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.

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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.





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.

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