Navarro Vineyards – 2016 Anderson Valley Chardonnay Premier Reserve and 2016 Mendocino Chardonnay

Because Navarro Vineyards makes so many chardonnays, and my sister was kind enough to give me two bottles out of her wine club shipment, I thought it would be fun to try a couple of their most popular ones in a side by side tasting: 2016 Anderson Valley Chardonnay Premier Reserve and the 2016 Mendocino Chardonnay.

Navarro 2016 Anderson Valley Premier Reserve and 2016 Mendocino Chardonnay

2016 Anderson Valley Premier Reserve

The 2016 Anderson Valley Premier Reserve was made from grapes grown in six different blocks from three vineyard sites. The Navarro philosophy is “complexity is more interesting than a singular flavor,” and I agree.

Light straw in color with hints of poached pear in the nose, I found this wine to be surprisingly delicate, almost elegant. Despite the use of French oak barrels and a primary and secondary malolactic fermentation, this is not a pronounce, oaky, buttery chardonnay. I tasted flavors of pear, red apple crisp and crème brulee. 13.9% in alcohol, the mouthfeel was soft and light on the palate.

This chardonnay would pair well with grilled lobster or a roasted chicken with thyme and oregano.

The wine retails for $27.00 for 750 ml or $15 for the smaller 375 ml. For people who can’t get enough of this chardonnay, it even comes in a magnum for $55.00

2016 Mendocino Chardonnay

The 2016 Mendocino Chardonnay was also pale yellow in color. Produced from nine separate lots from four vineyards sites in the warmer climate of Potter Valley, only 25% of this chardonnay went through malolactic fermentation. Higher in acidity than the Premier Reserve, this chardonnay is lighter, crisper, yet more fruit driven, and thus more flavorful to my taste. I detected hints of stone fruit in the nose, lemon and pineapple in the taste. With a polished style, lighter mouthfeel and softer finish than the Premier Reserve, this easy drinking wine pairs well with food.

I recommend a soft creamy cheese like brie, grilled trout, or even a pasta with a light cream sauce to pair with the Mendocino Chardonnay.

Only available in one size, 750 ml, the 2016 Mendocino Chardonnay retails for $22.00

Lucky for me, Gary and I are headed to Navarro over this long holiday weekend. I not only get to replace the two bottles we just drank, but I get to sample the other five wines on their tasting menu.

Have a happy and delicious Labor Day weekend!

One Napa and Two Sonoma Chardonnays – Wine Tasting with Friends

Wine tasting is more fun with others and I’ve always wanted to do one of my blogs with a group of friends. On a recent trip to the Sacramento Delta (a relatively unknown wine growing region in Northern California), we got the opportunity to do this “group blog” when my good friend Rebecca surprised us with three lovely bottles of chardonnay for wine tasting.

The first was from Roche Winery and Vineyards, a chardonnay out of Sonoma County’s Carneros region. The second was a Darioush chardonnay from the renowned Napa Valley. And the third, from Wattle Creek Winery, was a Sonoma Coast chardonnay.

With glass in hand, sitting on the deck of a rented house overlooking Steamboat Slough, on a warm Sacramento Delta summer afternoon, Rebecca, Terry, Mike, and I held the first official Chardygirl tasteoff!


Roche Winery and Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay Carneros, French Oak Reserve

Roche has a tasting room in the small town of Sonoma (see my previous blog about staying in Sonoma and wine tasting around the plaza) or visit their new winery just south of town. The wine retails for around $38.00, has 14.5% in alcohol, and is highly rated in Sonoma Magazine. Here is what our group had to say about this delicious bottle:

Pam (the “Chardygirl”) – Although the bouquet was light, the flavor was complex and well-balanced. I tasted a bit of butterscotch and caramel in the flavor and it ended with a lovely, long finish.

Rebecca- Detected butterscotch in the nose with a hint of lemon. The finish was on the drier side, but beautifully balanced. She would serve it with a delicate white fish, served with a lemon sauce.

Mike – Found it to be soft and delicate, with more sophisticated, nuanced flavors. For his taste, he thought it was slightly on the sweet, fruity side.

