It’s never easy owning up to something you are not particularly proud of, especially if it goes against every grain of humility in your soul; but I had to do it. I drank a glass of Chardonnay wine…and I actually liked it! It’s not like I was young and going through a college “experimental” phase of my life. It was this year and I knew exactly what I was doing. For those who don’t know my tastes, I’m a typical red wine drinker. In my 500 bottle cellar, there are a grand total of 8 white wines; Two were gifts that were too crappy to re-gift, two were made by my good friend and neighbor Lance, who is a commercial winemaker trapped in a home winemaker’s body, and four are somewhat decent wines I have for unexpected company. That’s it.
I guess I should explain how this happened. Let me preface by saying that I take full responsibility for my actions and I won’t cast blame on anyone but you need to know the catalyst for my actions. My mother was visiting to see my youngest daughter perform as an Oompa Loompa in her school play. If you have school aged children, you know that it is mandatory to tailgate for a school play. I opened a 2008 Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay for mom and I had my usual. The following day after work, I opened the refrigerator and there was the half empty bottle of Chardonnay just glaring at me; almost as if it was daring me to take a sip. Well nobody was around, so I did. It was crisp, a hint of citrus, actually it was very refreshing. Wait, did I just say this!!??
In my 15 years of serious wine drinking (before that it was only beer and scotch), I can’t even think of really anyone one I hang out with that even considers ordering white wine. Well, there are two exceptions: my cousin Marc in Chicago is one. Marc is retired at the ripe old age of 40 and he could care less about what anybody thinks. In fact, if you took away all the sports franchises in Chicago, Marc wouldn’t care about anything period! The other exception is my former boss Jim O’Brien, aka “The Silver Fox”. Along with being just a great guy to hang around, Silver has this certain statesman like aura about him. Always well dressed and well groomed, Jim was the perfect ambassador for the firm. In fact, Jim could probably be mistaken as the U.S Ambassador to Ireland. On more than one occasion, my business colleagues and I would give Silver Fox grief for ordering a Rombauer Chardonnay while we sat with our giant goblets filled with full bodied Napa Cab. He would merely tilt his glass, smile that smile that an elder always does when they know something you don’t, and sip away. Did the Silver Fox know something I had missed in my wine world? I mean I’m supposed to be well versed on this topic. Well I’ve spent the month researching North American White wines. I actually bought wines at different price points and below are my notes on each of them. Overall I was pleasantly surprised and the likeability factor was higher than I would have expected. But here is the bottom line; instead of only having 8 bottles of white wine in my cellar, I might up it to around 20.
· 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay- Full bodied with a touch of oak influence. I noticed citrus and peach aroma with a hint of vanilla. Alcohol level is moderate at 13.5%. Priced at $15.00 a bottle, this is consistently called one of the best values in the market. Wine Spectator gave this 90 out of a possible 100 points.
· 2008 Bernardus Chardonnay Monterey County- A Central Coast wine that was listed as a “smart buy” in this months Wine Spectator. Priced in the low $20’s there were over 22,000 cases produced so it’s easily accessible. This wine had the classic green apple flavors and just the right amount of toasted oak layered into other fruit flavors.
· 2007 Freestone Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Ovation- This was clearly the best of the three but also the most expensive at over $45. The Freestone has more of a French Burgundy style which shows off less oak yet still offers a delicate richness with the right amount of acidity. Might be a little tougher to find as it has received solid reviews and only 2400 cases were produced. Keep an eye on this biodynamic winery that was started by the Joseph Phelps family in an effort to produce quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
JPB, May 2010