Tag Archives: chardonnay

Wine should not be so difficult: A trio of great values!

14_04_11 1100 Pebble Beach Food & Wine_4000_Blog

Wine should not be so difficult; we professionals sometimes take the subject a little too far. We go into acidity, pH and alcohol. Some of us even talk about volatile acidity and brettanomyces. Certainly, these are subjects we can get into, if anyone wants to learn more. But wine is about enjoyment. When I started drinking wines at age 21 (or maybe a bit earlier when I took a sip of some Beaulieu Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet out of my dad’s glass when he wasn’t looking) it tasted good to me. I was just mimicking what the French did with their children to get them acclimated to the world of food and wine. Tasting.

One of my wine missions in life is to bring good values to the wine-drinking public. Heck, anyone can buy the most expensive wine in the world, with a reasonable expectation that it may be pretty good. But to find bona fide values in the marketplace takes more than just knowing brands. So I want to share with you three delicious wines that most of us can afford. This trio hovers in the $10.00 to $15.00 range – what we call great values.

The Hess Select brand is one of the wine world’s hottest and recognized values and the Chardonnay, from Monterey County, drinks exceptional well.  Ripe fruit abounds, and its easiness on the palate puts it a cut above the rest. I can see this one as a superior cocktail party wine and one that a working chef can enjoy before the meal is served.

Over the last few years, Red Diamond has become a great American standard for good wine. My favorite of the line is the Cabernet Sauvignon. Smooth and delectable, could be a treat for the backyard cook at the grilling station.

Loosen is an extraordinary international name and the Loosen Bros. Riesling Dr. L from the Mosel drinks with grace and style. A well-defined Riesling, this wine shows telltale apple and flowers in its flavors, and is elegant on the palate. For those fearful of Riesling, this one will take you to the head of the class.

Wine does not have to be complicated.  Don’t fret if you are not following the right protocols – just enjoy!

Wines to have on hand for unexpected gifts and guests

When it comes to a quick gift, a bottle of wine is an easy – yet thoughtful and much appreciated– way to go. By the time Thanksgiving hits, I like to have a few bottles on hand for when and unexpected guest stops by (“Stay and have a glass of wine with us!”) or when you  need a quick gift (oh everyone is giving the school principal a gift as well!), you’ll want some wine to serve or give. .

Here are a few wines to have on hand:

Bubbly
Guests: Carletto Prosecco is floral and fruity and fresh, it’s super palate pleasing and great with appetizers or a cheese plate.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs  is slightly more upscale, it’s more rich and creamy in texture and craves something a bit salty. Excellent for a toast or with some heavy snacks.

Gifts:  La Marca Prosecco is such a pretty label… and it’s pretty. I hear people tell me how much they love this wine and it is absolutely consistently delicious.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee is more pricey, but for a true Champagne, it’s a steal. Not to mention a holiday-appropriate label.

Whites
Guests: A to Z Pinot Gris  is easy to pull out for guests as it’s delicious with food or without.
Gifts: For those who don’t like Chardonnay, the Silverado Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent wine to gift to a white-wine lover. And for those who enjoy richer Chardonnay, the Iron Horse Estate Chardonnay  is a beautifully balanced wine and a go-to for gifts.

Reds
Guests: Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Noir  is one of my favorites from Oregon. It is a delicious and affordable Pinot to impress guests, whether you pair it with dinner or sip on its own.
Gifts: Cabernet is a go-to and the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon is one I’d readily gift to any red-wine lover.

And a wine you could use for gifts or guests? The Catena Malbec. It wins every time.

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.

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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)!