Clos du Bois Russian River Valley, Sonoma Reserve 2013

I’m starting to find that I really like Russian River chardonnays.  They aren’t always that oft desired creamy, buttery, oaky chardonnay that I’m searching for, but they display a complexity, and frequently a hint of butterscotch.

Today’s chardonnay is the 2013 Clos du Bois, Russian River Valley Sonoma Reserve from Sonoma County.  This is an elegant wine with a light golden color and a subtle aroma of ripe pear. This wine is bright with pronounced acidity, hints of spice and butterscotch.  It finishes with a creamy mouthfeel which seems odd considering its acidity, but that just adds to this delightful wine’s complexity.

Alcohol is 13.5%.  This is another one of those well priced wines that I picked up from my local Safeway store, on sale for $10.70.  Normally selling for $16.99, I just happened upon one of their big wine sales, making this a very reasonably priced, yet delicious chardonnay.

Valley of the Moon, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

In preparation for our upcoming trip to Sonoma County, I tasted a 2012 Valley of the Moon, Sonoma Coast chardonnay. This wine has a clean nose, tastes of vanilla with hints of citrus and pear overtones. I also detected a faint taste of butterscotch on my first sip. The wine shows a medium golden color, the body is polished. The style is balanced and lush with a long palate. It has a nice finish that shows complexity in the end.

I purchased this wine for a lovely $10.70 (normally retails for $16.99) at my local Safeway. This wine would pair nicely with chicken in a light cream sauce or even the heavier fettuccini alfredo. Mmmm, I’m looking forward to wine tasting in the Sonoma wine region.

Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay 2012

Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay

This is one more of the “goodbye wines” and it surprised me. I had heard good things about the wine and expected it to be somewhat complex with overtones of butterscotch and caramel (perhaps because of the winery’s name). But it turned out to be lighter and more mellow than I anticipated.

The wine exhibits tones of citrus blossom, layered with minerality. The mouth feel is soft and round and the style is clean.

The vineyard is planted in gravel-rich, clay loam soils. The cool climate produces a mineral driven chardonnay. The wine is 14.3% in alcohol. The suggested retail price at the winery is $27.00 but the wine can be found online for around $20.

This was not a chardonnay that had the characteristics I’m typically looking for in a wine and to be honest, the minerality threw me off initially. I had to taste it several times to really distinguish the flavors. But, we are headed to Sonoma soon for wine tasting. The winery has a good reputation and if time permits, I’ll make my way there and give their chardonnay another chance.

Two La Crema Chardonnays

La Crema

Today, I’m tasting two different chardonnays from La Crema, both from the “goodbye wines” that my former co-workers gave me when I left the full time grind to pursue blogging and travel writing (see the picture and story behind the “goodbye wines”).

It turns out that La Crema actually produces eight different chardonnays, something I didn’t know. The two I am reviewing today are the 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and the 2013 Russian River Chardonnay. Now I know you purists out there would say that is not a fair comparison to pit a 2013 against a 2012 considering how different each year’s growing conditions can be. But, hey, that’s what was in my gift box and I think it’s a good way to see how the Russian River style compares to the Sonoma Coast.

Here are my observations on the two:

2013 La Crema Russian River Chardonnay

  • Body is more complex
  • Style is accessible and clean
  • Acidity is fresh
  • Clean, fresh scent of pear in the nose with hints of stone fruit
  • I taste layers of vanilla, butterscotch, and stone fruit
  • I find it to be rich and complex with hints of oak and hazelnut in the finish
  • 14.5% alcohol
2012 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

  • Body is lighter, more delicate, and refined
  • Style is accessible and clean
  • Acidity is lively
  • The nose is clean with a mild bouquet
  • This wine is crisper and higher in acidity, delicate
  • I taste layers of vanilla, coconut, and ripe citrus
  • As it warms it becomes more complex
  • 13.5% alcohol

Both wines were lightly golden in color and neither displayed those oaky, creamy, buttery characteristics that I love so well in a chardonnay. But, with that said, they were both enjoyable and I would happily drink them again, especially the Russian River chardonnay.

The other chardonnays that La Crema produces are the Nine Barrel (La Crema’s high end chardonnay from the Russian River Valley), the Anderson Valley, Arroyo Seco (from the Monterey wine growing region), Los Carneros, Monterey, and Saralee’s Vineyard (also from the Russian River Valley). I’ll be heading to Sonoma County next month for wine tasting and will definitely plan to stop by La Crema. Look for a future review of their additional wines when I return.

