week’s WineShopper wines. Here’s what they had to say:

Geyser Peak 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Kristin: A little restrained at first but opens up nicely with some lush berry flavors, nicely integrated tannins and oak – how can you beat this Cab for the price!? Serve at your next dinner party and watch them ooh and ahh.

Matt: A solid fruity cabernet with plum and cherry flavors that will have your friends guessing the cost of the bottle is double of what you actually paid. I’d recommend having this with pork or a hearty stew.

Kristine: The smokiness and berry flavors definitely stand out. Not overly bold for a Cab, making it easy to pair with a variety of meals and pleasing to a variety of palates. The price makes it taste even better, a great selection to stock up on for a party.

Heggies 2007 Chardonnay

Kristin: Very nice nose with abundant fragrant citrus and some floral, crisp and steely on the palate like a fine Burgundy, just the right amount of fruit to balance some nice acid – I would definitely pick up a bottle of this wine to serve with a French influenced meal.

Matt: A refreshing Chardonnay with lemon and citrus flavors that would be a great addition to a BBQ or a Sunday picnic in the park. My friends and I tried the bottle on the weekend and they all loved it.

Kristine: Mmmmm…what a delightful fruity smell. Crisp and medium bodied with a notable amount of acid.

Bodegas Palacio 2005 Reserva Especial

Kristin: Wow, is this a Rioja? Very appealing peppery, almost jammy nose and ripe fruit flavors, with the classic acidic backbone you expect in a great Rioja – my favorite of the bunch for its great balance of fruit, oak and acid.

Kristine: Beautifully dark, pleasantly peppery, and enjoyably acidic. Loved it. Also my favorite of the three. I would serve this with pork chops during a romantic dinner for two.

One of the other Wine.com staff snuck off with the bottle before Matt could enjoy it.

******

WineShopper is an exclusive, members-only website that features limited time and limited quantity wine deals, ranging from everyday drinking to cellar collectibles. Sign-in with your Wine.com account to check out this week’s wines and other great deals atwww.WineShopper.com.

Staff Pick: WineShopper – Chateau St Jean 2007 Reserve Chardonnay

Wine: Chateau St Jean 2007 Reserve Chardonnay

Reviewer: Kristin Balabanian

Rating: 5 stars

 

Wow! My first impression of the Chateau St Jean 2007 Reserve Chardonnay is its exceptional aroma: very distinct tropical notes but with an underlying creamy vanilla. While it isn’t a butter bomb a la Rombauer, it definitely hits some of those lush notes in a nicely balanced way. On the palate the nice viscous weight is impressive and what you would expect from a reserve Chardonnay from a quality producer like Chateau St Jean. The finish is strong and leaves you with nice bright fruit flavors and a touch of vanilla. While this wine is from the 2007 vintage, it tastes very fresh and lively!

 

Check out WineShopper tomorrow Feb. 15th at 9 am to purchase this 90 point Chardonnay for only $22.49 (50% off)!

 

 

Sonoma Travels

Over Labor Day weekend I was able to enjoy two things: a weekend with old and wonderful girlfriends and a weekend away from my toddler (LOVE the child, but time away is rare, therefore glorious!).

What do 10 girls in Sonoma do all day? Visit wineries of course! While we also enjoyed long lunches and brunches, a few winery visits are worth mentioning.

I was obliged to be at the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend on Saturday, so I will mention how fantastic that event was – the wines (and food!) were excellent and the weather could not have been better. If you're looking for a great way to spend 5 hours on the Saturday of Labor Day, I highly recommend this festival. Great selection of wines from all over Sonoma, some new labels I'd never seen, as well as some new wineries. And the food… did I mention the food? From Kobe beef sliders to fig pizza, there were some delicious samples going on from the restaurants and food providers of Sonoma. While I was delighting my taste buds at this festivity, the other gals had a memorable visit with Ravenswood, and I returned to find bottles of Zinfandel lined up for later consumption. My red wine drinking friends were quite delighted in the hospitality and wine quality of Ravenswood and I was sorry to miss it.

