Celebrating International Chardonnay Day with a List of My Favorites

Tasting Chardonnay at Bogle Vineyards

Dedicated to finding that perfect chardonnay, I’ve been tasting and blogging about my favorite varietal for almost two years. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed, so thanks for following my experiments and adventures.

People often ask me if I’ve found the perfect chardonnay yet and I must say, “No.” Because when I find the perfect chardonnay, the hunt is over and I won’t need to write this blog anymore. But, I will share with you my favorite chardonnays, just in case you haven’t figured a few out by reading my blog. Not in any particular order, here are my favs:

  • Matchbook Winery’s Arsonist Chardonnay – This is a beautiful winery, up the road on Interstate 5, past Woodland, near the town of Zamora, looking over the gorgeous Dunnigan Hills. At different times, they’ve made up to five different chardonnays, but the Arsonist is my favorite.
  • La Crema’s Nine Barrel and Russian River Valley Chardonnays – La Crema actually makes nine different chardonnays and this is the perfect winery (in Sonoma County) to try a side by side chardonnay tasting. Ask for Lisa and she’ll set you up.
  • Alpha Omega Chardonnay– I just reviewed this one and it is almost perfect (except it’s a little pricey for my blood). But, I thank my dear friends and neighbors for introducing me to this Napa Valley wine. They are wine club members, thankfully, so they didn’t pay full price. It’s worth a splurge once in a while.
  • Bogle Reserve Chardonnay – I can’t believe I have never reviewed this wine. I checked all my blogs and there is not one review. Sure, I’ve written about Bogle for Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine (twice) and written about the winery in my blog, but no chardonnay review. I’ll rectify that soon, but in the meantime, visit the winery and try this wine!

Together, we’ve covered chardonnays from other parts of the world as well as my own backyard. I’ve had the good fortune to visit wineries in Sonoma, Paso Robles, Mendocino, Amador, the Delta, South America, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and most recently, France. Winetasting along the way is one of the most wonderful aspects of travel.

It’s been a blast and everywhere I find wonderful, delicious chardonnay. In fact, chardonnay carries the distinction as the world’s most famous white wine and most widely planted grape. So, it’s fitting that there is an International Chardonnay Day, today, May 25, 2017.

On this most special (to me) of days, we are headed to the land of Oz, where the nickname, “Chardy Girl” was penned and stuck. (You can read the original story here.) The lucky Aussies, they have a whole month to celebrate wine, from May 1 – 31. Our plane arrives just in time to help them celebrate by tasting some of those delicious Yarra Valley chardonnays.

And you know what that means! The next few blogs will be featuring Australian chardonnays. So enjoy! Happy International Chardonnay Day! Cheers!

 

 

Alpha Omega Chardonnay Napa Valley 2013

Alpha Omega Chardonnay Napa Valley 2013

I am so excited to try this wine and share it with you!

I first discovered it at a dinner party at the home of our next-door neighbors, frequent visitors to Napa Valley.

When I first tasted it, I immediately fell in love with this wine. Full of flavor and aroma, this wine has the characteristics I’m looking for in a chardonnay.

Being the good friends that our neighbors are, they gave us a bottle for Christmas. It’s hard for me to believe that I could leave it in the basement this long.

The color is straw yellow, bright and shiny. The nose displays pronounced aromas of lightly toasted vanilla, caramel and crème brulee. In fact, it’s so full of aroma I almost want to just smell this wine instead of drink it. But it’s too delicious not to drink!  

The bouquet in the nose transitions into a mouthful of flavor, making this wine a pleasure to drink from start to finish. Sometimes a wine will have a delightful bouquet but the taste is not that terrific. Other times, a wine won’t have much of an aroma in the nose but the wine tastes delicious. The Alpha Omega has both.

This is a complex wine with layers of apple, pear in the flavor and butterscotch in the finish. It has a zippy or zesty finish due to the acidity.

It is 14.5 in alcohol and sells for around $50 at a variety of websites like wine.com, garyswine.com and others. It is no longer available at the winery as they are featuring their 2014 release, but plenty of online sites still have it available and it is holding up well.

Now to be honest, I don’t usually spend that kind of money on a chardonnay, but this one is a real treat. I’m glad we saved it and savored it.

Waterbrook 2013 Reserve Chardonnay – Columbia Valley

After a glorious three week’s wine tasting in some of France’s most famous wine regions, we are now back in the US attending a travel writer’s workshop. Housed in a hotel just outside of Seattle for this conference, it just makes sense that we need to blog a Washington State chardonnay.

I don’t know Washington State wines well so we took a gamble when we visited a wine shop yesterday.

