Download &
print (pdf)

Sips of California Chardonnay & A Few Other Whites


Chardonnay continues to be the most favored varietal in this country. I play tennis at a club several times a week, and the wine of choice after a few sets is Chardonnay for the men and women. Part of this popularity is that Chardonnay can be good slightly chilled and the acidity is refreshing after a workout. Most of the wines below are not quaffers and deserve more contemplation than that offered by Chardonnay consumed as a post-tennis respite.


2010 Alysian Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.73, 607 cases, $36. · Light straw color and clear in the glass. Very shy aromas of lemon curd with the slightest hint of oak. Flavors of lemon and grapefruit with complimentary oak in the background. Lacks depth and complexity but straightforward and easy to drink. Good.

2010 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard Clone 95 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc.,pH 3.35, TA 0.7, 239 cases, $40. · Enticing aromas of lemon pie, green apple and baking spice. Appealing richness and body with a full-flavored core of apple, citrus, caramel and vanilla flavors. Very smooth on the palate with slight dry tannins and a dry, uplifting finish. Very good.

2012 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard North Face Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

14.0% alc., pH 3.10, TA 0.735, 317 cases, $20. · Very pale gold color with a slight green tinge. Typical grassy nose with hints of tropical fruit including papaya and banana. Less grassy on the palate with a slightly creamy mouthfeel, good acidity and a dry finish. Light on its feet, and slipping off the back end gracefully, the wine offers flavors of hay, dried herbs and tropical fruits. Sauvignon Blanc is not my favored cup of tea but this is a stellar example of a food-friendly type. Good (+)

2012 Castello di Amorosa Mendocino County Pinot Grigio

14.5% alc., pH 3.31, TA 0.59, 3,094 cases, $21. Crafted in the Italian style. Stainless steel tank aged. · Faint yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of tropical fruits including papaya and passion fruit, green apple and lemon. Has some substance with satisfying flavors of apple, tropical fruits, and cut grass. The mouthfeel is slightly creamy and the bright acidity lifts the finish. A pleasurable wine perfect for summer picnics and tailgate parties. Good (+).

2012 CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.1% alc., $18, screwcap. 80% fermented in tank, 20% in neutral French oak barrels. Native and selected yeasts. 100% MLF. · Pale straw yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of buttered brioche, lemon curd, and honey. Slightly creamy and buttery, featuring flavors of lemon, white peach, honey and baked apple. Full-flavored and showy with a little heat peaking out on the finish. Good.

2010 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.74, 372 cases, $38. From a 40-acre vineyard a short distance from the winery farmed by Ron and Pam Kaiser. Clone 4 planted in 1989. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented, aged 7 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Light golden straw color in the glass. Demure aromas of citrus peel, tropical fruits and vanilla with a subtle steely tone. Juicy with delicate flavors of lemon, lime, white peach, brown butter and a hint of smoky oak. Rather reserved, but pleasant. Good.

2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.66, 298 cases, $45. Sourced from Rochioli and Allen vineyards. 100% barrel fermented for 7 months in 40% new Francois Frères oak barrels. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of buttery brioche, lemon, pear and smoky oak. Restrained and reserved, offering flavors of citrus, honeyed caramel and the slightest oak, and a slightly creamy texture. A solid, slightly austere wine that was more striking when reviewed three months ago. Good.

2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.65, 288 cases, $45. Released November 2012. Gently whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented for 7 months in 40% new Francois Frères oak barrels. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Clean citrus and apple aromas accented with faint buttery oak and petrichor. Flavors of grilled peach, lemon and nougat, with an intensity that persists long after the wine is swallowed. Soft in the mouth and relatively reserved, but very polished and high-collared, and appropriately fueled by steely acidity. The finishing presence is what makes this a wine apart. Very good.

2011 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.35, 506 cases, $55. · Golden straw color and clear in the glass. Very appealing aromas of crème brûlée, white peach, lemon drop and brioche. Very clean and polished, with flavors of white stone fruits, apple and citrus, sporting a pleasing touch of oak, and showing some aromatic intensity on the somewhat lengthy finish. Very good.

