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Saturday, 14 May 2016 14:20

May 13, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Waterbrook Chard Albertsons

2014 Chardonnay



Columbia Valley

Alcohol: 13.7%

Suggested Retail: $12

Friday, 04 December 2015 16:03

December 4, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

ck mondavi chard Picmonkey

2014 Chardonnay


CK Mondavi


Alcohol: 13.4%

Suggested Retail: $6.99


“Chardonnay is America’s most popular white wine variety. There’s plenty of it out there and most options at this end of the price continuum are sweeter and less desirable than the 2014 CK Mondavi Chardonnay.

“In this wine we found aromatic aspects reminiscent of cantaloupe, pear and pineapple. The nose is also somewhat floral, likely from the 4% Moscato grape component. Wine can evoke many different taste memories. As he tasted the CK Mondavi Chardonnay, this reviewer recalled lemon curd in England and pineapple pies made by his mother and grandmother in California.

Friday, 04 September 2015 10:20

September 4, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay Picmonkey

2014 Chardonnay


Rombauer Vineyards


Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $36


”Rombauer Vineyards does a good job with other wine varieties, but they are known for their Chardonnay. The winery itself is situated on the Silverado Trail near St. Helena in the Napa Valley, but it sources the grapes for this week’s Pick from an area south of there. Koerner Rombauer, patriarch of the family winery operation, has been using Carneros Chardonnay grapes for a long time. The Carneros growing region is a swath that includes southern parts of both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Being closer to the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, the area is the beneficiary of a cooling marine influence. This is a good thing when you’re growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—grapes that trace their heritage to the cooler Burgundian vineyards of northern France.

“Chardonnay can be made in many styles. In general, quality French Chardonnay (in the form of white Burgundy) is a leaner, crisper product than its California analogues. This doesn’t make it better (or worse), just different. Rombauer Chardonnays are known for being in the rich and full-blown ‘California’ style. Their 2014 Carneros Chardonnay is a straw or golden color and displays aromas of citrus and melon. These precede flavors of peach and pear set against a background of vanilla from the oak aging. The Rombauer winemaking style include malolactic fermentation, which leads to a softer, rounder feel in the mouth, and a technique which the French call battonage, which involves stirring the lees (dead yeast cells) at the bottom of the barrels. This lees stirring adds a rich and complex quality to the wine. Overall, the 2014 Rombauer Carneros provides everything a fan of big California Chardonnay could want. There’s richness, but also subtlety if you look for it. We found notes of spice, maybe a hint of apricot and even a little butterscotch.”

Food Affinity: “We suggest pairing bold with bold. Broiled lobster with drawn butter, seared big scallops, and many treatments of Dungeness crab would we work well. Veal or chicken served with morels would be another direction we’d like to investigate.”

Friday, 03 July 2015 12:05

July 3, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

butternut chardonnay Picmonkey

2012 Chardonnay




Alcohol: 13.9%

Suggested Retail: $14


“Butternut Chardonnay is from the BNA Wine Group in St. Helena, which also markets a Butternut Pinot Noir and several other wines under their umbrella. These include a Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc labeled “The Rule,” as well as a Nanna’s Short Cake Zinfandel and others.

“The label of the 2012 Butternut Chardonnay indicates the wine has a California origin. That usually is tipoff that the grapes were sourced from the state’s Central Valley. That’s not necessarily bad, as this area can grow decent Chardonnay grapes at a price that allows wineries to produce affordable wine. In general, however, cooler areas nearer to the sea grow higher quality—and higher priced—Chardonnay.

“When producers source their fruit from these smaller and more prestigious growing areas, they usually list the locations on their labels, instead of the more generic state-wide identity. Though reading ‘California’ on its front label, the Butternut Chardonnay includes grapes grown in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Monterey counties, which no doubt enhance its flavor. Winemaker Tony Leonardini says he enjoys the freedom to find grapes from various appellations that allow him to make the best possible wines at reasonable price. The 2012 Butternut he has crafted is an appealing wine. It’s in the rich and oaked California style often found in pricier Chardonnays.

