Hail To The King Of California White Wines



A look at some recently released California Chardonnays.


By Louis Marmon


Gazette Newspapers  August 26, 2009


Chateau St. Jean ChardonnayDespite the appeal of other varietals, more than half of California’s white wine acreage remains planted to Chardonnay. Stylistically as diverse as the geography of the state itself, the recent releases offer many choices to enjoy as the hot days of summer slip into the fall. Here are some recommendations.


The Beringer Napa Valley Private Reserve Chardonnay 2007 ($35) is an excellent example of a full-bodied, rich California Chardonnay. Honey and toasty oak aromas lead into butter, ginger, pear and creamy tropical fruit that seem to gain in complexity during the long finish. The floral scented Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay 2006 ($45) is similar in style, exhibiting creamy apple, honey and stone fruits with oak and bits of hazelnuts at the end.


Also fuller-bodied are the Mount Eden Monterey County Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2007 ($19), showing well balanced apple and peach notes with a bright finish, and the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2007 ($19), created from fruit grown in both Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Floral aromas predominate, leading into mango, pear, tropical fruits and a pleasant nuttiness. Another example is the lush vanilla and apple scented Dry Creek Vineyards Chardonnay 2006 ($20) that displays creamy, buttery apricots and pears with just the right citrus acidity for balance.


An interesting contrast is the medium-bodied Chateau St. Jean Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 ($25). Its scents of biscuit and pears merge nicely with the underlying apple and orange notes. The Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2007 ($45) also differs sharply from the more full-bodied styles. Well-balanced with tropical fruit and bright citrus acidity, it is a very food-friendly wine that matches well with summer fare.


Judy Jones is perhaps best known for the delightful sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs created at her Sonoma based J Vineyards and Winery. But it is well worth seeking out her medium-bodied J Vineyards Russian River Chardonnay 2007 ($28) for its lush well-developed tropical fruit and citrus flavors. The Sebastiani Sonoma Chardonnay 2007 ($20) is another tasty medium-bodied effort with buttery apple, vanilla and sweet pineapple notes. More steely in character is the Frei Brothers Sonoma Chardonnay Reserve 2007 ($18), which has a bit more oak within its tropical fruit frame.


Actor Dan Aykroyd has ventured into the world of winemaking. Two of his wines are being produced at Sonoma’s DeLoach Vineyards, including the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Chardonnay 2007 ($19). A blend of seven different vineyards and aged in French oak barrels, it has refreshing apple, vanilla and pear flavors in an appealing, food-friendly style.


Former Disney executive, Rich Frank purchased his Napa Valley winery in 1992 in partnership with noted winemaker Koerner Rombauer. In 2007, Rich and his wife Connie became the sole owners of the enterprise. The wines crafted at the Frank Family Vineyards have consistently received numerous accolades, including the Frank Family Napa Chardonnay 2007 ($32), a complex and lively effort with lime, melon and fig notes. The Reserve version ($55) has a bigger mouth-feel and more complex peach, pear, nut and orange flavors.


The wine portfolio of the Michael-David Winery, in the Lodi region about 80 miles east of San Francisco, includes the 7 Deadly Zins, 6th Sense Syrah and the value-priced 7 Heavenly Chards ($15). Aged in seven different French oak barrels for seven months, it has tropical fruit aromas with banana, apple, pear and toasty oak flavors.



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