Terry – Detected a little citrus and fresh cut grass in the nose, melon in the flavor with a layer of honeydew.


Darioush 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay

Although the 2015 chardonnay is no longer available, it originally sold for approximately $48. Their wines are pretty consistent from year to year and the 2016 is available now for the same price. This chardonnay is from their Signature Series. It was pale straw color and 14.8% in alcohol. Here are what the tasters had to say about this delightful chardonnay:

Rebecca – Liked it from the first sip through to the finish. She found it to be creamy with a good mouthfeel. She tasted hints of apple in the wine.

Mike – Also found it be creamy but with high acidity, giving it a bit of citrus in the finish. He tasted hints of grapefruit.

Pam – I smelled pear and vanilla in the nose, two of my favorite characteristics in a chardonnay. It was lighter in body, elegant, with bright acidity.

Terry – Also thought it had acidity in the finish, almost a bit tart, but overall called it a “pretty nice wine.”


Wattle Creek Winery 2015 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast

Wattle Creek has a tasting room in San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square, introduced to us by the lovely Rebecca. They also have a winery in Sonoma County. This wine is light in color and 14.5% in alcohol. Although it’s barrel fermented, it’s not pronounced or overly oaked. Comments from the tasters:

Pam – I found it to be soft in the nose, with scents of crème brulee and vanilla bean. The wine was round, yet subtle.

Rebecca – She tasted layers of lemon and green apple and found it to be polished, with a lighter, subtler mouthfeel.

Mike – He thought it was a little effervescent, something the rest of us did not pick up on. He tasted lemon and found it to be less complex than the previous two wines.

Terry – He found this wine to be easy drinking, not overwhelming, subtler with a lighter mouthfeel. He thought it would go well with food as opposed to drinking it alone.


You know what they say about wine tasting? Everyone’s palate is unique and it’s easy for four different people to taste something different in the same wine. That sure held true for all three of these wines!

So stay tuned for more reviews. We’re getting ready to do a side-by-side comparison of two Navarro chardonnays from Mendocino and review an Australian chardonnay with a rather unusual name.

Be sure to sign up for my distribution list or follow me on Twitter (@chardygirl) and I’ll let you know when the next blog is out! Until then, I’ll keep on the hunt for the “perfect” chardonnay.

Sonoma Plaza – A Great Way to Sample Sonoma County Wines – Part 4

Welcome back to the final blog in a series on small town Sonoma wine tasting. If you missed the prior articles, you can catch up here.

With 25 tasting rooms right in town, it was hard to choose and certainly not enough time to cover them all! But I have one more to share with you, located in the Ledson Hotel, on 1st Street East. The lobby of this historic hotel transforms into a comfortable lounge around a glowing fire (most welcome on the cold day we were there) and a long bar with chairs along the side wall. The tasting room offers samples of wines from Ledson Winery and Zina Hyde, with plenty of chardonnay options.

My favorite was the Ledson 2015 Russian River Chardonnay Reserve. A little pricey at $52.00, but this full bodied, creamy wine was delicious with subtle notes of toasted oak in the nose. The palate was layered with hints of crème brulee and butterscotch, typical characteristics of a Russian River chardonnay.

Two More Restaurants Worth Trying

In the first three blogs, I covered some excellent restaurants, especially La Salette and the famous Girl and The Fig. To add to the list, here are two more I would recommend:

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 we’re glad we stopped by. The menu is full of Italian and comfort food options, but the wedge salad was one of the best we’ve ever eaten. Drizzled with Italian and chunky blue cheese dressing, topped with tomatoes and bacon, focaccia bread on the side, this was the perfect size lunch. Gary ordered a bowl of their homemade minestrone soup with ham. Also, delicious!

Sonoma Grille and Bar, at 165 W. Napa Street, frequented by locals and tourists alike, was packed on this cold, rainy night in the middle of the week. 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 dining there that evening just confirmed our guess about the quality of the restaurant.