2011 J. Lohr October Night Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay

14.9% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.66, 1,693 cases, $25. 60% Dijon 809 (Musqué clone) blended with clone 76. 100% barrel fermented in 45% new Francois Frères French oak barrels using native yeast and aged sur lie for 12 months. · Pale golden yellow color and clear in the glass. A sophisticated offering with aromas of lemon drop, grilled peach, honeysuckle and chalk-laden soil. Plenty of fruit flavor including lemon, persimmon and white peach. The most striking feature of this wine is its oakdriven baking spice aroma and flavor. Soft, light, graceful and easy to like, the alcohol presents no notice. A terrific value considering the care and expense taken in its vinification. Very good.

2011 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.5% alc.,pH 3.31, TA 0.70, 2,150 cases, $55. 100% MLF. Aged 13 months in 40% new and 60% two to three-year-old French oak puncheons and barrels. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. A very embraceable wine with hi-spirited aromas of spiced apple, lemon, creme brulee and vanilla cream, and sparkling flavors of lemon curd, green apple and a hint of pear. Oak is understated but supportive. Very juicy with lively acidity and a chalky, mineral blessed finish.

2011 Lucia Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.2% alc., $39. From the Pisoni family who are better known for Pinot Noir but their Chardonnays are first rate. Year in and year out, one of my favorite California Chardonnays (and well-priced too). · Light straw color and clear in the glass. A perfect blend of fruit and oak-driven aromas and flavors featuring citrus, pear, crème brûlée, honey and caramel. Nothing stands out and the wine is in perfect focus, indicating impeccable winemaking. No quarter given to the French.

2011 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.2% alc., $45. Released March 2013. The core is from Gap’s Crown Vineyard with added grapes grown by the Martinellis, the Duttons, and Charlie Chenoweth. Essentially, this is a blend of vineyard-designate quality sites including Zio Tony, Parmalee Hill, Sun Chase, Durell Vineyard and Dutton Ranch.Yields were down by almost 30% in 2011. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous yeast fermentation, aged sur lie with weekly stirring aged in 40% new French oak barrels. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Inviting aromas of lemon cream, honey, malted milk and Asian pear. Good richness of flavor featuring honey, baked apple, lemon and burnt caramel notes with some oak showing up on the finish. Soft in the mouth and friendly, this is a solid appellation wine. Good (+).

2011 Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay

$42. Released March 2013. Produced from some of the oldest plantings of Chardonnay in western Sonoma County, predominantly a blend of California heritage clones and selections including Robert Young, Rued, Hyde-Wente, UCD 4, and Spring Mountain. Mostly dry-farmed. Whole cluster pressed, 100% indigenous yeast, aged sur lie with weekly stirring, 100% MLF in barrel and aged in 35% new French oak barrel. · Medium golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of buttered brioche, citrus, honeycomb and a hint of oak. Tasty and harmonious, with flavors of baked apple, honey and tropical fruits, finish with character and admirable intensity. A thoroughly pleasing Chardonnay that is beautifully composed. Very good.

2011 Patz & Hall Hudson Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay

13.7% alc., 279 cases, $55. Released March 2013. Sourced from the 4-acre prized block that Hudson makes his own Chardonnay from. Planted in 1980, this block featurs Hudson-Wente selection isolated by Lee Hudson. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous yeast fermentation, sur lie aged with weekly stirring, aged in 55% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Light golden straw color and very slight haze (unfiltered) in the glass. A serious wine offering aromas of lemon, caramel, buttered popcorn and chalk dust. Elicits a Wow! on the palate with luscious flavors of lemon, baked pear, peach honey, toffee, and pastry creme. Ideal integration of oak, notable acidity and impeccable balance. One of California’s greatest and most sophisticated Chardonnays.

2011 Roth Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.7% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.78, $28. A blend of Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley fruit. Aged sur lie 11 months in 100% French oak barrels. · Very light yellow and clear in the glass. Inviting array of tropical aromas including pineapple with hints of white peach and oak vanillin. Very enjoyable flavors of baked apple, grilled pineapple, lemon, lychee and slight burnt caramel finishing smoothly on a lemon drop note. Beautifully composed, throughly dry and refreshing.

Previous article:
Sips of Oregon Pinot Noir
Next article:
Pinot Briefs
Wineries in this Article
Share