Red Theory chardonnay review

7 04 2013

Today we check out a 2010 chardonnay from Washington State’s Columbia Valley.  I picked it up at Total Wine for $12.

You’re looking at a guy who generally dislikes chardonnay, Read the rest of this entry »





Kendall-Jackson Avant chardonnay review

23 09 2012

I purchased this 2010 California chardonnay at Costco for $11.

As you may know, I am not a huge fan of California chards.  Kendall-Jackson’s relatively new Avant chardonnay has less of the chemistry-experiment taste than their regular chardonnay, and less oak and butter.  From the front label:  “Fresh.  Crisp.  Clean.”  Read the rest of this entry »





Rodney Strong chardonnay at Bertucci’s

7 05 2012

Today, in the first of our reviews from our experience at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, we look at a 2010 Sonoma, California chardonnay that Bertucci’s sells for $7.75 a glass / $30 a bottle.  It was paired with their Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad.
 
You may already know that I usually dislike California chardonnay.  Guess what?  I liked this fresh, light and affordable chard — a lot.  Rodney Strong  has a pretty aroma of lemons, followed by flavors of snappy pineapple, lemon, and a hint of the “standard chardonnay” melony/oaky/buttery thing.  Everyone at our table loved it, and I hereby pronounce Rodney Strong an outstanding value.
 
The Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad improved this perception.  It combines deliciously sweet chunks of watermelon with fresh mint and a tangy balsamic dressing, which everyone praised for its flavor and restrained application.  The touch of feta cheese made this a perfect creamy / sweet / tangy balance to Rodney Strong’s light and tropical chardonnay, which is:
 
Rodney Strong chardonnayHighly recommended.





Wines at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant

7 05 2012

This kicks off a series that will review various popular wines that are sold at Bertucci’s.  These brick oven-style Italian restaurants on the east coast have a warm, modern atmosphere, open kitchen and a “dim the lights” feeling of class.   
 
Manager Chad Phillips and culinary manager Michael Cropper in Christiana, Delaware treated us to their newest dishes (excellent) and wines (very good or excellent, for the price, with one exception).  The evening was gratis, but I returned to buy each wine on its own. 

In every case, the food improved the wine experience.  In one case, the pairing caused a so-so wine to become downright enjoyable.  Read on to learn which.
 
The pairings:

  • Rodney Strong chardonnay (Sonoma CA, 2010), with Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad
  • Francis Ford Coppola “Rosso” (CA, 2010), with Eggplant Napoleone
  • Chateau Ste Michelle merlot (Columbia Valley WA, 2007), with Garlic & Herb Roasted Mushrooms, and Warm Assorted Olives
  • Francis Ford Coppola Bianco pinot grigio (CA, 2010), with Cod al Forno
  • J. Lohr “Seven Oaks” cabernet sauvignon (Paso Robles CA, 2009), with Piccolo Chocolate Budino




Jacob’s Creek reserve chardonnay review – HOLY FREAKING

29 04 2011

Today we review a 2007 $14 chardonnay from south Australia.

Holy freaking COW this Jacob’s Creek reserve chard is good.  It costs around $14.  If you find it for $20, you should still buy it.  Below, you can read part of a real, grown-up review of this wonderful white wine, from a website that usually requires you to pay in order to benefit from their wisdom. Bring this to a party and everybody who has been choking down California chardonnay will love you.

Much better on the 2nd day after opening, this bargain chard with a real cork from the other side of the world has aromas of butterscotch and tastes fresh, natural, and real — with acidic citrus flavors like lime, balanced by round tropical notes like mango (and some butterscotch). 

More, please! 

Highly recommended, and a “Best Value”.   

Jacob's Creek reserve chardonnay review

From Jancis Robinson.com (I added the emphasis):

“As detailed in Chardonnays – Oz vs the rest, I ended up giving the same relatively enthusiastic score, 16.5 out of 20, to Jacob’s Creek regular Chardonnay 2008 [a $6 value monster that your Wineguider recommended in 2009 form, right here] as to Bruno Colin’s Premier Cru Morgeot 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet [a fine French chardonnay that sells for $50-$80], and gave an even higher score to the Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2008.