The vibe here is comfortable and wait staff super friendly. A handful of window seats make this place a little more fun – people watching while eating and dining. The restaurant includes a bar with ten seats that were fully occupied with locals enjoying a conversation, hand crafted cocktails, and appetizer plates of crispy calamari, cheeses and artichoke topped flatbread.

Places to Stay

For overnight stays, there are plenty of hotels on the Plaza or within nearby walking distance including MacArthur Place, a 64-room luxury hotel and spa just four blocks from the Plaza; the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn, just one block from the Plaza; Sonoma Hotel, a 16-room historic boutique hotel on Sonoma Plaza; and Ledson Hotel, a luxury hotel with six guestrooms on Sonoma Plaza.

For more information on the town of Sonoma, wine tasting rooms, lodging, and restaurants, visit: SonomaPlaza.com.

Now park your car, wander through the historic trappings of small town Sonoma, and enjoy some of the best wines that Sonoma County has to offer.

Sonoma Plaza – A Great Way to Sample Sonoma County Wines – Part 3

Welcome back to my series about small-town Sonoma! Gary, my favorite wine tasting partner, and I spent three days exploring the town’s many wine tasting rooms in search of the perfect chardonnay. If you missed Part One or Two, you can get caught up here.

With 25 tasting rooms in easy walking distance of each other, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by choices. We visited several, but by far, my favorite was Bennett Valley Cellars. Located at 127 E. Napa Street, this small but comfortable tasting room features bar stools at a long white L-shaped bar, as well as three nearby tables available for seated tastings. We cozied up to the bar and quickly got to know Iliana from Italy, a lively and knowledgeable hospitality hostess.

Inside Bennett Valley tasting room

The original founder, Emilio Zanin, also hails from Italy. Pictures on the walls show the 60-year generational history of this family winery established on the 40-acre Simpatico Ranch Vineyard in the Bennett Valley AVA. In Italian, “Simpatico” means “likable” and that is exactly how I found the 2015 Chardonnay, a Reserve Limited Release. As close to “perfect” as a chardonnay could be, it exudes rich, buttery characteristics with complimentary oak nuances and a silky yet crisp finish. Like Iliana says, “You’ll dream about it!”

Bennett Valley Cellars chardonnays

California State Route Highway 12 traverses Northern California’s iconic Wine Country and cuts directly through the town of Sonoma, turning westward at the Sonoma Plaza. Naming a winery Highway 12 then strikes me as perfectly appropriate. With a tasting room located just off the southeast corner of the plaza, tucked into a retail store in a glass fronted building, Highway 12 offers a rare opportunity to sample complimentary tastings of premium wines. Reserve wines have a tasting fee, but it’s waived if you purchase.

With no chairs for seating, this is old fashioned, “belly up to the bar” wine tasting by the glass. But I found it worth standing around for when I tasted the three chardonnays they produce. I loved the Carneros Highway Chardonnay. At just $19.50 a bottle, this one came home with me!

For dinner we headed to The Girl and the Fig. Popular with locals and tourists, this locally owned restaurant is famous for its Cal-French gourmet food. Just across the street from the northwest corner of Sonoma Plaza, this restaurant has been serving fine, farm-to-table country French entrees for over 20 years. Proprietor, Sondra Bernstein, specializes in pairing “Rhone-alone” wines with her Sonoma-French cuisine. Wine flights are served in a quirky assortment of water, wine and compote glasses, and provide an opportunity to sample more wines from Sonoma County.

The Girl and the Fig

Gary said the pastis-scented mussels with garlic, leeks and herbs were best he’s ever tasted. This casual bistro comes equipped with a full cocktail bar, great dessert offerings and its very own newspaper, the “Fig Chronicles.”

In Part 4, and the last of this series, I’ll share one more wine tasting room to visit, and places to stay.

Be sure to sign up for my distribution list or follow me on Twitter (@chardygirl) and I’ll let you know when the next in the series is out! Until then, I’ll keep on the hunt for the “perfect” chardonnay.

Sonoma Plaza – A Great Way to Sample Sonoma County Wines – Part 2

Welcome back to my series about small-town Sonoma! We spent three days exploring the town’s many wine tasting rooms in search of the perfect chardonnay. If you missed Part One, you can catch up with it here.