We are tasting a Waterbrook 2013 Reserve chardonnay from Columbia Valley. This is one of Walla Walla’s founding wineries, started in 1984. The nose opens with aromas of pear and vanilla spice. The mouthfeel is soft and round with a smooth finish. The color is pale gold, clean and shiny. It’s nicely balanced with tropical notes, hints of toasted almonds and tastes very similar to the California chardonnays from wine regions like Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and Yolo County’s Delta and Dunnigan Hills that I love so much.

13.9% in alcohol, cost is $14.99. I’m really enjoying this wine and can’t wait to try more from Washington. In fact, we may just have to come back for a wine tasting trip in the near future…

Wine Tasting on a Rhone River Cruise with Petaluma Gap Winemakers

Cruising down the Rhone River on a wine themed river cruise was a great way to see the South of France and taste the wines of Provence. But we were even more fortunate to be sailing on a wine-themed cruise sponsored by the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance out of Sonoma County.

To promote its efforts to become their own designated appellation and raise a little money, the Alliance sponsored the cruise and sent along several cases of wine supplied by 12 wineries from within Petaluma Gap. The Alliance also sent four winemakers to represent the Gap, educate guests on the ship, conduct wine tasting sessions, and host winemaker dinners.

Lucky me, one of the first wine tastings featured four chardonnays from the region.

Pellet Estate 2015 Un-oaked, Sun Chase Vineyard

First on the tasting menu was a Pellet Estate 2015 chardonnay, unoaked from the Sun Chase Vineyard.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I lean towards chardonnays that are barrel fermented. But, I’ve tasted a few unoaked versions lately that have opened my eyes and palate a bit. The beauty of the unoaked chardonnay is the flavor of the fruit comes through and this Pellet Estate is no exception. Aged 8 months in stainless steel, the wine was clear and shiny with lemon yellow hues. The nose offered hints of pear, apple and pineapple aromas. The high fruit flavors of citrus, apple and pineapple were layered with a hint of almond and melon. It finished with depth and complexity. Alcohol is 14.5%. The wine retails for $36 at the winery.

Agnitio 2013 Chardonnay Sun Chase Vineyard

Next, we tasted the Agnitio 2013 Chardonnay, also from the Sun Chase Vineyard. This turned out to be my favorite. I was very pleased and surprised when a bottle of this showed up in our cabin later, thanks to the generosity of the winemakers.

This is Agnitio’s first vintage of Sun Chase Chardonnay. 100% fermented in oak barrels, this wine displayed the luscious Sonoma County chardonnay flavors that I love. The nose expressed aromas of lemon, white flowers, and pear and vanilla. A wine more full bodied than the Pellet, the mouthfeel had depth and complexity. There was some minerality in the flavor, layered with pear, vanilla and a hint of butterscotch. Alcohol is 14.1% and the wine sells for $40 at the winery.

Pfendler Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay

Pfendler is a small production winery that only has three wines in its current release, producing just 400 cases of this chardonnay.

Aged 10 months in French oak, the Pfendler was a beautiful wine with aromas of honeysuckle, apple, spice and lemon crème. The mouthfeel was lush and the color bright golden straw. The wine was layered with flavors of lychee, pear and a touch of minerality. Alcohol is 14.1% and it retails for $8 at the winery.

Rodney Strong 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

Rodney Strong makes several different chardonnays and is one of my favorite Sonoma County wineries.

Barrel fermented in new French oak, the wine had aromas of toasty vanilla, apple and pear. The mouthfeel was rich and creamy, with flavors of pear, pineapple and a touch of spice. This was my second favorite in the tasting. 14.0% in alcohol, the wine retails for $25 at the winery.

Monte Vallon 2014 Pays D’Oc Chardonnay

From the South of France, “this exuberant Chardonnay has a pronounced buttery-vanilla bouquet with deep, intense, rich fruit on the palate.” Or, so says the description on the wine label. Sounds like the perfect chardonnay for me!

We are about to head to the South of France for a long-awaited wine cruise through the Rhone Valley. What’s interesting about this cruise is it is sponsored by Petaluma Gap Association out of Sonoma County and they’ll be bringing along several cases of Sonoma chardonnay. So, we’ll get to taste Sonoma chardonnay alongside French chardonnay. What more could a girl ask for! 

To wet our whistles and prepare for this glorious trip, we are tasting the 2014 Monte Vallon Chardonnay purchased at our local Nugget Supermarket.

This wine does indeed display a buttery, vanilla nose with slight toasty oak notes and a hint of caramel. I love the bouquet. It displays a bright golden color and the alcohol volume is 13.5%. The mouthfeel is textured and creamy. The flavors are pear and peach with a pineapple finish.  It is a full bodied, Languedoc styled white wine representative of the south of France.

Can’t wait to taste more French chardonnays. I’ll be blogging along the way, so stay tuned for more wine and more adventures!

