Recently Tasted California Chardonnay
Chardonnay continues to be by far the most popular varietal among American wine consumers. According to
estimates by The Nielsen Company, Chardonnay represented an estimated 19 percent of table wine volume
purchased in U.S. food stores in 2017. Sales of this leading varietal increase every year.
In 2017, the state had 94,452 acres planted to Chardonnay. Monterey County led California counties with
16,969 acres and Sonoma County was a close second at 15,617 acres.
Most Chardonnay vineyards were uprooted during Prohibition when growers replaced them with thick-skinned
red varieties that could be shipped cross country. Small plantings of Wente Chardonnay survived Prohibition.
Ernest and Herman Wente took over the family business after Prohibition and developed the Wente
Chardonnay clones that completely transformed California’s Chardonnay wine landscape. Today, over 80
percent of Chardonnay produced in California comes from some version of the Wente clone.
There are at least 34 different varieties of Chardonnay identified in France and these so-called “Dijon” clones
have been exported all over the world. The most common Chardonnay Dijon clones are 96 and 95, both traced
to Meursault, France, and 76, traced to the Saone et Loire region of France.
The most popular style of California Chardonnay is whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented with malolactic
fermentation occurring in barrel, along with aging sur lie with battonage. The combination of malolactic
fermentation and new French oak barrels leads to richer wines with a noticeably creamy texture. There are
many variations of this theme and winemaker decisions and manipulations generally play a larger role in the vinification of Chardonnay than of Pinot Noir.
It is a whole lot easier to find superb California Chardonnay than exceptional California Pinot Noir. California
Chardonnay quality is so high that the consumer only needs to discover a winemaking style that appeals.
2016 Blagden Sangiacomo-Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.56, TA
0.57, 120 cases, $42. Release spring 2019. Robert Young clone 17. Barrel fermented with native yeasts,
inoculated for 100% malolactic fermentation, aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
light golden yellow color in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of lemon oil, warm biscuit, vanilla and malt.
Righteous, ripe fruited flavors of lemon, pineapple, yellow peach, and kiwi. Engaging and expansive on the
palate in a Caliesque style.
2015 Boèhme English Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.7% alc., 85 cases, $49. Released
November 1, 2018. Wente selection. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented in seasoned oak barrels, and
aged in French oak on the lees for 20 months with complete malolactic fermentation prior to bottling.
golden yellow color in the glass. Intriguing aromas of lemon, buttery brioche, juniper and a hint of yeast.
Discretely rich in style, offering flavors of lemon, pineapple and dried yellow peach. Bright acidity tempers the
richness of fruit and the wine finishes long with abundance of citrus goodness.
2015 Boèhme Taylor Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.7% alc., 75 cases, $49. Released
November 1, 2018. Wente selection. Yield 0.57 tons/acre. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, and aged
on the lees 20 months in French oak barrels with complete malolactic fermentation before bottling.
light golden yellow color in the glass. Delicate aromas of lemon-lime, ripe apple and ocean breeze. Refined
and seamless in the mouth, featuring a citrus fruit core accented with oak-driven toast, caramel and vanilla,
Good cut with a quenching finish makes this wine an ideal food companion.
2017 Cuvaison Napa Valley Los Carneros Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.62, T 0.60, $25.
Grapes were picked from the Los Carneros estate the same day that the Nuns fire began and
spared any damage. 100% malolactic fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25%
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. This wine needs time to unfold. It lacks
appeal upon opening but blossoms over time showing delicate aromas of lemon and pineapple..
Modest richness and creaminess, featuring a core of citrus fruits with a bit of pastry creme. Crisp
and clean, in an easy drinking style.
2016 E16 Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.50, 279 cases,
$. Fruit harvested from a block planted in 1976 with clone 4. Barrel fermented and aged 18 months in French
oak barrels, 30% new.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Reserved, but teasing aromas of lemon pie,
butter, biscuit and clean air after a rain. The appealing lemon and spice flavors gain traction over time in the
glass. There is adroit oak treatment and an oily texture. The overall impression is one of harmony. I have tasted
many Chardonnays from the Bacigalupi Bloom Ranch and this wine shows the character inherent in that
2017 Furthermore Graton Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 150 cases, $45.
Light golden yellow color in
the glass. The nose merges aromas of grilled lemon and peach with
toasty oak. Soft and polished, with pleasure-seeking flavors of lemon,
pineapple, yellow apple and nectarine with a hint of saltiness. This
wine’s best features are its round mouthfeel and the tight lemony finish.