With 25 tasting rooms in easy walking distance of each other, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by choices. We loved our first stop at Lake Sonoma Winery, but it was time to find lunch.

Just on the other side of the Plaza, we stopped by the Sonoma Cheese Factory, specializing in authentic barbeque, on 2 Spain Street.

Sonoma Cheese Factory – a great place for lunch

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. You can enjoy a flight of wines if you want to sample more of Sonoma’s offerings or just order a glass of local wine with your lunch. A gourmet store as well, this place is perfect for putting together a picnic lunch. In business for over 85 years, it’s easy to see why this place Is so popular.

Pangloss Cellars Tasting Lounge

Next, we headed to Pangloss Cellars Tasting Lounge, at 35 East Napa Street. Housed in a refurbished building built in 1902, the tasting lounge is cavernous. Visitors can relax at the large tasting bar in the back of the room or enjoy food and wine pairings in the vintage arm chairs and couches nested around coffee tables along either side of the room. At the back of the room, facing the tasting bar, is a dramatic wall of wine bottles. The lounge itself is handsomely appointed. Rock walls, rustic timber supports, exposed beams in the ceiling, and wood floors harken back to the building’s original purpose – a general store.

Comfortable seating lines the Pangloss Cellars tasting room

Seated at the tasting bar, we were served by the knowledgeable and gracious, Allisa. The tasting fee was pricey, at $25 per person, but the experience was well worth it! Plan to spend the afternoon here – as the pace is relaxed, educational, and the tasting menu generous. We tried the 2015 Chardonnay made with 30% new French oak. As Allisa, explained, the winemaker doesn’t like “a stick of butter or an overly oaked chardonnay” so he doesn’t do anything to affect the malolactic fermentation. Whatever happens, the winemaker lets it happen naturally. With a clean nose, this chardonnay is bright and crisp but still creamy and lightly oaked. 376 cases produced, the wine retails for $35.

After nearly two hours enjoying a delightful tasting experience of whites and reds, it was time to think about dinner.

La Salette – gourmet Portuguese dining

That evening we dined on gourmet Portuguese cuisine at La Salette, 452 First Street East, a popular restaurant. We added the optional wine pairing with dinner. Generous pours, perfectly paired with the appetizers, entrees and dessert, allowed us to sample more Sonoma County wines and provided an extra special dining experience.  I do recommend making reservations in advance as this sophisticated, tile-mural trimmed bistro has quite a local following.

After dinner, a leisurely stroll around the Plaza was the perfect way to end a perfect day. In Part Three of this series, I’ll tell you about two more delightful wine tasting rooms that I highly recommend and why, plus another restaurant that you’ll want to try!

Be sure to sign up for my distribution list or follow me on Twitter (@chardygirl) and I’ll let you know when the next in the series is out! Until then, I’ll keep on the hunt for the “perfect” chardonnay.

 

Sonoma Plaza – A Great Way to Sample Sonoma County Wines

Sonoma County, along with Napa and several other areas in California, suffered devastating wildfires last fall. Tragically, lives, jobs, homes and businesses were lost. The fires also took a toll on tourism, the lifeblood for wine regions, as many out of towners still think that Napa and Sonoma burnt down. But they didn’t and are advertising heavily for customers to come back. So, we decided to head to Sonoma County and do our small part for the economy. And, of course, enjoy some fabulous wines.

Renowned for its chardonnay, and just a one-hour drive from my home, Sonoma County is one of my favorite wine regions. Rolling green hills planted with miles and miles of grapevines, pedestrian friendly small towns, and more than 400 wineries, located in six wine growing regions, make this part of Northern California a big draw for wine lovers.

Overlooking Sonoma County vineyards

With 18 different AVAs spread over 1,768 square miles, it would take even the most dedicated wine lover to properly sample this region’s chardonnays. Fortunately, the small town of Sonoma – not to be confused with the County of Sonoma – provides 25 wine tasting rooms all within walking distance in the center of town. Spread around Sonoma Plaza, an 8-acre historic, Mexican-era style plaza, the biggest dilemma was where to start.

