Matchbook Chardonnays

Matchbook Wine Company is quickly becoming one of my favorite wineries, producing as many as five different chardonnays. The winery produces four different brands of wine: Matchbook, Mossback, Chasing Venus, and Sawbuck.

Located in Dunnigan Hills, about thirty minutes north of Sacramento, Matchbook has a beautiful facility overlooking their vineyards on rolling green hills. To compare and contrast, today I am tasting three of their most popular chardonnays.


Mossback 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Mossback is an old fashioned term for farmers, and the owners, being grape growers as well as winemakers, can identify with the profession.

Apple and citrus aromas with a hint of vanilla waft up from the glass of this wine produced from grapes out of the Russian River Valley. It has a rich and creamy texture, and is soft and round on the palate. There is some acidity in the finish. Although this wine is softer and milder, lacking the butterscotch flavor that I typically find in a Russian River Valley chardonnay, it is lovely and quite drinkable. The alcohol is 13.9%. It sells for $17.99 a bottle in the winery.

Matchbook 2013 Giguire Musque Dunnigan Hills Chardonnay

Musque is the French term meaning both perfumed and muscat-like. What a beautiful nose, truly perfumed, enhancing the tasting experience with such wonderful smells. The wine itself is layered with honeysuckle, orange blossom and pear overtones. The body is thinner than the Mossback. It is round, soft, and has a lingering finish with a hint of apricot at the end. The alcohol is 13.5%. This wine sells for $15.99 a bottle at the winery.

Arsonist 2013 Dunnigan Hills Chardonnay

The winemaker describes this as a big, rich, creamy, full flavored chardonnay and I have to agree. This is my favorite wine at Matchbook and very closely matches what I have been looking for in that “good, old-fashioned” style of chardonnay.

I smell toasted oak and hints of vanilla in the nose. This has a rich, creamy mouthfeel. This is what chardonnay should taste like. The flavor of the grape comes through in this wine and is not overpowered by the French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels in which it was aged. There is a taste of sweet caramel in the finish. The wine is 14.3% in alcohol. It sells for $21.99 a bottle at the winery, but is also widely available commercially. Look for it on sale at your local grocery store.

Quimay 2012 Neuquén Chardonnay


According to the label, these grapes were grown in a rugged, desert land in Patagonia, Argentina, that was inhabited for centuries by the fierce Mapuche Indians.  The Mapuche had oasis sanctuaries which became holy sites called Quimay or blessed water.  Today the vineyards are planted in many of these areas brought to life in a harsh terrain by the Mapuche’s blessed water.

We recently returned from a trip to South America where we tasted many wines from Patagonia, Mendoza, Chile, and even Uruguay.  My husband, feeling sentimental about Patagonia, saw this bottle of wine in a local liquor store and picked it up for me.  So, I decided to try it and share my thoughts about this chardonnay that doesn’t really taste like a chardonnay.

This wine has a faint scent of ripe pear in the nose.  At first taste, the wine seems bright and fresh with lots of acidity.  But as it warms, it becomes more complex with a slight lingering finish.  This is not an oaky, creamy chardonnay, but it is imminently drinkable and would stand up well to a lot of different foods.

If you’ve been reading some of my recent reviews of Sonoma County wines, you’ll laugh when I tell you the wine was only $3 a bottle.  Again, this was not my dream wine, but at $3 a bottle for a generic bottle of white wine, it wouldn’t hurt to keep some around for your next party for your less discriminating white wine drinkers.

Parducci True Grit Reserve Chardonnay 2013 – Mendocino County


Parducci was one of my favorite wineries that we visited on a recent trip through Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. On the day we stopped by, we were the only ones in the winery and we got extra special attention. Every wine we tasted there was delightful, so much so that we joined their wine club.

The nose on this wine is clean with mild scents of pear. It has a polished, yet rich style and the texture is somewhat creamy. I tasted slight summer fruit flavors. The finish is round and smooth, not incisive. The wine was aged in 100% new French oak, but the oak is not overly pronounced in this vintage.

Upon drinking the remainder of this bottle the next day, I discovered the wine had even more complexity and flavor. Enjoy it with a roasted chicken if serving with food, or just enjoy it alone!

