Francis Ford Coppola Rosso & Bianco Chardonnay 2009

Francis Coppola Rosso Bianco ChardonnayPrice: $10
Winery: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Lately, I’ve been avoiding Chardonnays, mostly because I’ve been in the mood for lighter, fruitier white wines that aren’t strongly oaked. I’m glad I tried Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009, as it’s unoaked and its fruit flavors come through nicely. This chard has a prominent, aroma of tropical fruit & pineapple. These fruits appear on the palate, too. The finish is a little acidic and lingers nicely. It’s not as creamy as some Chardonnays, but the lack of oak gives it an uncommon character.

I usually try to provide a sampling of other opinions, but for this Chardonnay there hasn’t been much activity. Perhaps it’s too new?

Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009 is a nice summer wine, refreshing, affordable, and not too heavy. Try it on the patio with grilled shrimp and veggies.

Meridian Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Reserve 2002

Price: $15
Maker: Meridian Vineyards, Paso Robles, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.1%
Our Rating: 9.0 out of 10

I’ve had a bottle of Meridian Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Reserve 2002 stored for a few years, and finally popped its cork. Now, I wish I had found this nice white wine earlier. As the label promises, it does offer a powerful tropical fruit and floral aromas. On the palate, this Chardonnay is smoother and richer than most. It’s fruity and has a slightly syrupy feel, with a finish that it is spicy and not particurlarly acidic.

Meridian Santa Barbara County Reserve isn’t one of those light, refreshing Chardonnays – with its honey-like texture and 14.1% alcohol content, it leans toward the dessert wine end of the spectrum. This is definitely a wine that can hold its own with food, even spicy fare.

Meridian’s website extols its vineyard:

Spanning over 500 luscious acres in San Luis Obispo county, Meridian’s vineyards are located in California’s coastal mountain range. This ideal wine-growing region is distinguished by unique mountain ranges that run east to west, opening right onto the Pacific Ocean.

As a result, cooling fog and maritime breezes help offset hot temperatures for an unusually long growing season. These favorable climatic conditions result in extra time on the vine for the grapes, allowing them to ripen slowly and develop concentrated flavors. Bright, bold fruit flavors and lively crispness are the unique hallmarks of Meridian wines.

I don’t know if the climate is the secret the success of Meridian Santa Barbara County Chardonnay Reserve 2002, but that wine definitely worked for me.

Twitter Wine?

Has Twitter jumped the shark before it has earned a penny of revenue? It seems the social network has diversified into the wine biz, albeit for charitable purposes. The new venture, Fledgling Wine, is chronicled by Maya Baratz, SFoodie blogger, in Twitter is Launching Its Own ‘Fledgling’ Wine Label.

Dogpatch-based Crushpad — a place that allows amateur vinophiles to make and sell their own wine, brand and label included — has more than a little in common with Silicon Valley. The business philosophy behind both calls for investing in the product and customer experience, with revenue naturally following.

The new venture is introducing a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. They are also doing some crowdsourcing:

Not only can you buy the wine, you can pitch in a string of related events, ranging from what Dorrance said will be Crushpad’s biggest “virtual” barrel tasting to a possible label design contest.

Odd, but interesting. And, it’s all for a good cause. Buy some here.

Oak Leaf Chardonnay

Price: $3
Maker: Oak Leaf Vineyards, Ripon, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.3 out of 10

Oak Leaf Chardonnay is another ultra-inexpensive wine designed to take on Two Buck Chuck. Surprisingly, perhaps, it’s quite drinkable, even if undistinguished. The nose is mild, with sliced green apples and oak. On the palate, there’s more oak than fruit, with weak pear and apple notes. This Chardonnay is saved from failure by having a spicy finish with an acidic bite. The finish is pleasantly long.

This wine is sold through Wal-Mart. I’ve had comments from visitors who have see Oak Leaf wines as cheap as $2. For the price, Oak Leaf Chardonnay is an exceptional value. It may not be what you take to your boss’s house party, but if you need to throw a dozen bottles of white wine in a tub of ice at your family picnic, you could do a lot worse than Oak Leaf Chardonnay.

Corbett Canyon Chardonnay 2005

Corbett Canyon BoxPrice: $9
Maker: Corbett Canyon Vineyards
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 3 liter box, twist spigot
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Corbett Canyon Chardonnay 2005 was a favorite in Wine Blogging Wednesday #31. Despite its modest price – ounce for ounce, it’s cheaper than Two Buck Chuck from Charles Shaw except in California (where Two Buck Chuck really costs $2 a bottle) – Citizen Wine’s blind tasting event picked the Corbett Canyon Chardonnay as one of the best whites. We’re not big Chardonnay drinkers, but we finally decided to sample this wine. The nose wasn’t overwhelming, but had cut grass and tart apple notes. On the palate, this wine was crisp and refreshing, with Granny Smith apple and mild pear notes leading into a slightly acidic finish.

Corbett Canyon may not be the finest or most complex Chardonnay available, but for under $10 for a 3-liter cask it’s a steal. It’s fine for party use or for glass-a-day drinkers who can’t put much of a dent in a 750 ml bottle and hate to see wine spoil. I suppose the fact that a cheap Chardonnay can be fairly decent shouldn’t be much of a surprise after Charles Shaw Chardonnay took top honors at the California State Fair wine competition.

Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay Best in California

In a decision that will surely make Fred Franzia grin and every other California winemaker cringe, Charles Shaw Chardonnay was judged to the the best example of that varietal from California:

The Charles Shaw 2005 California chardonnay (yes, the $1.99 “Two Buck Chuck” made by Bronco Wine Company sold at Trader Joe’s) was judged Best Chardonnay from California at California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

The chardonnay received 98 points, a double gold, with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class.

“Since we judge all wines totally by variety without different brackets for price, this double-gold achievement by the Bronco winemakers is astounding,” said G.M. Pucilowski, chief judge and director of the competition. [From Napa Valley Register]

We liked the Charles Shaw Chardonnay when we tasted it, though we didn’t quite score it as our best Chardonnay ever. We did suggest that it could be passed off as a much more expensive wine, and apparently the California judges reached the same conclusion.

Killer Juice Chardonnay 2005

Price: $18
Maker: Killer Juice Vineyards, Ripon, California
Variety: Chardonnay
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

Killer Juice Chardonnay 2005 is, along with Angel Juice Pinot Grigio, one of the two boxed white wines marketed by Underdog Wine Merchants. The two names are surprisingly appropriate, as the two whites are practically polar opposites. While Angel Juice is a light, barely there wine, Killer Juice Chardonnay is big, rich, and creamy. The nose is spice and tropical fruit. The flavor is peach, pineapple, and mango, with some oak, spice, and light acidity in the finish. The finish lingers, but is clean and tangy. This chard is almost syrupy in texture.

Chardonnay isn’t our favorite varietal, but we liked Killer Juice Chardonnay 2005 a lot. This is one of the most pleasant Chardonnays we’ve tasted recently, whether in box or bottle. Unlike some California Chardonnays, the Killer Juice is neither overly dry nor overly oaky, and that makes it very appealing.

Wine Tasting Evening

Just had a chance to taste some interesting wines at a local tasting, and I thought I’d share some fragmentary notes:

Kunde Sauvignon Blanc 2005. Melon and peach notes, slightly acidic finish.
Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2005. Not your usual Chardonnay. Strong vanilla flavors, with a moderately astringent finish. Definitely not an over-oaked chard.
Bridlewood Viognier 2005. Another quite different selection. Tropical notes, not too dry, and clean on the palate.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 (Sonoma Coast). I found this to be an unusually pleasant Pinot Noir – it offered big, bold plum, berry, and cherry notes, and a smooth finish. I tend to complain that some Pinot Noirs are a bit thin (or subtle, if you prefer), but this one is neither thin nor subtle. Recommended.
Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot 2002. Strong berry nose with some woody/leather notes, big rounded flavor featuring a great balance of blackberry and cherry, oak, and spice leading into a long finish. This was a big, well balanced Merlot, and my favorite of the evening.
Bridlewood Syrah 2004 (Central Coast). A nice, well-balanced Syrah with blackberry, oak, and black pepper flavors.
Frei Brothers Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with this rich cab. Lots of dark berry and oak complexity, with a long finish. Highly drinkable.

The big winner for me was the Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot; I liked the Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon and the MacMurray Ranch Merlot quite a bit, too. This was quite an unusual tasting – I liked all of the wines, and every red (including Red Rock Merlot, not described above) were wines that I’d buy.

Free Range Chardonnay 2005

FreeRange White BordeauxPrice: $29
Maker: JuiceBox Wine Company, Manchester, MA
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Free Range Chardonnay 2005 is another upper-tier boxed wine from Free Range Wines. This Chardonnay has aromas of green apple and citrus. On the palate, it offers an interesting mix of tart apple flavors, oak notes, and a creamy texture. The effect is one of balanced complexity.

Chardonnay is an all-too-common varietal, and many of the less-expensive brands have too much oak and not enough of anything else. Free Range Chardonnay fortunately is in no way over-oaked, and has a nice depth that will interest a variety of palates. The wine comes from Le Bousquet d’Orb, which is near the picturesque walled city of Carcassonne in the south of France. The town’s website proudly proclaims, “The highly appreciated Chardonnay produced by the wine Cooperative – which won an international gold medal in 1999 – is just one example of the ‘good life’ cultivated here in Le Bousquet d’Orb.” Chardonnay lovers will agree that Free Range Chardonnay is part of the “good life.”

Golden Princess Wine Tasting 1

A recent trip aboard the Golden Princess featured two separate wine tasting events hosted by the ship’s sommelier staff. The first was less elaborate, and we’ll post on that one here:

Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. This Chilean wine was light in color with excellent clarity and a melon nose. The flavor was a suprisingly sweet mix of pear, melon, and apple.

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay 2005 (Lake County). Color was straw/light yellow, with brilliant clarity. The aroma had apple, melon, and pineapple notes. Flavor was rich, creamy, and crisp, with apple, melon, oak, and spice.

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2005. From Marlborough, New Zealand, this wine had gooseberry in the nose. Its flavor notes were citrus and peach. It was lightly syrupy in texture, and some residual acidity created a pleasant finish.

Chianti Classico, Riserva (Tuscany). This Chianti had a ruby red color in the glass and a mild berry nose. Its flavor was dry and acidic.

La Crema Pinot Noir. This deep red wine featured an interesting toasted marshmallow nose, with cherry and plum notes leading into an oak finish.

As a group, this wasn’t the most stunning batch of wines, though they were all reasonably drinkable. The second tasting which I’ll report on later was more elaborate and featured somewhat more interesting wines.