Thursday, March 8, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: A Tale of Two Chardonnays

"It was the best of was".....I really don't want to start off with that line, but with the title of this post,  I'm sure many of you thought it was coming, and I hate to disappoint my winey friends. Apologies to Charles Dickens. Here's what I really want to start with....

Absolutes in life are dangerous. You know what I mean, don't you? Because once you make an "absolute" statement, it is sure to come back and haunt you. For instance, I am sure I announced that my 80's ripped sweatshirts (a la Flashdance and Footloose) would NEVER see the light of day again. And then along came my children, who grabbed them out of the attic for "80's Decade Day" at their high school. How humbling. Not to mention...REALLY upsetting. (The word "oldies" was used.)

So when someone tells me that they never drink Chardonnay because it's too dry, or that they only drink Chardonnay because they can't stand sweet white wine, I have to chuckle. That's because recently I tasted two very different Chardonnays and each one of them will give the previous statements a run for their money.

Let's start with the Handcraft Chardonnay (2010, 13.5%, California, 86% Chardonnay, 7% Viognier, 5% Chenin Blanc, 2% Malvasia Bianca - a white Italian grape). Handcraft wines are the child of Cheryl Indelicato, who hails from one of California's most famous wine families. So they have a nice winey pedigree coming out of the bottle.

The Chardonnay gives off a refreshing bouquet of lemon, lime and lemongrass. The taste is bright with lemon and lime and something a teeny bit sweet (honey?). It's lightly oakey and smooth in the mouth with a nice long tangy finish. What a great Chardonnay! The perfect pairing of stainless steel and oak barrel aging. Just enough oak to give it some dancing legs, but not enough to overpower it and make it - here it comes: too dry!! Could be a new fave around here.

Now let's switch to another Chardonnay I recently tasted. Vina San Esteban Chardonnay (2010, 13.5%, Chile). This wine was a shiny gold color (really pretty in my wine glasses with the gold leaves on them). It had a bouquet of mango and lemon - heavier on the sweeter mango. The first taste you get is pink grapefruit, but it moves on to be a bit sweeter - think more tropical, like mango and pineapple. There was a little citrus rind tangyness in the finish, but for the most part, you'd call this a - one more time, here it comes: sweet(er) wine. It was very good, but I did keep checking the bottle to make sure I hadn't bought a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer instead.

Now, each of these wines would be a surprise to anyone who has one set notion of how a Chardonnay tastes. Too dry? I would never call the Handcraft dry - it was way too lively and zesty to be that. Chardonnay is never sweet? Nope. The Vina San Esteban, at least to my winey little taste buds, bordered on a sweet wine (even felt that way - a strong medium body to it), one that needs to be VERY cold when you drink it.

My next wine goal is to get some "I ONLY drink white wine" folks to come over to the red side. I'm sure if I keep sipping, I will be able to banish their notions of what red wine tastes like... just like I did here with the Chardonnay, right??


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