“We found aromas of Pippin apple and white peach and a toastiness reminiscent of hazelnuts. This was followed by a mouthful of creaminess. The overall impression reminds the reviewer of honey and butterscotch candy (that’s a positive, in his view, and the wine does finish drier than this description might imply). Though the BNA brands have only existed for a couple of years, they’re already distributed in all 50 states. Butternut is attracting a national following and for good reason.”

Food Affinity:   “A juicy pork shoulder, roasted so that the skin gets crispy. Grilled halibut or swordfish steaks finished with an apricot and lime zest glaze. You might even want to have a little left in your glass to sip with dessert—if it’s a crème brûlée.”

Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:35

March 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Grgich Napa V Chard Picmonkey

2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay


Grgich Hills Estate

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $42


“Croatian immigrant Miljenko “Mike” Grgich secured his reputation for all time when a Chardonnay he made as winemaker at Napa’s Chateau Montelena bested several top-quality French white Burgundies. That event is now known as the Judgement of Paris, which is also the name of a book by George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who attended the 1976 tasting. Soon after this triumph Mike opened his own winery in a partnership with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. Though Grgich Hills Estate makes several other varieties including a wonderful Zinfandel, it’s probably best known for its Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with that.

“To oversimplify, French Chardonnay grown in Burgundy tends to have a leaner, less-buttery character than California examples of this variety. It’s subtler and may be an acquired taste for many Americans. Grgich Chardonnays from the Napa Valley tend to show the sophistication of these white Burgundies, but with a California richness that seems to us to be the best of both worlds.

“Though Mike Grgich hasn’t officially retired, his nephew Ivo Jeramaz carries the title Vice President of Vineyards and Winemaking and is pretty much responsible for the wine these days. Ivo is a proponent of natural grapegrowing and all of the winery’s vineyards are now certified as organic. Most California Chardonnay wines undergo a process called malolactic fermentation, which softens the taste and may make them more attractive in the near-term. Because Grgich Chardonnay doesn’t follow this winemaking process, it retains a natural acidity which tends to make the wine a better match for food and may improve its ability to age. Complexity is enhanced by a technique known as sur lie aging in which the juice is periodically stirred or otherwise agitated with the lees (spent yeast cells). While the process may not sound appealing, it yields wines with greater richness and complexity.

“The 2012 Grgich Hills Chardonnay shows some aromas of apple and hazelnuts, followed by layered flavors of apple and melon. Lovely long finish for this elegant Chardonnay.”

Food Affinity: “It wouldn’t be bad with just simple barbecued chicken, but it is special enough to justify spending on more upscale pairing. How about scallops or almost any preparation of lobster?”

Sunday, 22 March 2015 20:47

March 20, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

JLohr 2013 Riverstone Chard

2013 Rivestone Chardonnay



Arroyo Seco/Monterey Co.

Alcohol: 13.88%

Suggested Retail: $14


“Sourced from grapes grown in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, renown for its Chardonnay. Aromas and tastes of tropical fruits (pineapple, mangos, papaya), pears and peaches. Soma vanilla and buttered toast aspects. Substantial feeling in the mouth and a long finish. Creamy and substantial, this is a good example of the lusher style of California Chardonnay at a bargain price.”

Food Affinity:  “Veal medallions in a sage cream sauce. Sliced Portabella mushrooms sautéed in butter and parsley."

Mike Grgich mustard in vnydA master with Chardonnay

TASTE News Service January 17, 2015 - In 1980 “The Great Chicago Showdown” brought together 221 of the best Chardonnays from around the world. Chardonnays from France, California, New York and even Bulgaria were collected for a historic first, the largest blind tasting of that time of one single varietal. The first vintage that Miljenko “Mike” Grgich crafted at Grgich Hills, his 1977 Chardonnay, emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon and the Chicago Tribune called it “The best Chardonnay in the world.” With this win so close on the heels of the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Mike made took first place over some of the best French white Burgundies and American Chardonnays, he soon became affectionately known as the “King of Chardonnay.”

