Chardonnay Works Well When Entering Fall
Summer may have finally broken, and you may find it is time to turn in feather-light pinot grigio for a more substantial white wine.
For the shoulder season, chardonnay is a find choice. The most-sold white wine variety in the United States offers more flavor and more heft than many white wines.
Winemakers, who readily deploy techniques such as malo-lactic fermentation and all sorts of barrel aging for barrel fermenting regimes, often view chardonnay as a blank canvas. But others can and do attempt to make light and fresh chardonnay that shows the character of the grape. The result has been a broad range of styles and quality that can confuse shoppers and has repelled wine snobs who have moved to wines less mainstream.
Some people don’t like oak. Many chardonnay are pummeled with oak during fermentation and aging. And there are many mediocre chardonnays out there.
I found some golden chardonnay with style and heft for the fall’s cooler days and more substantial fare. But you really do have to love oaky chardonnays to enjoy some of these.
Simi Reserve Russian River Valley 2014 smells like sweet oak and creamy butter with flavors of grilled peach. This specially priced chardonnay is ready to drink now. $16. 1/2
Federalist Mendocino County Chardonnay is another mouthful of a wine, complete with character of coconut, lemon curd, pineapple and spiciness in a rounded, smooth wine. $17.
If you don’t like oak in your wine, or like less than the previously mentioned, try Pat Paulsen Vineyards 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay, a nicely crafted, balanced wine. For those old enough to remember, yes, this is the same Pat Paulsen comedian/guitarist who frequented the Smothers Brothers show, had his own short-lived variety show and “ran” for president. The wine is a reminder of what chardonnay tastes like — apples and lemon, with whispers rather than screeches of oak, and a food-friendly structure and clean finish. $15. 1/2
GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below average ★★,
DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American
Wine Society, reviews wines each week.