Chardonnay is one of the most widely-recognized and widely-planted grapes in the world. Thousands of mediocre and downright crummy Chardonnays are produced all over the globe. But, when sourced from the right place and made by the right people, it’s also one of the world’s greatest wines.
I’m a lover of white Burgundy, Chardonnay-based Champagne, Jura Chard, not to mention my love for Chards from Oregon, California, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Argentina, etc., etc. But lately I’ve been tasting a bunch of Chardonnays grown closer to home (for me): America’s Mid-Atlantic region.
Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and my home state of New Jersey are all home to Chardonnay made in diverse styles. My personal favorites come from Virginia producers Linden, Ankida Ridge, Blenheim, and others, but the delicious options from these states are many. From steely, brisk iterations to richer, buttery wines, Mid-Atlantic Chardonnay is a thing — a thing worth checking out.
I recently tasted through six Chardonnays that exemplify what this grape can do in the Mid-Atlantic. Part of an online tasting and chat organized by Virginia wine guru Frank Morgan of #VaWineChat, the wines showed stylistic differences and deliciousness.
Below are my notes on some solid Mid-Atlantic Chardonnays…
2016 Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay Red Lion - Pennsylvania, Chester County
Pale lemon color. Aromas show zesty limes, green apple, apricot, with notes of nettle, baby’s breath and honeysuckle. Crisp acidity on the palate with lovely freshness and crispness, but some textural depth, too. Crisp green apples, honeydew and lime, topped in honey, flowers and chalky notes. It has a crisp, stainless steel charm but shows plenty of depth and flavor as well. A vibrant, lip-smacking style – very good stuff! Low alcohol (11.4%), all stainless steel. (87 points)
2016 Big Cork Vineyards Chardonnay - Maryland
Light yellow color. Nose shows apricot, bruised apple, along with nougat and honeyed white tea. Medium-bodied, slightly creamy texture, fresh acidity. Green apple, bruised pear, lemon crème, honeysuckle, and I get some nougat and almond. Vibrant and lively, thin and a bit short, but quite nice. This wine spends six months in stainless steel and five months in new and used French and American oak. (85 points)
2015 Tarara Winery Chardonnay - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
Light gold color. Warm, inviting aromas of hazelnut, almond, cinnamon, honey and yellow apples and flowers. Medium-bodied, medium acidity, creamy texture yet crisp. Flavors of baked apple, apricot, tangerine, lovely depth of texture but stays crisp, and the wine is accented by mineral, seashell and yellow flowers. Wow, this is really impressive stuff. All maloactic fermentation, aged 10 months in 1/3 new French oak. (88 points)
2016 Old Westminster Winery Chardonnay Home Vineyard - Maryland, Central Piedmont, Linganore
Pale yellow color. Aromas of zesty apples, apricot, lemon crème, some almond and honeysuckle. On the palate, the texture is creamy but the acidity is so pristine and focused. Green apple, apricot, lemon meringue, I get some steely, stony and saline qualities that are really attractive, and some white tea and honey as well. Beautiful stuff! (89 points)
2016 Old Westminster Winery Chardonnay Premier Home Vineyard - Maryland, Central Piedmont, Linganore
Light yellow color. Steely and fresh aromas, with apricot, lemon crème, chalk dust, saline and raw almond. Creamy but zesty palate with lime and apricot and lemon crème. Depth of texture is impressive, and the notes of honey, almond and cinnamon blend so well with floral perfume, chalk dust and saline. Crisp but complex, a vibrant and delicious wine that should win over fans of all types of Chardonnay. Fermented in 50% new French oak, 25% neutral French oak and 25% stainless steel. (89 points)
2015 Bluestone Vineyard Chardonnay - Virginia, Shenandoah Valley
Rich yellow color. Rich and buttery aromas with toasted marshmallow, almond, hay, honey, but also floral notes with yellow pears and apples. On the palate, creamy, ploush texture with vibrant acidity, and lots of yellow apples and plums, apricots. Notes of hazelnut, cinnamon, honey butter, some floral and ocean spray elements. Rich but lively, the yum factor is high but it’s also crisp and complex. Half maloactic fermentation, about ¼ of the wine sees new French oak and there’s about 5% of new Acacia wood in here as well. (88 points)