In 2015, Grgich Hills Estate will celebrate the 35th anniversary of this historic tasting and its legacy in Chardonnay with vintner dinners across the country, a photo contest, a new mobile application launch and much more, all culminating into two festive gala dinners. The first will be in Chicago on May 7, 2015 and the second in the Napa Valley at the winery on May 16, 2015. Mike Grgich believes this is a significant event not just for Chicago and Grgich Hills but for all of America since it proves that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Grgich Hills launched “The Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown” celebration on January 15, 2015. “This is a great opportunity for our winery not only to celebrate my father’s many accomplishments but also Chardonnay, a varietal that is enjoyed and loved by so many people,” said Violet Grgich. As Mike explains, “There is no scientific formula for making great wines. You make wines with your heart.You pour your love into them and nurture them like children, and transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”

Editor's note: For more information on the winery's celebration of this event visit www.grgich.com. If you're planning a visit to this or any other of Napa's wineries, first visit the North Coast sections of the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to thousands of Lodging and Dining options.

Monday, 05 January 2015 17:55

January 2, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Erath Chard bottle Picmonkey

2013 Willakia Chardonnay



Eola-Amity Hills (Oregon)

Alcohol: 13%

Suggested Retail: $34


“With all the great Pinot Gris Oregon has been producing, Chardonnay sometimes seems the state's forgotten white wine. That's a shame, especially when there are such delights as this offering from the Willakia Vineyard in the Willamete Valley. For those used to the more florid California style, the Willakia Chardonnay might seem a bit restrained. We find plenty to like, though, and think subtlety and nuance are exhibited here. The winery says this very small production wine (238 cases) was given eight months of sur lie aging in 40% new oak. Nose shows some melon and lime with just a hint of that aroma of older Champagne. Flavor shows richness without losing bright fruit characteristics. Nicely balanced.”

Food Affinity: “We immediately thought of baked halibut that had been given a dusting of crushed hazelnuts. Mushrooms in a light cream sauce also sound good to us. Chanterelles maybe?”

Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:36

December 12, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Bonterra Chardonnay Picmonkey

2013 Chardonnay



Mendocino County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $16


“We liked this wine more a day after first opening it. As this organic Chard 'opened up' it showed a very floral aroma. Lots of orange blossom in the nose. Both the aroma and subsequent tastes revealed a rich, creamy personality. Some vanilla from from aging in relatively small percentage of new oak. Evokes memories of a frozen treat that was variously packaged as Creamsicles or Dreamsicles. These had a vanilla ice cream center enveloped by an icy orange coating, and were a staple of the reviewer's childhood.”

Food Affinity: “Create a dish using chicken breasts marinated in white wine and orange juice, then prepared with mushrooms, some cream and finished with a dusting of hazel nuts.”

Friday, 01 August 2014 12:59

August 1, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Ch St Jean Belle Terre Chard

2012 Chardonnay

Belle Terre Vineyard


Chateau St. Jean

Alexander Valley

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested Retail: $30


“One of three vineyard-designated Chardonnays from Chateau St Jean, the 2012 Belle Terre is rife with characteristics said to evoke 'stone fruits.' More specifically, we'd say both white and yellow peaches—throw in nectarines of the same two hues, too. Some spice in the aroma and maybe just a hint of hazelnuts. Plenty of vanilla from the oak, but there's a lemony citrus that offsets or complements that creamy vanilla aspect. A solid representative of the traditional California style with this variety.”

Food Affinity: “Salmon with a honey-mustard glaze, crab cakes with aioli, Fettuccine Alfredo.”

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