Sips of California Chardonnay & A Few Other Whites
Chardonnay continues to be the most favored varietal in this country. I play tennis at a club several times a
week, and the wine of choice after a few sets is Chardonnay for the men and women. Part of this popularity is
that Chardonnay can be good slightly chilled and the acidity is refreshing after a workout. Most of the wines
below are not quaffers and deserve more contemplation than that offered by Chardonnay consumed as a post-tennis
2010 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard Clone 95 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc.,pH 3.35, TA 0.7,
239 cases, $40.
Enticing aromas of lemon pie, green apple and baking spice. Appealing richness and body
with a full-flavored core of apple, citrus, caramel and vanilla flavors. Very smooth on the palate with slight dry
tannins and a dry, uplifting finish. Very good.
2012 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard North Face Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
pH 3.10, TA 0.735, 317 cases, $20.
Very pale gold color with a slight green tinge. Typical grassy
nose with hints of tropical fruit including papaya and banana. Less grassy on the palate with a slightly
creamy mouthfeel, good acidity and a dry finish. Light on its feet, and slipping off the back end
gracefully, the wine offers flavors of hay, dried herbs and tropical fruits. Sauvignon Blanc is not my
favored cup of tea but this is a stellar example of a food-friendly type. Good (+)
2012 Castello di Amorosa Mendocino County Pinot Grigio
14.5% alc., pH 3.31, TA 0.59, 3,094
cases, $21. Crafted in the Italian style. Stainless steel tank aged.
Faint yellow color and clear in the
glass. Aromas of tropical fruits including papaya and passion fruit, green apple and lemon. Has some
substance with satisfying flavors of apple, tropical fruits, and cut grass. The mouthfeel is slightly
creamy and the bright acidity lifts the finish. A pleasurable wine perfect for summer picnics and
tailgate parties. Good (+).
2012 Crossbarn by Paul Hobbs Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., $18, screwcap. 80% fermented in
tank, 20% in neutral French oak barrels. Native and selected yeasts. 100% MLF.
Pale straw yellow color and
clear in the glass. Aromas of buttered brioche, lemon curd, and honey. Slightly creamy and buttery, featuring
flavors of lemon, white peach, honey and baked apple. Full-flavored and showy with a little heat peaking out
on the finish. Good.
2010 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.74, 372
cases, $38. From a 40-acre vineyard a short distance from the winery farmed by Ron and Pam Kaiser. Clone
4 planted in 1989. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented, aged 7 months in 40% new French oak
Light golden straw color in the glass. Demure aromas of citrus peel, tropical fruits and vanilla with a
subtle steely tone. Juicy with delicate flavors of lemon, lime, white peach, brown butter and a hint of smoky
oak. Rather reserved, but pleasant. Good.
2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA
0.66, 298 cases, $45. Sourced from Rochioli and Allen vineyards. 100% barrel fermented for 7 months in 40%
new Francois Frères oak barrels.
Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of buttery brioche,
lemon, pear and smoky oak. Restrained and reserved, offering flavors of citrus, honeyed caramel and the
slightest oak, and a slightly creamy texture. A solid, slightly austere wine that was more striking when reviewed
three months ago. Good.
2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.65, 288 cases, $45. Released November 2012.
Gently whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented for 7 months in 40% new
Francois Frères oak barrels.
Light golden straw color and clear in the glass.
Clean citrus and apple aromas accented with faint buttery oak and petrichor.
Flavors of grilled peach, lemon and nougat, with an intensity that persists long
after the wine is swallowed. Soft in the mouth and relatively reserved, but very
polished and high-collared, and appropriately fueled by steely acidity. The
finishing presence is what makes this a wine apart. Very good.
2011 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.35, 506 cases, $55.
straw color and clear in the glass. Very appealing aromas of crème brûlée, white peach, lemon drop and
brioche. Very clean and polished, with flavors of white stone fruits, apple and citrus, sporting a pleasing touch
of oak, and showing some aromatic intensity on the somewhat lengthy finish. Very good.
2011 J. Lohr October Night Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay
14.9% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.66, 1,693 cases, $25. 60% Dijon 809
(Musqué clone) blended with clone 76. 100% barrel fermented in 45%
new Francois Frères French oak barrels using native yeast and aged
sur lie for 12 months.