Entrance to Lake Sonoma Winery

After parking the car at our hotel, my husband and favorite wine tasting partner, Gary, and I walked a few short blocks to the Lake Sonoma tasting room at 134 Church Street. The winery converted one of the town’s older houses into its tasting room and this recently refurbished tasting room feels like visiting the home of a friend. As Kelly, the tasting room manager, explained, “the life of the party is always in the kitchen. The winery turned the kitchen counter of this former home into the tasting room’s serving bar. Surround by barstools, this feels like a comfortable spot to sit, sip, and savor the wines. What a refreshing change from the usual, crowded “belly up to the bar” seen at so many other wineries.

Lake Sonoma tasting bar

The adjacent lounge, fashioned out of the former living room, is designed for customers who want to relax and enjoy a glass or bottle of wine. A comfortable couch with pillows and a blanket, as well as leather chairs are nicely arranged for this purpose. And the former dining room, complete with a dining table and comfortable chairs, serves as a place for wine club events and special wine and food pairings.

Lake Sonoma Winery Lounge

But we went there for the wines, so we settled onto bar stools to sample chardonnays from this well-known winery. They make five chardonnays, four from the Russian River Valley. Sonoma County is home to some of the most diverse terroirs and micro-climates in the world and the Russian River Valley, I think, produces some of the most outstanding chardonnays. We tasted the 2014 Lake Sonoma Winery, Russian River Valley and the 2016 Madrone Estate Winery (their sister winery in Glen Ellen), Sonoma Valley Chardonnay.

2014 Lake Sonoma Russian River Valley and 2016 Madrone Estate Winery Chardonnays

The 2014 chardonnay is an excellent example of fruit from the Russian River Valley. Hints of light oak and orange blossoms in the nose, followed by layers of vanilla and lemon cream in the palate combine for a delightful wine from start to finish. Partial fermentation in stainless steel produces a medium bodied wine with crisp acidity. Light-straw in color, 14.4% in alcohol, sells for $30.00 at the winery.

The newly released 2016 Madrone Estate Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley was my favorite of the two. The winery’s first estate grown wine from their Sonoma Valley estate produced a soft and creamy chardonnay. Aromas of vanilla and toffee come through, followed by flavors of crème brulee and a hint of butterscotch in the palate. With the perfect amount of acidity, this wine is delicious on its own, but would pair well with creamy foods. Light-straw colored, 14.1% in alcohol, retails for $40.00 at the winery.

We dined, shopped, talked to locals and tasted at four wineries in a few short days and I have so many more recommendations for you. But, I’ll stop here today and follow with more about the other wineries we visited, and even a few restaurants, in a short series of blogs on Sonoma, California.

Be sure to sign up for my distribution list and I’ll let you know when the next in the series is out! Until then, I’ll keep on the hunt for the “perfect” chardonnay.

Edna Valley 2015 Central Coast Chardonnay from California’s “Tuscany”

The Edna Valley American Viticultural Area—part of the San Luis Obispo County wine region—is often compared to Italy’s Tuscany Region in central Italy for its beauty. Spread across just 22,000 acres, nearly 30 wineries call this home.

With a continuous stream of coastal marine air, Edna Valley’s cool climate is perfect for producing chardonnay. Today, I am tasting the 2015 Central Coast Chardonnay from Edna Valley Vineyard, one of the area’s best-known vintners.

The bouquet displays aromas of soft peaches and quince. I taste butterscotch, so often found in California’s Central Coast chardonnays, and clove flavors. This is not a big wine. It’s light-bodied but elegant with bright acidity and a slight bite in the finish. The alcohol is 13% in volume.

The Edna Valley Vineyards 2015 Central Coast Chardonnay is not a high end wine like their Heritage Chardonnay, Reserve Chardonnay, or the Chamisal Chardonnay that I previously reviewed. But, it does make the perfect weeknight wine and at $10 a bottle, that’s good enough for me. I picked up a bottle at our local Raley’s grocery store, but you can also purchase it on Wine.com for the same price.

