And so, we come to the last installment of the second chapter of white wines. On the upside, there’s only one more chapter to go. On the downside, it’s German whites. With that said, extended time with French and American white wine has now made me almost look forward to Germany.
Four Wines, Tasted Together
The goal with this exercise was to explore the same grape in four different California AVAs. The idea is to debunk the myth that all California Chardonnays taste the same. To cut to the chase, these wines taste different, to be sure, but none of them were engaging or memorable. Whether CÃ´te de Beaune or MÃ¢connais, the French make much more interesting wines with the grape.
2009 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Chardonnay
Pale green-yellow, clear, moderate aromas of dirty socks, ghastly stinky cheese, effluent, toasted oak, and toasted nuts.
That’s all to say this bottle smelled corked. Ugh. Off-dry, medium bodied, lively acidity, flavorful tastes of blue cheese and syrupy rotten vegetables.
So, not really a fair go at things, but I wasn’t about to rush out and procure a stand-in. I think this is the first corked white I’ve had.
2009 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay
Pale yellow, clear, low aromas of … not much. A little linalool if I try really hard. Dry, medium-full body, round tannins, moderate flavor of … Chardonnay. Yes. This wine tastes like Chardonnay. Sorry. Maybe a little butter? Nothing special, just a well-made anonymous wine that does nothing to make itself memorable. Good enough, to the point of being tedious. This wine will, at least, never piss anybody off.
2008 Talbott Chardonnay, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard
Medium gold, this wine was aromatic, a waft filled the nose with candy, passion fruit, lychee, and sugar cookies baking. Off-dry, medium-full body, lively acidity with mild soft tannins. This is a flavorful Chardonnay, but its nose is definitely the more interesting half of the equation; on the palate it has a very long finish, but not a lot of complexity. A little apple, lime, pear in syrup, and oak, but mostly “this tastes like a really nice Welch’s white grape juice,” which is a shame, given how good it smells.
2007 Ramey Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard
Straw yellow with powerful aromas of toast, oak, and sawdust, this was not originally my pick for favorite of the four, but it ended up beating out the Talbott. Somewhat dry, medium-full bodied, lively acidity with soft tannins, the flavor was moderate but extremely well balanced. While another described it as “like flat champagne” I felt it had an interesting underlying complexity. With that said, I think this wine is still a bit nervous; some oxidization and more time in the bottle may actually serve to improve the experience here.
One Wine, Tasted Alone: Aged California Chardonnay
This part is a little tricky. The goal of the book is to taste an aged Chardonnay from California, to observe how the wine evolves with age. It goes on to suggest, perhaps, a 2001 Montelena. Riiiiiiiiight. It’s pretty much impossible to buy any sort of vintage wine in the great state of Connecticut, but we found a wine shop that was literally throwing wine out, and among the collection was what ultimately became the subject of this section:
2003 Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Chardonnay
Gold. Candied pears, ammonia, dust, oak, mold, but not unpleasant. Smells like an old lady’s perfume? Powerful aromas, these.
Taste was somewhat off dry, full bodied, flabby as hell. There is no acid in this wine anymore, if there ever was. Toasty, dull, oxidized. A bit of a lime flavor on the finish, a bit of spice; the finish is, in general, surprisingly long. This wine is a bit too funky to be a crowd pleaser, and I’m pretty sure it’s past its drinking window, but it’s not downright awful, yet.