La Crema Nine Barrel 2012 – Russian River

La Crema Nine Barrel

This is a blend of La Crema’s best chardonnays from nine of the highest quality barrels. According to the staff at La Crema, it is hand crafted, layered and expressive, a passion of the winemaker.

We have tasted this twice at the winery and once at home and each time it has been an exceptional and delicious wine. I pick up notes of toffee in the nose, but my tasting partner smells sugary frosting. The color is lightly golden and the wine is clean. The texture is not oily and buttery, but it is creamy and complex with some acidity in the finish.

I think the Russian River chardonnays always have a touch of butterscotch in the flavor, something I’ve really come to appreciate, and this one does as well. I also taste layers of caramel, vanilla, ripe pear and baked apple. It is 14.5% in alcohol.

This is La Crema’s premium chardonnay and it retails for $70 in the winery or $59.50 for wine club members. This is a little high priced for my day to day wine budget, but it truly is a delightful chardonnay for a special occasion.

Sbragia Gamble Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 – Napa Valley

Sbragia Gamble Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

I pick up vanilla in the nose, a very good sign from the start, with a hint of nutmeg.  This wine is full of creamy richness with pear overtones.  You can see the creaminess in the body of the wine by its thick legs on the sides of the glass.  The color is medium golden.

It is flavorful and complex and finishes with a smoky aftertaste of roasted marshmallows.  14.8% alcohol.

I asked my friends to taste this wine with me and here are their comments:  “luscious and creamy”, “elegantly styled, polished body”, “smoky finish, hints of nutmeg and clove in the nose.”  Even the non-white wine drinker in the group found plenty of good things to say about this Sbragia Chardonnay.

Overall, I loved this wine. But, I have to warn you, the wine sells for $48.00 at the winery and approximately $40.00 online. When I started this blog, I set out to find reasonably priced, but delicious, creamy or buttery, oaky chardonnays. So, with that said, I would recommend this wine for a special occasion.

I’m still on my mission to find something as delicious but at a lower price!

Parducci Chardonnay 2013 – Small Lot Blend

2013 Parducci Small Lot Blend Chardonnay
2013 Parducci Small Lot Blend Chardonnay

This is a small lot blend designed, according to the winemaker’s notes, to be a blend of bold, lively flavors.

In style it is polished and refined, tastes clean, light bodied and light on the palate with a little bit of acidity. It is delicate and faintly flavored with hints of creamy vanilla and caramel but nothing distinctive. It is even light in color.

It drinks well but doesn’t live up to its promise to be a bold and lively wine. This tasted well in the winery, so I’m not sure why this subsequent tasting doesn’t measure up to my first experience. But, we are headed back to Parducci in March to pick up our wine club shipment. I’ll give this chardonnay another try then and report back.

The wine is 13.5% in alcohol and retails for $9.90 at Safeway or $13.00 at the winery.

La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2013

La Crema

This wine has a clean, fresh scent of pear in the nose, with hints of stone fruit. I taste the butterscotch right away but it’s layered with oak and hints of hazelnut for a complex, lingering finish. Hidden in the finish is a touch of tanginess due to its acidity. Butterscotch is the major theme here.

This wine doesn’t meet the criteria for the quintessential creamy, buttery chardonnay that I am always seeking. But it is representative of the Russian River Valley that produces a unique chardonnay with the butterscotch characteristic. From Mendocino to Sonoma (Russian River straddles both) we found this flavor over and over again in chardonnays.

We picked this wine up from the La Crema wine tasting room in Healdsburg during our recent trip through Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. A quick search online shows that the 2013 is out of stock, but it is still available on the La Crema website. $30 per bottle or $24 for wine club members.

The La Crema chardonnay pairs nicely with pan fried filet of sole, a mushroom risotto, or a platter of mild cheddar and marcona almonds.

Napa Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay 2013

I detected a hint of sweet cream, vanilla and oak in the nose. Delicious! The body is smooth, round, soft and creamy. The finish is complex. The color is light gold. This vintage was released in June 2014, and was aged in 89% French oak. 14.2% alcohol.

This wine is so delicious, it is probably best to drink it alone. But, it would work well with petite breakfast brie, or a roasted chicken sprinkled with fresh thyme and oregano, or a butternut squash soup.

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.