We paired this with a potato, pancetta flatbread with white sauce and found the combination to be delightful.

Langmeil 2014 Spring Fever – Barossa

Hello and Happy New Year! It’s been awhile since I posted a review, and for all my chardonnay loving friends, I apologize.

Things have been crazy in our world. We took a much-anticipated trip to Hawaii. We met our daughter, who lives in Australia, and spent Christmas in Maui. What a heavenly place to spend the holiday!

Plus, Gary, my favorite wine tasting partner, and I have been busy these past few months with more travel writing assignments. With several articles recently published and several more in the works, I’ve been distracted!

Langmeil 2014 Spring Fever Chardonnay from Barossa

But that’s no excuse for not doing my job, so today I am continuing with Australian chardonnays. I just love Australian wine. They are almost always bottled with screw caps which means you can get to the golden nectar that much faster!

Today, I am trying a chardonnay from Australia’s famous Barossa wine region. I usually think of this wine region for shiraz, but this bottle from Langmeil, caught my eye at our local grocery store.

The color is pale yellow, almost as light as champagne. When I first opened the bottle, the nose had a distinct aroma of oak, but that quickly dissipated, replaced by hints of honeysuckle and daphne.

Subtle melon and nectarine flavors, in combination with the soft, sweet perfume in the nose, made for a unique, but attractive chardonnay. I can’t say I’ve tasted one quite like it before, but I will definitely pick up another bottle again. This is an easy drinking chardonnay on its own, but it paired very nicely, too, with petite breakfast brie and fig jam.

This is a clean, well made, polished chardonnay, yet the body is mellow with a creamy finish. At 2014, it aged well, and at under $15, is very attractive.

I found it at our local Nugget Market, which carries a wide variety of imported as well as local wines, but you can buy it online at Marquis Wines or check Wine Searcher.

I don’t believe the winery sells the 2014 anymore, but it’s worth an inquiry directly with the winery, if you’re in Australia. Langmeilwinery.com.au

Cheers and here’s to many more months of happy wine tasting in 2018!

Terra Felix 2014 – Victoria, Australia

Thank goodness for that handy invention, bubble wrap wine skins. They really do work and we have been able to safely bring home wines from Australia, France, Italy, Argentina, Chile and Washington state (which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine – but that’s another wine, another blog).

Today, I’m tasting one more Australian wine we purchased from Wine Selectors and brought home with us last summer. This 2014 Terra Felix chardonnay comes from a single vineyard in the foothills of Mount Buffalo near Myrtleford in Alpine Valley, Victoria. Terra Felix means “The Lucky Country” in Latin, the way that owner Peter Simon’s father viewed Australia when he immigrated from Austria.

At first, the bouquet displays a faint vanilla scent with nutty oak overtones. As the wine opens up, the oak becomes more pronounced.

This medium bodied chardonnay has a light golden color. The mouthfeel is clean with crisp acidity in the finish. Flavors of citrus zest, apple and grapefruit come through.

We paired this wine with a Brie du Pommier, an aromatic artisan organic cheese from France and seasoned, seed covered flatbread crackers. The wine held up well to this rather flavorful combination.

The wine sells for $25 Australian dollars at Wine Selector.

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards – 2015 Margaret River

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards 2015

From the Margaret River, Western Australia, the Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards, delivers another delicious chardonnay. With its cool climate, this is a region that produces the style of chardonnay I prefer.

The color of the wine, Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards 2015, is bright, clear and light yellow in color. The nose displays aromas of ripe pears, fig, crème brulee, and slight oak. Subtle fruit flavors of peaches and apple, with a hint of biscuit, make this an easy drinking wine. The style is clean and light, almost refreshing in taste, with a medium body. It is 14.0% in alcohol.

One of the many that we purchased on our trip to Australia, I bought this one at Dan Murphy’s in Melbourne. For our USA readers, it’s available at FineWineHouse.com for $35.98. Or, you can just hop on a plane and head to Australia and taste all these yummy chardonnays I’ve been writing about these past few months, and see for yourself. It’s a long flight, so you’ll want to stay awhile. ?