Where to Buy La Crema Russian River and Sonoma Coast Chardonnays:

Both wines are available online at the La Crema website. The Russian River retails for $30 and the Sonoma Coast sells for $23.00. However, both wines are also readily available in Northern California grocery stores such as Safeway and Raley’s and wine retailers for a price significantly less than the winery website.

Woodwork Central Coast Chardonnay

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Woodwork Central Coast Chardonnay 2013, Batch No. 12.  Its label boasts an oak influence, fruit expression, vanilla and caramel notes, apple, pineapple and peach notes.  With a label like that, who can resist trying it?

The nose is clean and there’s a lot going on in this wine.  It definitely shows the fruit flavors with layers of vanilla and caramel with a slight butterscotch finish.  My initial taste ends with a zippy (I love that term!) finish, something I find characteristic of the central coast chardonnays.  This could be the pear and apple influence in the wine.

To my taste, the oak is subtle, and not displaying the soft, round, buttery traits that I’m always looking for in a chardonnay.  But, with that said, I do still like central coast chardonnays for their complexity.  This one leans more toward the fruit expression with a touch of caramel, is complex with multiple flavors and would pair well with a soft brie cheese and apple slices, or roasted chicken.  13% alcohol.

I picked up this wine, on sale, at Safeway for $8.18 (normally $12.99), but it is also available at Total Wine and many other online resellers.

Cupcake Chardonnay

Another one of the “goodbye wines”, I couldn’t resist opening this one because of the adorable decoration glued to the front of it by one of my former, creative co-workers.  They know the Chardy Girl likes to ride her bicycle, as well as sip her favorite wine.

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This chardonnay combines bright citrus with vanilla overtones and is not heavy in oak or butter. It has a clean nose with no off odors. It has an almost incisive, but not tart finish. Wine experts would describe that as “sharp in the finish” or even zippy or zesty. I say that it finishes with a sensation of tanginess on my tongue. It’s not offensive or tart, but the wine just lets you know that it’s there. The majority of the grapes come from Monterey County and the flavor is pretty representative of Central Coast chardonnays. The alcohol content is 13.5%.

Cupcake Chardonnay is not a premier chardonnay to save for a special dinner with friends. But it is a good utility wine, imminently drinkable. It is budget priced and can often be found on sale at your local grocery story for as low as $7 or $8.

 

Wine Tasting in Northern California’s Delta Region

The Napa Valley is renowned throughout the world for its premier wines, and the Santa Barbara wine tasting region was made famous by the movie “Sideways”. Sonoma County is known for its quaint towns, luscious wines, and scenic vineyards. The Lodi and Amador wine regions are well known in Northern California for their robust reds and the Paso Robles wine region now boasts nearly 300 wineries in its appellation. But hidden in the backyard of California’s state capitol, the undiscovered wine tasting region of the Sacramento River Delta beckons to residents as well as visitors looking for a convenient, yet local getaway.

Take a leisurely drive along the meandering Sacramento River on a warm summer day and experience unhurried, uncrowded wine tasting at family run, local wineries. Enter the Delta and be instantly transported to a world of pear farms, and grape vines, and small towns full of California history still occupied by real people living a small town life.

Sacramento River

I just love the Delta. I fell in love with it the very first time I drove down the river road, past Rio Vista, where suddenly, the Sacramento River widens and changes, flowing toward the Antioch Bridge, eventually making its way to the San Francisco Bay.   Discovering wine tasting in this region that I love just makes it even better.

Enter the region through the tiny town of Freeport, gateway to the Delta. Cross the historic Freeport Bridge, once used to film the movie “The Prize” to the west side of the river. Continue south about 2 miles to the Old Sugar Mill, a repurposed sugar mill that now houses wine tasting rooms for eleven area wineries. It would be easy to spend all day here, but see more of the region and move on to Bogle Winery, just a few miles further south, past Clarksburg on the South River Road.

Bogle is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic on the spacious grounds, surrounded by vineyards. The grassy area is dotted with picnic tables and chairs, or take advantage of the balcony seating upstairs outside of the tasting room, while enjoying a bottle of wine. My favorite wines are the Reserve Chardonnay, the Viognier, only produced about every other year, and the Phantom Red, a blend of petite sirah, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and mourve`dre.

Bogle Outside

Back on the river road towards Clarksburg, cross over the Freeport Bridge and head south on the River Road (Highway 160) to Scribner Bend Vineyards, owned by Mark and Lorraine Scribner. The winery offers a small, but lovely picnic area surrounded by rose bushes, and a giant outdoor tent used for weddings and winery events.   Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and always happy to pour a second taste of something you tried but aren’t quite sure about.

