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.

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


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.