Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tasting Report: California Chardonnays

This week, we’re focusing on some California Chardonnays. This report includes some newly-released 2012s, which seem to deserve a lot of the credit they’ve been given. The 2011s, though less heralded, still deliver with crisp acid and fresh fruit flavors. All wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

2012 Magnolia Court Chardonnay - California, Central Coast
SRP: $12
A light yellow-straw color. Lime, apricot and white pepper on the nose. Nice bite on the palate, some creaminess, with lime, grapefruit and papaya flavors. Whipped honey and almond mixes with a nice herbal kick. A simple but tasty wine. (85 points)

2010 Dierberg Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $32
I get some hazelnut and lemon oil notes on the nose, covering the yellow apple and lime. On the palate, this wine has a medium-bodied frame and crisp, persistent acid. The yellow apple and apricot flavors show richness, with notes of whipped honey, walnut and a kind or oily, varnished wood note. Long finish. I’m enjoying the combination of freshness and richness in this Chardonnay. Undergoes 10% maloactic fermentation and spends 10 months in 25% new oak. (90 points)

2012 Alta Maria Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $23
A straw-yellow color. On the nose: tangerine, white cherry, lemon-lime, honeysuckle. On the palate: tangy but creamy, lots of floral notes blend with the tangerine and papaya, some honeycomb and almond elements, minerals and sea salt. Shows a lot of elegance. This Los Olivos-based producer is one to watch. (90 points)

2012 Fess Parker Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
A nose of white peach, golden apples, some sea salt and a bit of honey butter. On the palate, the acid sings, but there’s a fullness and richness to the mouthfeel. Flavors of white peach, yellow apple and apricot intertwine with notes of honey and buttered rum. Toasty, but not overwhelmingly so, and the finish is crisp and full nuts and orange peel. (88 points)

2012 True Myth Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $15
Neon yellow-gold color. Smells like honey, white peach, pineapple and hazelnut. Oily texture, medium acid, with white peach and mango mixed in with coconut, honey and a bit of a saline note. Tasty stuff for the price. (86 points)

This sub-$20 delivers a lot of deliciousness for the price.
2012 Mossback Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $18
On the nose: grapefruit, apricot, orange blossom, honey, some mineral elements. Palate shows medium acid, plump white peach, apricot and yellow apple, some honeycomb. Fruity but showing some nice tartness, as well as some mineral and honeysuckle on the finish. For $18, this is quite an effort from Crew Wines. (88 points)

2012 Hanna Chardonnay Estate Grown - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $29
Some honey, guava, caramel and some orange peel on the nose. Creamy palate, medium acid. Flavors of orange sherbet, honey, peachy, orange marmalade. A tiny bit of mineral, but mostly this is a fruit cocktail, and an enjoyable one. (87 points)

2011 Stony Hill Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
Bright citrus (lemon, nectarine, grapefruit) on the nose, along with some limestone and herbal notes. On the palate, the acid provides a lot of bite and the fruit is so tangy and crisp, nectarine and grapefruit, along with a flavor that reminds me of a tart McIntosh apple. Then there are these honeysuckle, basil and intense mineral aspects. A bright wine that offers a compelling counterargument to idea that Napa Chardonnays are overblown. Old oak barrels, no maloactic fermentation. (90 points)
Smith-Madrone makes damn good Chardonnay. 2011 was no exception.
2011 Smith Madrone Chardonnay Estate Bottled - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $30
Gold-yellow color with viscous legs. Aromas of whipped honey, pear, apricot and nougat, mixed in with a hint of limestone or chalk. On the palate, the yellow apple and pear fruit is coated in nougat, peanut shell and a distinct macadamia nut flavor. There’s a nice kick to the acid, though, offering some balance. I like this lemon zest and chalk note as well. Bold, but not heavily creamy. Interesting because it’s toasty, but still tangy, and offering some mineral and rock accents. Long finish with notes of honeycomb and toffee. Barrel-fermented and aged 8 months in 100% new French oak. (91 points)

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