Scribner Bend

I love the Reserve Chardonnay, one of the newer additions to their wine selection. This wine only comes in a 375 ml bottle and is reminiscent of that old fashioned, oaky, buttery chardonnay.

There are now twenty wineries in the Delta wine region. Not all have tasting rooms yet, but look for that to change in this wine growing region as more and more Northern Californians begin to discover what has quickly become my favorite place to wine taste.

Places to Eat:

Looking for a fun place to eat before hitting the wineries, or in-between? Try Husick’s in Clarksburg. This restaurant, opened in October 2014, by Katherine Van Diest, boasts barbeque ribs, tri tip, and other meats.  The atmosphere is funky and the restaurant serves 14 different beers on tap plus wine tasting from four local wineries.

Alternatively, the Dinky Diner is across the street on the river side and serves what I would describe as an old-fashioned hamburger grilled right there in their old fashioned road side trailer.  Sit outside  at picnic tables and enjoy the river view while you eat your lunch.

Delta Tours:

Wine tasting tours are available through Delta Heartbeat Tours, Thursday through Sunday at a cost of $60 per person. The company uses comfortable mini-buses to visit some of the Delta’s best wineries and also offers tours to 9 Delta towns as well as custom tours. www.deltaheartbeattours.com  or (916) 776-4010.

Rendez-vous Chardonnay

I love the Sacramento River Delta and its wine tasting region so it’s fitting that my first review should be from a winery in Clarksburg. Today, I’m tasting a 2012 chardonnay from Rendez-vouz Winery, one of the many “goodbye wines” from my former co-workers (see the picture and story behind the “goodbye wines”).

A good chardonnay can be served un-chilled and this one came straight from my wine cellar. The color is a faint yellow, lighter in color than some chardonnays. The nose is very clean with vanilla overtones, I taste butterscotch in the mouth, and this wine shows some body with a creamy, lingering finish. The alcohol content is 14.4%.

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The label on the bottle is perfect. It reads “Share your passion”. I’m passionate about chardonnay and I give this particular wine two thumbs up.

Where to Buy Rendez-vous Chardonnay:

Rendez-vous chardonnay can be purchased directly from the winery, either online Sugar Mill Wineries or in their tasting room, located in the Old Sugar Mill. The Old Sugar Mill is a collection of wineries at 35265 Willow Avenue, just down the road from Clarksburg, California, in the Sacramento River Delta (read more about this wine tasting region here).

The wine retails for $24.00 a bottle, but wine club members save an additional 20%. To learn more about Rendez-vous Winery, visit their website.

What a Great Going Away Gift

Goodbye Chardonnay from My Co-workers
Goodbye Chardonnay from My Co-workers

I’m a lucky girl. For many years, I worked in a fun and fulfilling job, made a good living, and still had the chance to travel pretty extensively. A few months ago, I finally left the old 9 to 5 gig to see more of the world and write travel articles full time with my favorite travel partner, Gary. But, somewhere in the back of my brain, ever since I earned the nickname “Chardy Girl” in Australia, I’ve also had this dream of blogging about chardonnay.

It seems my co-workers knew me better than I realized, because their sendoff gift was comprised of eleven bottles of chardonnay signed by everyone. I took that as a sign that it was time to get my act in gear and get this blog off the ground. I’ll be reviewing each of these bottles of wine over time. Some are already old favorites. But, I’m told there are a few pretty special, hand-picked bottles of chardonnay in the bunch. Won’t this be fun to discover which ones?

What? No Chardonnay on the menu???

So, I’m sitting in a bar in San Francisco, hoping to order a glass of wine before the Chris Botti concert and I can’t find a single Chardonnay on the menu. We’re in San Francisco, for goodness sake. Glass of White WineSonoma and Napa are in our backyard!

“Seriously, Mr. Bartender, the only white wines you have on the menu are an albillo, an albarino and some kind of chenin blanc/reisling blend? I’m sorry, but your blend does not compare to a chardonnay. It doesn’t even come close”, I protested.

I’m rebelling! I’m standing up for chardonnay and I don’t care if you are a sauvignon blanc lover or eschew white wines altogether because you only drink red wine. You won’t read this blog any further anyway.

I love chardonnay and I’m not talking about the new style un-oaked, steel barrel fermented variety. I love a good old fashioned, oaky, buttery, creamy chardonnay. And that’s what this blog is all about. I’m in pursuit of that old fashioned style that California chardonnay was known for many years ago. Join me on my journey or laugh at me along the way. I’m inspired now and I’m going anyway…