2017 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 2,400 cases, $60.
Aged 13 months in 42% new and 58% once-used French oak puncheons and barrels.
Moderately light golden
yellow color in the glass. Reserved aromas of lemon drop, pomelo and peach. A citrus-driven flavor profile with
a slight botanical tone. Slightly viscous in mouthfeel, with some length to the slightly tart, yellow grapefruit
2016 Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., $42. Estate grown.
golden yellow color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, buttered toast, salted caramel and
vanilla. Endowed with somewhat rich citrus fruit flavor with undertones of vanilla and salinity. Viscous on the
palate, with acidity nicely folded in and a good cut on the dry finish.
2017 Morgan Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.17, TA 0.79, 96
cases, $44. Clone 548. Vineyard originally planted in 1997 and farmed by veteran grower Joe Alarid. Whole
cluster presserd, barrel fermented with Montrachet yeast, 96% malolactic conversion, aged 10 months in
French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Enchanting aromas of lemon
curd and pineapple. Welcome richness of citrus and yellow apple flavor, yet crisp, crunchy and fresh.
Admirable barrel management with some echos of citrus on the pleasing finish.
2017 Morgan Double L Clone 15 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.24, TA 0.71, 101
cases, $44. Gently whole cluster pressed, fermented in French oak, 95% malolactic conversion, and aged 10
months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. A classic style,
offering aromas of lemon oil, spiced apple, buttery brioche and a hint of flint. Rich fruit flavors of lemon,
pineapple, and yellow apple, with metallic and botanical tones. Judicious use of oak, with bright acidity, and an
agreeable lemony finish.
2017 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.3% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.59, 107
cases, $45. Hyde, Monty and Dijon 96 clones. Aged in French oak barrels, 38% new.
Moderate golden yellow
color in the glass. Bright and clean aromas show up on the nose, including citrus, poached pear, banana and
petrichor. Demure, but seductive in the mouth, featuring flavors of lemon, pear and melon and gracious oak.
Crisp and sleek, exhibiting impeccable balance.
2017 ROAR Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.61, 175
cases, $45. Hyde and Monty clones. Aged in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in
the glass. Subtle lemon and flint aromas with oak-driven toast and char that integrates with swirling. Flashy and
delicious on the palate, featuring ripe flavors of lemon, pear and particularly pineapple with a modicum of oak
in the background. Slick in texture with welcome spice, and some length on the slightly flinty finish.
2017 ROAR Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.54, 115
cases, $45. Monty clone. Aged in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass.
Demure aromas of lemon curd, pineapple and cold steel. An austere style, featuring flavors of citrus, pear and
vanilla. Silken and soft with a modest finish.
2016 Roessler Wine Cellars Big Bend Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.25, TA
0.70, $30. Sourced from two vineyards with the majority from a cool Russian River Valley site and
the remainder from a Petaluma Gap vineyard. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with
organic French yeast, native malolactic fermentation, and aged 18 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately light golden yellow color. Inviting scents of lemon, mango, buttery brioche
and nutty oak. The flavor profile is citrus driven with a note of vanilla in the background. Soothing
in texture, with discreetly bright acidity.
2015 Sinor-LaValle San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $26.
yellow color in the glass. Aromas of peach, ripe pineapple, kiwi, and vitamins. Fuller-bodied in
style, with bolder flavors of lemon curd, pineapple, honey, tropical fruits and toasty oak. Slightly
viscous in the moth, with a fruit-filled finish. A solid wine that aims to please only lacking a bit of
zip and zing.
2016 Wayfarer Wayfarer Vineyard Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.28, 725
cases, $80. Berlenbach Old Wente, Hyde Old Wente, Mt
Eden, Dijon 95. Whole cluster gently pressed, barrel
fermented and aged in French oak barrels, 76% new.
Native yeasts slowly guided alcoholic fermentation, with
careful lees stirring until malolactic fermentation
completion. Aged 15 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. An exceptional,
connoisseur’s wine that leads with aromas of lemon, pineapple, salt air,
wet stones and the slightest matchstick. Slightly creamy in the mouth,
with flavors of lemon wafer and pineapple. Easy to cozy up to with a
modicum of oak overlay. Keeps giving the longer it opens in the glass.