Sunday's trip included more yummy sipping.

Cuvaison – I'm quite familiar with Cuvaison – I remember they make Chardonnay and I'd recognize their label anywhere, but I could not remember the last time I actually tasted it. Since they've been around for a while, I expected an old school style winery and tasting room, but to our surprise, the winery we entered was hugely modern, with glass walls showing off the sunlight, and lots of room to move. Plus tables! A plethora of tables and chairs for guests to sit and enjoy their wine while taking in the incredible view of Carneros. All these modern-looking glass windows and panes had one more attribute – it helped the winery rely on solar power for much of its energy.
And the wine…
The entry level Chardonnay we tasted was hallmark California Chardonnay, but of the new style – meaning not overly oaked, but nicely balanced between fruit, acid and oak. It was clean, yet rich in texture. It made me remember that Carneros Chardonnay is not Central Coast Chardonnay – this wine had more crisp than creamy in the mouthfeel. We also tasted the higher-end Chardonnay, which, unfortunately, is only sold in restaurants and the tasting room. This always frustrates me as I think consumers should have equal opportunity to buy wine in restaurants and retail stores, but many wineries make labels solely for on-premise use, and the higher end Chardonnay and Pinot at Cuvaison are made in this manner. So while I do recommend – with renewed enthusiasm – the Chardonnay that is well-recognized by all, I also recommend a trip to the winery if you're next in Carneros to taste their other offerings. It was a nice surprise – both the winery set up and the wine itself.

A final added bonus – the winery is directly across from Domaine Carneros! My favorite place to sit on a beautiful day to sip bubbles. Which is exactly what we did. This winery is always worth a visit. The service is knowledgeable and friendly, and the view from the deck is incredible. Plus how can you beat an afternoon munching on cheese, sipping on bubbles and basking in the Sonoma sun?

So your stops for your next trip to Carneros? Cuvaison & Domaine Carneros.
And what you're doing next Labor Day? Sonoma Wine Festival.

Chardonnay from Oregon is crazy good

Living in the Pacific Northwest gives me total access to the Willamette Valley wine country and after living here for over a year, I can say I've visited… twice. Yes, tis sad. I blame it on my travel, my husband's travel and a baby (who is now a toddler). It just has not happened near as often as I'd like. Luckily, a colleague's visit last week was the impetus to get us out the door and down to some wineries. Instead of dragging you through each visit and what we tasted, I'm going to do what I like to call the tasting takeaway – in other words, Oregon Chardonnay rocks.

We visited Adelsheim, where we tasted through the lineup in their lovely new tasting room (best bathrooms ever!). Though I have always been a fan of their Pinot Gris and Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir, I came away loving their Chardonnay, too. Though I know many dislike this comparison, it really was Burgundian in style – luscious and round, yet crisp and light on the palate. Made with 100% Dijon clone and no malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was mineral-driven yet textured. Duly impressed.

At this point I'm liking Chardonnay, but not swooning. Till I reach Shea Vineyard. Hands down, my favorite wine was their Chardonnay. And to be honest, we tasted some pretty amazing wines out of barrel that day. But I could not help going back to the Chardonnay – it was the best Oregon Chardonnay I'd ever tasted, and one of the best Chardonnays from anywhere I'd tasted (in a while at least). I've also loved the offerings from Argyle (Nuthouse Chardonnay is excellent) and Domaine Drouhin, but it's been a while since I've tasted those and I just see so much more Oregon Pinot Gris.

Why aren't more people talking about Oregon Chardonnay? Maybe the are and I'm missing it. Yes, Pinot Gris can be delicious, but when you think of Oregon's climate and it's ability to create amazing Pinot Noir, why do we so often also think of Pinot Gris instead of Chardonnay? Burgundy, Carneros, Russian River – most great Pinot Noir growing regions make great Chardonnay as well. Like every great region, there will be some Chardonnay not worth the effort, but the potential here I think is stellar.

So when it comes to white wine from Oregon, what do you gravitate towards and why?