Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Chardonnay you'll love- taste and pricewise

While I drink a lot of white wine, I'll admit to not enjoying as many Chardonnays as I should. Perhaps I've had so many examples, that I just naturally look for other types, especially the brilliant whites from Friuli and Alto Adige in Italy or Sauvignon Blanc from just about anywhere. Another reason is I never seem to find that many Chardonnays I like; either they're just too simple or they're over the top, with lots of hazelnut, almond and vanilla notes with dominant oak flavors.

Well the other night, I enjoyed a lovely Chardonnay that was a pleasant change from the types I've panned over recent years. The wine was the 2009 Clos du Val from their vineyards in Carneros in Napa Valley. Founded in 1972, Clos du Val is best known for its red wines - especially Cabernet Sauvignon - as it is located in the prime Stags Leap District. But for some time, the winery has been producing a Chardonnay from hillside estate vineyards in Carneros. This AVA (American Viticultural Appellation) is situated at the southern reaches of Napa (it also extends into Sonoma County), just north of the San Pablo Bay. Cool breezes from the bay combined with early morning fog makes this zone ideal for a cool climate variety such as Chardonnay (as well as Pinot Noir) and generally the grapes receive a lot of hang time, assuring ideal ripeness, very good natural acidity and impressive structure.

When everything comes together, as it did with the beautiful 2009 growing season, Chardonnays from Carneros combine a nice richness on the palate with a lengthy finish as well as wonderful balance. This 2009 Clos du Val Chardonnay has all of that; it's a flavorful wine with excellent complexity. So it's not the simple, light white wine that too often bores, nor is it a lush, over-oaked offering that still pops up now and then in California as well as several other regions and countries around the world.

Here are my tasting notes on this wine:

Brilliant light yellow with pleasing aromas of Anjou pear, fresh apple, cinnamon and vanilla. Medium-full with very good concentration. Very good persistence, finely tuned acidity and well-integrated oak. Harmonious finish with a touch of honey and apple pie notes. Elegantly styled wine, lovely with food and an excellent value at $25.

I mentioned this is a lovely food wine; I enjoyed this with tilapia and it was a perfect match. It will also pair beautifully with sea bass as well as many other fish; I think it would also be great with lighter poultry dishes or even a simple chilled chicken salad.

It's also worth noting the $25 price tag that I believe represents a striking bargain. There are just too many overpriced Chardonnays in California - it's that simple. So when I come across a Chardonnay this good for this price tag, I have to note that it's an excellent value- and we certainly need more of these!

One final note- if you're someone stuck on points when it comes to selecting wines or you need a designer name on the label, you'll need to look elsewhere. You'll also have to pay another $15-20 a bottle for one of those 95-point, heavily oaked Chardonnays that overpower almost any food with their big alcohol and dominating wood and spice notes. A few wine publications tend to favor wines such as these, but to me, that style of Chardonnay is an exercise in seeing how far a winemaker can push all the components in the wine. They may impress upon the initial smell and taste, but they are tiring, bloated wines.

As I said, you're welcome to those wines. For me, I'll take the 2009 Clos du Val Carneros Chardonnay- that's becuase it's got everything I'm looking for in a wine such as this and it's beautifully priced!

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