The distinguishing mark of the Jacob’s Creek Chardonnays is that Phil Laffer has steered their stylistic evolution in parallel with the dramatic change in the style of the average Australian Chardonnay much higher up the ranks, towards something much leaner and more refreshing. More Chablis than the old heavily oaked monsters. 

The main changes Laffer has made in recent years have been to treat the Chardonnay grapes as though they were fragile Riesling, picking them at night, protecting them assiduously from oxygen, minimising the time between vineyard and winery. Laffer reckons even his regular Chardonnay should last five to six years, ‘which certainly wasn’t the case five years ago’.”





Chateau Montelena chardonnay review

28 04 2011

Today it’s a 2007 California chardonnay that will cost you $40 at Total Wine, up to $50 elsewhere.

This wine is famous.  It comes from a Napa Valley winery that was founded in 1882.  (That’s not a typo.)  Chateau Montelena is also THE white wine that put California whites on the map — in 1976, the 1973 vintage of this wine stunned everybody by trampling a bunch of great French whites to win the Paris Tasting, a/k/a the Judgement of Paris.

So, this 2007 chardonnay has a lovely floral aroma.  It tastes like an extremely elegant version of the familiar California chardonnay.  The  typical super-oak quality is replaced by subtle notes of oak.  The typical buttery thing is replaced by smoothness, a really pleasant mouthfeel.  Besides that unfortunate “California chard” taste, you get hints of mellow pineapple, vanilla, and a spicy, minerally finish.  It has a LOT of character, so it should be paired with something spicy or bold.  It is crying out, “spicy chicken dish” to me right now.

However, this wine is $40 at Total Wine, and costs more just about everywhere else.  With its pedigree, it should be expensive, but I would not pay $40 again for it.  Then again, most California chardonnays hit me with an unnatural, weird kind of non-wine flavor, so I admit that I am not a neutral judge of this animal.  (No other wines do this, and I love chardonnays from other parts of the world.)  I say, there are much more satisfying white wines you can buy for around $25.  However, if you are living in a Groundhog Day-like cycle of California chardonnays and only California chardonnays, then you should definitely check out Chateau Montelena, because it’s one of the best.

Not recommended.





Toasted Head barrel reserve chardonnay review

22 12 2010

Today we examine a 2008 “reserve” chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley that goes for $15. 

14.5% alcohol.  If you follow alcohol percentages, you know this is a bit high for a white wine.  But I like that Toasted Head has amped up its reserve chardonnay in this way.  It’s like a Colt-45 version of white wine, with a splash of Vicodin — party on, Garth! 

And I’ll need all the amping-up I can get to muscle down this larger-than-life, 3D-animated cartoon version of California chardonnay.  ULTRA-full of classic California chard flavor.  Super ripe.  Bonk-you-on-the-head spicy, thick, sweet and creamy.  Like a trusty oversized flame-thrower, it will methodically wipe out the taste of any food you attempt to pair it with.  These chardonnays tend to give you lots of oak and butter, but if you think about it, it’s more like DAP Plastic Wood and Country Crock Vegetable Oil Spread, fresh from Wal-Mart.  This one is no exception.

Seriously, if you do like California chardonnay, you may truly love Toasted Head barrel reserve, since it’s like drinking California chardonnay squared.  But if you like white wine for its natural, fresh and delicious real fruit flavors balanced against crisp tartness, citrus or acidity, you may spit up your Toasted Head barrel reserve all over your new shirt.  At least you’ll be feeling good while you do it.





SCHUG chardonnay review

2 11 2010

Here’s a 2007 California chardonnay that costs $22 and is from “Sonoma Coast.”

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Bottom line:   The most intense white wine I’ve ever tasted.  Unless you’re a crazed California chard fanatic who is looking for the fringe of possible chardonnay flavors, this wine is not recommended.

GAAKK!!!  SCHUG chardonnay may be “respecting the fruit and regional character of each variatal,” but this stuff is VERY challenging to drink right after you open it.  Positively face-wilting with sour flavors, it just defies you to bring it to your lips for a second try.  However, as I explain below, it gets MUCH better on day 2 and could be fascinating to a die-hard California chardonnay fan.  Right after opening, for me the smell was the worst part, reminding your Wineguider of urine and rotting flowers.