Mallee Point Chardonnay from Australia

Malle Point Chardonnay 2014 – Casella Winery

One more Australian chardonnay from Total Wines, this one was only $6.99. I mentioned in my last blog that our daughter moved to Australia, so we are getting reacquainted with Australian chardonnay. Unfortunately, Total Wines did not have a lot to choose from on our last visit there, but what the heck, we’re having fun drinking Australian wine and thinking of our daughter “down under.”

This wine hails from South Eastern Australia, which we learned is a large wine growing area where wineries may grow or purchase grapes from several different vineyards to blend together and maintain consistency for their particular brand and varietal.

The bouquet in this wine has hints of coconut and oak. It’s a medium bodied wine, medium yellow in color, with some peach and some melon notes with nuances of green apple. The wine is not particularly complex or flavorful but chilled and served as a party wine, it would be okay.

We’ll be making a trip back to Australia soon and plan to visit both the Yarra Valley (one of the most beautiful wine regions I have seen) and Hunter Valley, both well known for chardonnay. In fact, I think Yarra may be similar to Sonoma County. They both specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir and their cool climates.

Stay tuned, Mate!

Tyrrell Chardonnay from Australia

In celebration of our daughter, Ashley, who moved to Sydney recently, we are tasting two Australian chardonnays today, both from the Hunter Valley.

Although we visited Australia a few years ago and had a delightful time tasting wines in two of the country’s more well-known wine regions, the Barossa and Yarra Valleys, we did not make it to Hunter Valley.  Fortunately for us, we’ll need to make a return trip, to visit our daughter, of course, and Hunter Valley is calling my name. Stay tuned for more on Australian wines!

Tyrell’s Old Winery Chardonnay 2014

Barrel fermented for 6 months, this medium bodied wine displays subtle oak in the nose, with some hints of stone fruit. The mouthfeel is smooth. The wine is clean and accessible with delicate flavors of white peach and citrus. The color is light golden yellow and alcohol is 13.0%

This Old Winery chardonnay is a decent wine and imminently drinkable, but a little light in flavor for my taste. Can be purchased at Total Wine for $12.59

Tyrrell’s Reserve Hunter Valley 2010

While a vintage of 2010 seems a little old for a white wine, this reserve chardonnay holds up well. The bouquet displays notes of honeysuckle and slight perfume. A richer, more fruit forward chardonnay than the Old Winery chardonnay described above, it is similar as it also has some flavors of peach and citrus. I’ll be curious, when we make it to Hunter Valley, to see if those are characteristics distinct to that wine growing region.

This wine tastes clean and well made, medium bodied, complex, round, with a smooth finish. As it opens up, the Reserve grows more complex.

Medium yellow in color and 13.0% in alcohol. Retails for $21.59 at Total Wine.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay Sonoma County 2014

Makers of several different chardonnays, Sonoma-Loeb has been described as one of the premier white wine makers in Sonoma County and recommended to us by a wine server at Passagio. Although we didn’t get a chance to stop by on our recent trip to the small town of Sonoma, Sonoma-Loeb also has a tasting room in the same “wine alley” as Passagio, just off the town’s main square.

This limited production chardonnay, hand crafted in small lots, fits the profile of my kind of chardonnay. There are hints of mild oak and pear in the nose. The wine is soft, round and elegant with a lush, full flavored finish. The body is balanced, polished, clean and well made.

After tasting this wine, I  think it’s worth a return trip to taste a few of Sonoma-Loeb’s other chardonnays, especially their reserve chardonnays. But if you can’t make it over to Sonoma anytime soon, you can pick up a bottle of this at Total Wine for $18.99. Not too bad for a quality bottle of Sonoma County chardonnay.

Park the Car and Wine Taste in Small Town Sonoma

With 425 wineries spread throughout 17 different viticulture areas in Sonoma County, it would take even the most dedicated wine lover months to properly sample all of the wines this Northern California wine growing region has to offer.

On our fourth trip back to Sonoma, still in search of that perfect chardonnay, we decided to park the car, stay for two nights and wine taste in the small town of Sonoma. Located in the southern part of Sonoma County, the town of Sonoma is not too far from the Napa wine region.

While not as large or commercial or touristy as Healdsburg, Sonoma now has over 25 wine tasting rooms in and around the Mexican era plaza in the heart of the town. Many of the wine tasting rooms we visited or peeked into had living room style or lounge seating and bar stools or seats at the wine tasting counter. What a refreshing change from the usual “belly up to the bar” in a crowded wine tasting room!

With so many to choose from, we started at the Lake Sonoma tasting room at 134 Church Street. Fortunately for us, we visited on a rainy day in January in the middle of the week. As the only guests there, we had the full attention of the wine server and enjoyed several tastings. But, we’re talking about chardonnay here, so be sure to sample their 2014 chardonnay out of the Russian River.

