March 23, 2005 |
The first time my wife tasted Marcassin Chardonnay, her eyes glowed and she began smiling as if she'd won the lottery -- or signed a big movie deal. I wasn't writing about wine then and had never heard of Marcassin -- the Chardonnay we tasted was a '91, only Marcassin's second vintage -- so I asked the man who brought the bottle to dinner how I could get some. He explained that you had to get on the winemaker's private mailing list and since he'd gotten to know the couple that runs Marcassin, he was able to get us on that list.
January 12, 2005 |
With the prices commanded by top California Chardonnays these days, it has to be a really special occasion -- a coronation or, say, an inauguration -- to warrant popping the cork on one of these rich, oaky fruit bombs. What's a poor Chardonnay lover to do? Drinking down is awfully hard going once you get used to the good stuff. Time to discover David Ramey's Chardonnays.
November 26, 2004 |
Jess Jackson made his mark as a lawyer, carving out an accomplished career as a land-use attorney. He got into winemaking and became a huge success, building an empire on Kendall-Jackson chardonnay. So far, though, he doesn't seem to have gotten the hang of retirement. Jackson, who briefly stepped down from the top spot at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Ltd.
August 4, 2004 |
This crisp, lean Chardonnay from Keller Estate on the Sonoma Coast is made more in the style of some Chablis than the oaky Burgundies many California winemakers have taken as their model. Keller Estate has its lush, vanilla-scented Chardonnay too, but this one, made with the same estate-grown grapes, but vinified entirely without oak, is a slam dunk with sushi, sashimi and other Asian food. Gold with reflections of palest green and light citrus notes, it's entirely food friendly.
June 16, 2004 |
When it comes to California Chardonnay, there are usually two things you hear from winemakers. The first: "It's very Burgundian." This can be difficult to interpret, especially when the wine, hitting the mouth like a pineapple butterscotch sundae, tastes nothing like a lemony, minerally Burgundy. You wonder, does the winemaker really think it tastes like Burgundy? The other line you hear: "I'm not trying to make Burgundy; I'm only trying to make California Chardonnay."
March 3, 2004 |
For the last decade, Chappellet has been making a marvelous Chenin Blanc from vines planted in 1962 on the steeply terraced slopes of Pritchard Hill. Aged in small oak barrels, it has the heft and weight of a Chardonnay but a character all its own. Extravagantly perfumed with citrus, its taste is complex and alluring, with a tart minerally finish. Serve it chilled, with seared scallops, fried shrimp or trout sauteed in butter. It has enough verve to stand up to lobster or crab too.
November 26, 2003 |
The letter is dated Nov. 18, 1954. It begins "Dear Jerry," and it ends "Sincerely, Fred." Fred was the late Fred McCrea, proprietor of the first winery built in Napa after Prohibition and creator of what would ultimately become one of California's first cult wines -- maybe the very first -- before the term "cult wine" even existed. Jerry was a family friend -- one of a few dozen to whom McCrea sent letters, trying to sell his first vintage, the 1952 Stony Hill Chardonnay.
October 29, 2003
If it were so easy to make a great Chardonnay, California would be awash in first-rate bottles. But when you start with grapes from the famed Kent Ritchie vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, it definitely helps. Scott Paul Wright, a radio producer turned winemaker, has the right idea. His 2001 Chardonnay "Kent Ritchie Vineyard" is as graceful as they come. It has a light citrus scent mixed in with the telltale vanilla of lightly toasted French oak.
March 19, 2003 |
In California, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Chardonnay are planted just about everywhere, often side by side. But their wines seldom speak of any particular place. That's changing, though, as the state's wine industry continues to evolve. Distinctions are emerging among Cabernets from different zones within Napa Valley. Try comparing Cabs from Rutherford (Staglin Family Vineyards), Calistoga (Chateau Montelena) and Stags Leap District (Shafer Vineyards).