On day 2, it definitely got better, with some minerality, citrus and green apple, but it was still VERY intense.  Is this stuff awful, or stellar and academy-award-winning?  I’m not sure!  All I know is, it’s way, way out there.  The smell improved on day 2 as well, morphing into a pleasant combination of light tropical fruits. 

And I have to give some serious “props” to SCHUG chardonnay:  UNlike most California chards, it tastes very organic and very natural.  If I were really into California chardonnay, I could see loving this stuff.  It’s quirky.  It’s off the beaten path.  It’s intense.  It makes a very serious statement.

I just don’t think that the average wine drinker will want to listen.  This one is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Dominican Oaks chardonnay review

2 11 2010

Continuing our marathon California chardonnay week, we look at a $13 contender from 2009 that is unoaked and seems to be available only at Total Wine.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

It’s here!  A recommended California chardonnay below $20.  (We also recommended the $20 buttery and intense William Hill chardonnay.) 

The Dominican Oaks Unoaked chardonnay wins BOTH “most contradictory name” and “best chardonnay under $20” in our reviews so far.  It smells like honeysuckles (if you aren’t familiar with this plant, it is a divine aroma). Not terribly complex, but very clean.  It’s balanced:  you get some minerally tartness, and some light sweetness.  Flavors concentrate on lemon-lime and peach.  It’s light, easy to drink, delicious, and its taste is refreshingly natural.

And note: winning “best chardonnay under $20” means that Dominican Oaks Unoaked is better than the $6 Jacob’s Creek, which sounds like faint praise except that the turbocharged value machine Jacob’s Creek has beaten every single chardonnay that we have reviewed from California, at any price, except William Hill.

This mystery wine with the ironic name, no website, no pictures of anything from 2009 and no reviews that I could find is hereby:

Dominican Oaks unoaked chardonnayRecommended.





Morgan “Metallico” chardonnay review

2 11 2010

In this extension of the dreaded California chardonnay week, we review Morgan Metallico 2008 chardonnay, at $18.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Hey!  Maybe I should figure out exactly WHY I hate all California chards!?  Maybe it’s the oak?  That’s why I bought this Morgan: the “Metallico” is named for the metal containers used instead of oak barrells in fermentation.  It’s from Monterey, which is yielding some delicious wines these days.

Great!  No oak!  But, I didn’t like it.  It tasted a little weird, on day 1 and day 2.  Tart citrus combines with sweet tropical flavors, which seems like a great balance.  But the tartness verges on sour.  And the sweetness verges on — well, just weird.  

I keep complaining that California chards are too oaky and too buttery.  Morgan says that it addressed both problems here.  No oak barrells.  And — surprisingly — no “malo-lactic fermentation,” which gives buttery taste by converting malic acid to lactic acid.  (This mutes the naturally tart malic acid in chardonnay grapes.)   But it still tasted a little buttery, somehow.

Maybe I’m just too hard to please.  Maybe I’m just a total jerk.  But whatever the reason, unfortunately, this oakless wonder is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Cakebread Cellars chardonnay review

24 10 2010

We continue our special California chardonnay week with this coveted $42 wine from Napa Valley’s 2007 vintage.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Am I crazy??  This $42 (sometimes $53) (but look here — just $32.98) chardonnay, thought to be one of the best in the U.S., isn’t good enough??  The wine that I actually saw two grown men fight over in an Atlanta liquor store that had only 1 bottle left (one of whom turned out to be my dentist!)??

First, Cakebread was better than this week’s previous (low-dollar) contenders.  We had high hopes, because this chard was one of the best in Napa Valley when I visited Cakebread‘s winery in 2004.  But it seems oakier and more buttery now.  Our first drink made us grimace uncontrollably.  It tasted like the fake, clogged-up stuff you get when you absentmindedly order “white wine” at some stupid work-related event.  The smell was VERY oaky and buttery.  Decanting didn’t help — still tasted like an improved version of Clos du Bois, which we dissed here

But on day 2, things improved a lot.  NOW this golden boy began to act right — a smell of honeysuckles and a taste of (acidic) lemon/lime, countered by (sweet) honeydew melon and cantaloupe.  And a hint of oak, which combined with the citrus to zap your tongue with a mildly spicy “zing!”   Wow — a natural-tasting, balanced, white wine. 

