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June 10, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

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Ryan Patrck Naked Chard Picmonkey

2012 Naked Chardonnay

 

Ryan Patrick Vineyards

Columbia Valley, Washington

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $12

“Our Picks of the Week can be chosen from wines we encountered at trade tastings, wines we purchased at retail or product samples sent to us by wineries. As with our Beer Picks of the Week, this is an editorial feature, not advertising. When we began this style of wine review some years ago, we planned to select the single best product from the many sampled in the previous week. That’s still the standard we use most of the time, but once in a while we choose a wine because there’s more to the story. Such is the case this week.

“Looking for an affordable white wine to pour with a chicken dinner, we scanned the options on the supermarket shelf. Today’s ‘Pick’ was one of many having a paper sale tag below it. We were unfamiliar with the brand, but $7.49 fit the budget and we guessed that the ‘Naked’ definition indicated an unoaked style, hoping that a fresh, simple taste would be our reward. Inexpensive Chardonnay is ubiquitous. Generally, these are wines of no particular distinction and are sweeter than we’d prefer. Perhaps this Naked Chardonnay would be a drier and purer expression of the fruit.

“We were disappointed. It did seem relatively dry and it was recognizable as Chardonnay, but the overall experience was less than satisfying. The back label indicated there’d be flavors of pear and apple. Yes, those qualities were identifiable, but why didn’t they taste better?

“Returning to the front label, it became apparent that we’d purchased a 2012 vintage. Wasn’t that a bit old for a white wine, especially for a simple, unoaked style of Chardonnay? Yes, it was. Some Chardonnays can be appealing at this age and even several years older, but they’re the exception, not the rule. The 2012 Ryan Patrick Naked Chardonnay didn’t show any obvious oxidation, but those fruit characteristics reminiscent of apples and pears had none of the freshness—the brightness—that might have been there a couple of years earlier. The finish was a bit odd, too, showing a slight bitterness. The wine was drinkable, but just barely.

“At the Ryan Patrick website we found that the 2014 vintage is their current release. The winery describes its flavor as ‘A refreshing yet savory entry with a fresh fruit driven midpalate and an elegant pleasing finish.’ Comments at the site from their winemaker read, ‘We are creating an approachable, savory, yet refreshing style of Chardonnay sourcing fruit from warmer sites in the Columbia Valley to lend a rich, ripe profile to the wine. Malolactic fermentation, along with sur lie aging, allows for savory characters to develop, while tank fermentation maintains fresh acidity.’ We haven’t tasted the 2014 vintage, but suspect that the winery’s intention is accurately reflected in these comments and that they’ve largely succeeded in achieving it.

“But a wine made in this style isn’t going to be any better for a couple more years of age--quite the contrary, in fact. Why, then was the store selling the 2012? It’s possible the winery had excess inventory of this fast-fading product and dumped it at a good price, allowing the market to offer it at discount. It seems unlikely that wine moves so slowly at this location that they hadn’t needed to reorder for a couple of years. Could one example of 2012 have stayed on the shelf for a long time and have been the one such aging bottle amongst all the younger vintages? It’s possible.

“We impute no nefarious motives to the grocery chain or to the winery, but it seems unfortunate for both entities that—at least in this once instance—a customer purchased a product of inferior quality.”

Food Affinity: “Frankly, the chicken dinner wasn’t our best effort, either (a bit dry and overcooked).”