Pale golden yellow color and clear in the glass.
A sophisticated offering with aromas of lemon drop, grilled peach,
honeysuckle and chalk-laden soil. Plenty of fruit flavor including lemon,
persimmon and white peach. The most striking feature of this wine is its oakdriven
baking spice aroma and flavor. Soft, light, graceful and easy to like, the
alcohol presents no notice. A terrific value considering the care and expense
taken in its vinification. Very good.
2011 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.5% alc.,pH 3.31, TA 0.70, 2,150 cases, $55.
100% MLF. Aged 13 months in 40% new and 60% two to three-year-old
French oak puncheons and barrels.
Light golden straw color and clear in
the glass. A very embraceable wine with hi-spirited aromas of spiced
apple, lemon, creme brulee and vanilla cream, and sparkling flavors of
lemon curd, green apple and a hint of pear. Oak is understated but
supportive. Very juicy with lively acidity and a chalky, mineral blessed finish.
2011 Lucia Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $39.
From the Pisoni family who are better known for Pinot Noir but their
Chardonnays are first rate. Year in and year out, one of my favorite
California Chardonnays (and well-priced too).
Light straw color and clear
in the glass. A perfect blend of fruit and oak-driven aromas and flavors
featuring citrus, pear, crème brûlée, honey and caramel. Nothing stands
out and the wine is in perfect focus, indicating impeccable winemaking.
No quarter given to the French.
2011 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $45. Released March 2013. The core is from
Gap’s Crown Vineyard with added grapes grown by the Martinellis, the Duttons, and Charlie Chenoweth.
Essentially, this is a blend of vineyard-designate quality sites including Zio Tony, Parmalee Hill, Sun Chase,
Durell Vineyard and Dutton Ranch.Yields were down by almost 30% in 2011. Whole cluster pressed,
indigenous yeast fermentation, aged sur lie with weekly stirring aged in 40% new French oak barrels.
golden straw color and clear in the glass. Inviting aromas of lemon cream, honey, malted milk and Asian pear.
Good richness of flavor featuring honey, baked apple, lemon and burnt caramel notes with some oak showing
up on the finish. Soft in the mouth and friendly, this is a solid appellation wine. Good (+).
2011 Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay
$42. Released March 2013. Produced
from some of the oldest plantings of Chardonnay in western Sonoma County, predominantly a blend of
California heritage clones and selections including Robert Young, Rued, Hyde-Wente, UCD 4, and Spring
Mountain. Mostly dry-farmed. Whole cluster pressed, 100% indigenous yeast, aged sur lie with weekly
stirring, 100% MLF in barrel and aged in 35% new French oak barrel.
Medium golden straw color and clear in
the glass. Aromas of buttered brioche, citrus, honeycomb and a hint of oak. Tasty and harmonious, with
flavors of baked apple, honey and tropical fruits, finish with character and admirable intensity. A thoroughly
pleasing Chardonnay that is beautifully composed. Very good.
2011 Patz & Hall Hudson Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay
13.7% alc., 279 cases, $55. Released March 2013.
Sourced from the 4-acre prized block that Hudson makes his own
Chardonnay from. Planted in 1980, this block featurs Hudson-Wente
selection isolated by Lee Hudson. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous
yeast fermentation, sur lie aged with weekly stirring, aged in 55% new
French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Light golden straw color and very slight
haze (unfiltered) in the glass. A serious wine offering aromas of lemon, caramel,
buttered popcorn and chalk dust. Elicits a Wow! on the palate with luscious
flavors of lemon, baked pear, peach honey, toffee, and pastry creme. Ideal
integration of oak, notable acidity and impeccable balance. One of California’s greatest and most sophisticated
2011 Roth Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
pH 3.61, TA 0.78, $28. A blend of Sonoma Coast and Russian
River Valley fruit. Aged sur lie 11 months in 100% French oak
Very light yellow and clear in the glass. Inviting array of
tropical aromas including pineapple with hints of white peach
and oak vanillin. Very enjoyable flavors of baked apple, grilled
pineapple, lemon, lychee and slight burnt caramel finishing
smoothly on a lemon drop note. Beautifully composed, throughly dry and