Then there’s the price.  I would highly recommend this wine at $23.  But at $42, or $53, or whatever, I expect a near-orgasmic experience.  So far, only pinot noirs at this price level have earned a recommendation from your Wineguider.  Unfortunately, at $42 this golden boy is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Clos du Bois 2009 chardonnay review

21 10 2010

LET’S GET READY TO RUMMM-BLLLLE!!!!  Today we continue our special California chardonnay week by reviewing the Clos du Bois 2009 chardonnay, which will cost you $12.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Et tu, Clos du Bois?  This is the THIRD DAMN California chardonnay I’ve auditioned this week, and I can’t find one that I would buy again.  What’s up, ladies and gentlemen?  I guess I am just too cheap and too optimistic, as I have now tried chards priced at $11, $8, and $12. 

What I got here was an aroma of “standard California chardonnay,” and a taste of — this was a shocker — “standard California chardonnay.”  Admittedly, it tastes cleaner than Bogle or Kendall-Jackson.  In fact Clos du Bois is not horrible, and does not slap you with grimace-producing chemical flavors, but the problem is, there’s just no reason to keep drinking it.  Pale yellow in color, it had notes of oak, butter, grilled pears, broasted pineapple . . . oh who cares?  Life is meaningless!

(Sorry about that.)  And check this out: after 3 days in the fridge, this chardonnay transformed into some kind of flavored water.  Monday night, when first opened:  blah chardonnay.   Thursday afternoon:  yellow sports drink.  I’m having some right now.   Nothing.   It’s vaguely buttery, and has a light spice.  Whatever. 

Looks like we’re going to have to up our game for the next California wine that we audition, ladies and gentlemen.  CHOO CHOOOOOOOOOOO!!  Here come the PAIN TRAIN, YO.  As I commence a 2nd mortgage application on my house to purchase our next contender, today’s ordinary $12 California chardonnay is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Bogle 2009 chardonnay review

19 10 2010

The second contender in California chardonnay week is the 2009 Bogle Vineyards at $8.  That’s $3 less than the almighty Kendall-Jackson (which we rejected for tasting like a bunch of chemicals and for its unrelenting mediumness).

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

“WHOA.”  That was my first reaction.  This stuff is truly intense.  It smelled like sweet mangos, butterscotch, and lemon — far more interesting than the Kendall-Jackson factory.   The taste?  Oaky and buttery . . . lemon and green apple acidity . . . butterscotch, melon, cream, some real sweetness . . . and, like Kendall-Jackson, the feeling that I was ingesting random chemicals.  At least it’s a little spicy.  That was my favorite part about this bargain white wine.

Bogle is a cool winery.  It’s family-owned.  They keep the price of this wine really low (which is a mystery, because it’s at least as good as Kendall-Jackson).  And I hear great things about their bargain cabernet and “ThePhantom” red blend. 

But I can’t recommend this chard.  Which isn’t surprising because, as I’ve said, I generally don’t like California chardonnays.  I wouldn’t go as far as this guy, who called the 2004 Bogle chard “undrinkable,” but I can’t agree with this other guy who said it was his favorite chard under $10.  Wow.   As for me, it really smells wonderful, but this intense California chardonnay is, unfortunately, not recommended.

Next!





Kendall-Jackson chardonnay review

18 10 2010

Guess what!!?  In this review, we kick off a feature:  California chardonnay week!

Why?   Because I couldn’t find a hammer to smash myself in the face with?  No, I’m doing this because (1) California chardonnays are incredibly popular, and (2) I dislike them so much, that if I can recommend even one with a straight face, it’s likely to be really damn good.

Our first is the big dog, the mac-daddy: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve from 2008, which sells for $11.  It’s a big label in the wine world, and therefore a little controversial.  See various opinions:

  • here (“it tastes like fruit juice mixed with oak essence and some vodka” … “I will not finish the bottle”)
  • here (“rarely taken seriously”)
  • here (“yellow colored” … “this chard is extremely popular for a reason”)
  • here (“my favorite chardonnay under $12”) and
  • here (“one of my favorite white wines”).

How does it taste?   Not so great.  But not terrible.  The first word I wrote when tasting this medium-bodied yellow fluid:  “chemicals.”  It’s oaky, and buttery, but not excessively so.  It has strong sweetness with vanilla, pear and melon, and medium acidity with citrusy something-or-other.  The overall message is:  extremely medium.  If I needed a good California chardonnay, I’d definitely spend the extra bucks and get William Hill, which I reviewed right here.