Next, we headed to the Ledson Hotel, on 1st Street East, for wine tasting in the lobby of this historic hotel, offering wines from Ledson and Zina Hyde. A little pricey for my pocketbook, but do try the Ledson 2014 Russian River Chardonnay and the Zina Hyde 2014 Anderson Valley Chardonnay Reserve.

We also spent some time at Passagio, 25 East Napa Street, known as the “White House” for all of the whites that their winemaker produces. They specialize in small, handcrafted wines made in fruit forward style. Their 2014 chardonnay was an unoaked style, not normally my favorite, but because the true flavor of the chardonnay grape comes out in this one, I did enjoy it.

Next door to Passagio is Two Amigos Wines. We sampled two chardonnays here, upon the recommendation of the wine server at Passagio. We tasted a barrel fermented chardonnay and an unoaked chardonnay. My tasting partner prefers unoaked and I prefer oaked, so we bought them both!

So now I’ve given you a sampling of wine tasting rooms and a reason to park, stay and wine taste in Sonoma. But, you’re going to need some recommendations for places to stay and eat.

Restaurants

For lunch try the Sonoma Cheese Factory on Spain Street for authentic barbeque. The pulled pork sandwich caught our attention and was just as delicious to eat as it looked on the plate. Sonoma Cheese Factory also offers wine tasting. Enjoy a sampling of wines or a glass of wine with your lunch. Also, a gourmet store, this place is perfect for putting together a picnic lunch.

Mary’s Pizza Shack at 8 West Spain street, a chain restaurant in Northern California, might not be your top choice in this town full of gourmet restaurants. But the fire on the patio drew us in on a cold, rainy day and I’m glad we stopped by. The menu is full of Italian and comfort food options, but the wedge salad was one of the best I’ve ever tried.

For dinner, dine on gourmet Portuguese cuisine at La Salette, 452 First Street East. Opt for the wine pairing that is offered with the dining choices. Generous pours, perfectly paired with the appetizers, entrees and dessert, allows you to sample more Sonoma County wine and makes for an extra special dining experience.  I do recommend making reservations in advance.

Sonoma Grille, at 165 W. Napa Street, frequented by locals and tourists alike, was packed on this cold, rainy night in the middle of the week in the middle of January. Thinking that was a good sign, we stopped in there for dinner on our second night. Seafood and steak are both great options at this place. The fact that our server from the Lake Sonoma wine tasting room earlier that day was there for dinner that evening just confirmed our guess about the quality of the food and dining experience.

The Girl and a Fig at 362 West Napa Street, is famous for its gourmet food. Alas, they were closed the two days we were there. Apparently there is a ritual in Sonoma for restaurants and hotels to close sometime in January each year for a deep cleaning. But, we’ll hit it next time.

Hotels

For overnight stays, there are plenty of hotels on the Plaza or within nearby walking distance including Sonoma Hotel, Ledson Hotel, MacArthur Place and the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn.

So park your car, taste on foot and wander through the historic trappings of small town Sonoma and enjoy some of the best that Sonoma County wine regions have to offer.

Sbragia Home Ranch Chardonnay and Limited Release Chardonnay 2014

Sbragia Winery, north of Healdsburg, is one of our favorite wineries. Views of Lake Sonoma make this an ideal spot for sitting on the patio enjoying a glass of wine and a charcuterie board. When we received our recent wine club shipment, there were two bottles of their luscious and flavorful chardonnay, so we decided to try them both and compare.

 Sbragia Home Ranch Chardonnay 2014

From Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, this barrel fermented chardonnay was aged 10 months in French oak. And the oak does come through in the bouquet with a hint of vanilla and crème brule.  This is a balanced and polished wine with a clean style. Bright fruit flavors of green apple and citrus, with toasted almonds give this wine a delightful flavor. It ends with a long, intense finish. 14.5% alcohol. Sells for $30.00 a bottle at the winery or $25.99 at Wine.com

 Sbragia Limited Release Chardonnay 2014

This wine club only vintage is made from Napa Valley grapes. Less oak in the nose than the Home Ranch Chardonnay, it displays some hints of stone fruit. The bouquet has sweet aromas of ripe apple and vanilla. Softer and rounder than the Home Ranch, the Limited Release is full of flavor with layers of pear, apple and a hint of hazelnut. A smooth finish indicates some balanced acidity. 15.1% alcohol.  

Although the Limited Release Chardonnay is not commercially available in stores or online, our experience at Sbragia has been that they are pretty willing to open up some of their special wines for customers when they ask. Tell them you read about this one and would love to try it  Then be prepared for a treat!