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.


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.


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

 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!

Napa Valley or Sonoma County?

As 2016 comes to a close, we are wrapping up a fun and delicious year of wine tasting with two California chardonnays.

For this tasting, we chose two different chardonnays from Trader Joe’s. Both chardonnays are the Trader Joe’s brand, and both $12.99 a bottle, but one is from the famed Carneros wine region in Napa Valley, and the other is from Chalk Hill in Sonoma County. Here’s what we found:

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve – Chalk Hill, Sonoma County 2015 Lot #28

The nose on this wine has slight toasty oak and vanilla notes. It is light in color and has a polished and balanced acidity. I am tasting layers of citrus zest and pear, with a butterscotch flavor in the finish. The wine is 15.1% in alcohol.

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve – Carneros, Napa Valley 2014 Lot #51

This wine is also light in color, but the nose opens with a subtle fragrance of honeysuckle. Although the bouquet is subtle, the flavors of the wine, coconut, pear, and vanilla come through nicely. It has a soft, smooth finish and is 14.5% in alcohol.

The Napa wine is more flavorful and pronounced while the Chalk Hill wine is softer, more subtle all the way around. I’m normally a lover of Chalk Hill, but this time I think I prefer the Carneros wine. At just $12.99 a bottle, I’m definitely headed back to Trader Joes to round out my New Year’s Eve wine selection.

Thank you for following us in 2016. We are looking forward to much more tasting, even heading to Australia to enjoy the delicious chardonnays from the Barossa wine region. So stay tuned. Come back and visit us often.

Wishing you the best in 2017! Happy New Year!


Boeger 2015 El Dorado Chardonnay


We’ve traversed Sonoma, tried wines from Napa, sampled many Yolo chardonnays, dipped down into Arroyo Seco and even hopscotched over to Argentina, but I don’t think we’ve covered any El Dorado wines yet.

Today we are trying the Boeger 2015 El Dorado Chardonnay, a recent gift from my darling friend, Rebecca.

This is not a creamy or full-bodied wine but leans more towards a light-bodied wine with a soft finish. It has a polished style. I taste layers of pear and apricot with hints of citrus. Luscious vanilla bean and honeysuckle notes are in the bouquet.

100% malolactic fermentation, 30% French oak and lees stirring contribute to make this an easy drinking wine.  I love the notes in the nose and think that is my favorite part of this wine. At just $16 a bottle, I like it!

Chardonnay from Argentina’s Mendoza Wine Region


Our recent visit to the Mendoza wine region in Argentina left me wanting for more of the delicious wine from this sun-kissed part of the world. Fortunately for me, just about the time we arrived home, decided to hold a sale on several Argentinian and Chilean wines (Yes, we stopped on the other side of the Andes, too, to sample the wines of Valle del Maipo).

I ordered a variety of chardonnays to be delivered. Today we are tasting the 2014 Alamos Chardonnay and the Tilia Chardonnay from Mendoza.

Alamos Chardonnay Mendoza 2014

This wine has a brilliant, light yellow color. Enjoy hints of vanilla in the nose, followed by tastes of stone fruit and ripe apple, layered with vanilla. It is well-balanced and full-flavored, very much to my liking. It also has a lovely finish that lingers on my palate. The wine sold for $9.99 on

Cultivated by the Catena family for over 100 years, Alamos vineyards lie in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

This wine pairs nicely with roasted chicken or pasta dishes with a cream sauce. We also sampled it with a soft brie cheese and found the pairing to be delightful.

Tilia Chardonnay Mendoza 2014

This wine has slight hints of toasted oak and vanilla in the nose. The wine itself, however displays a ripe citrus flavor. The color is also a brilliant, light yellow like the Alamos. The Tilia is well-balanced, lighter bodied than the Alamos, with a clean, refreshing finish. We purchased it for $10.99 from

Tilia is sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards in the Eastern and Southern regions of Mendoza. Pair with a mild white cheese or grilled chicken or grilled vegetables.

Of the two wines, I found the Alamos to be more to my liking. I lean towards the fuller-flavored, fuller-bodied chardonnays.  And for the price, I could see myself stocking up on some more Alamos Chardonnay.

Trader Joe’s Chardonnay – Side by Side Comparison of Two Chardonnays

Today we stopped in to Trader Joe’s and picked up several wines to try. Two chardonnays that were advertised in their latest flyer and intrigued me were the Big Churn, described as a big, buttery chardonnay, and the Eris Vineyards Chardonnay, described as buttery and rich. Although the prices were different, I decided to do a side by side comparison of the two. Here’s what I found:

trader-joesBig Churn – 2014 California Chardonnay sells for $6.99. This is a big wine that opens up with oak in the nose and hints of vanilla. Malolactic fermentation is in full swing here and is, perhaps, a bit overdone.  Appearance is honey yellow and the wine is 14.5% in alcohol. The wine does display fruit notes of pear with a smooth, lingering finish, but the wine is just too overpowering for my taste. This wine is vinted and bottled by Big Churn in Napa.

Eris Chardonnay – 2014 Carneros Estate Napa Valley, is bright yellow in color, made from 100% chardonnay grapes from a single estate on the Napa side of Carneros. This is a much more refined chardonnay than the Big Churn and at $12.99 a bottle, a pretty decently priced wine. The nose is faint but the wine is buttery and smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel. The flavors are fruity with hints of peaches and citrus and finishes with toasty vanilla. This is definitely a better wine than the Churn and worth the extra $6.00 per bottle. I can’t swear to it, but the Eris Chardonnay may be related to Cuvaison. My searches online for Eris Chardonnay kept leading me to the Cuvaison website. Again, not sure, but snap up some bottles of this delicious chardonnay before they’re gone.