Why is KJ one of the best selling wines in the universe?  I don’t know.  Perhaps Oprah recommended it?  Or perhaps your Wineguider is screwed up, and this is really great wine?  We’ll let the comments sort this out.  So, our first entry in this week’s California chardonnay face-smashing celebration is too medium and too chemical-ish and thus is:

Not recommended.





Jacob’s Creek 2009 chardonnay review – WHAT THE?

12 10 2010

Today we look at a chardonnay from Australia that will cost you only 6 bucks.

I can’t restrain myself, ladies and gentlemen, this white wine from south-eastern Australia is AWE-SOME.  At a price that is almost laughable, you get a smooth white wine with some real character.  A crisp, tart, tangy, enjoyable wine with some true chardonnay taste and aromas, combined with a little extra citrus and minerality, yet almost no oak and almost no butter.   Almost nothing like a typical California chardonnay, it actually acts more like a sauvignon blanc in some ways.  I literally can’t stop drinking it.

Now I admit, Jacob’s Creek 2009 chardonnay is strange in one way:  one bottle that I bought had a screw top.  Another one had a cork.  Same wine.  Same year.  Same STORE.  What the hell!?  I don’t know, but I can tell you this:  the bottle with the cork tasted better.  It was smoother.  And it lacked the slightly over-tart, slightly kerosene-tinged character of the screw top.  But most importantly: both bottles were incredible for a $6 wine.

This aussie is an obvious, flat-out “Best Value” winner, and is:

Jacob's Creek chardonnay review

Highly recommended.





William Hill 2008 chardonnay review

6 10 2010

Today we review a California chardonnay from Napa Valley that costs about $20 a bottle.

Bottom line: Recommended for those who like buttery, oaky chardonnay.  Did I mention buttery?

OK I have a confession:  I have something against most California chardonnays.  That being, I hardly ever like them.  The ones that are remotely affordable are usually way too oaky and they feel sort of clogged, flavor-wise.  Clogged with what?  I don’t know — strange, artificial-tasting flavors.  

Now, for a ray of hope.  Today’s chardonnay is a bit different: it’s extremely buttery, and yes it’s pretty darn oaky, but it’s not overwhelmed with those weird, fake flavors I was mentioning.  So despite my bigoted prejudice, I think William Hill chardonnay from Napa Valley is actually pretty darn good.  And I’m really glad that the winery sent me this sample to check out.  

The downside?  It’s not crisp or refreshing, because there is so much deep, intense flavor.  And yet, it doesn’t do anything really wrong.  For $20, that’s special.

As for the Wine Review Tasting Notes — you know, “braised honeydew melon with hints of duck taco” — they aren’t that important here, because William Hill tastes similar to every other decent California chardonnay, with its flavors presented in a way that feels more natural, and less weird to your Wineguider.  But two other things stand out:  it’s a little bit minerally, and it’s a bit spicy.  Yum.  More William Hill, please?

You can now store your ice cubes safely in hell, because your Wineguider has decided that this $20 California chardonnay is:

William Hill chardonnay review

Recommended.





Georges DuBoeuf chardonnay review

25 06 2010

Today we review a white wine from France that sells for just $5 a bottle at the fabulous Premier Wine in Wilmington, Delaware.

This chardonnay is part of a line of very inexpensive french wines under the Georges Duboeuf label.  I think the chardonnay is the best of the line.  In fact, possibly the best restaurant in Delaware (Harry’s Seafood Grill, on the riverfront) uses this, re-labled, as their house chardonnay.  When I had it at Harry’s, I thought it was a solid winner.  When I tried it at home while staring at the dishes in my kitchen sink, some doubts begain to creep in.

It’s fruity, and does smell wonderful.  The taste has some real character and gives a balance of sweet and tart flavors.  If you’re not too picky and you love white wine, this might be the key to slashing your wine budget and putting a big, fat smile on your face.  But to me, it had a confused feel to it, an alcohol-heavy, sharp overtone that prevented it from being truly yummy, and so I’ve decided that this great value is unfortunately:

Not recommended.

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