Given that Chardonnay is pretty much the king of varietals these days, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose which one(s) to sip on this day dedicated to Chardonnay. But this year I happened upon one of my favorite types of Chardonnay - the unbaked kind - and the decision was a bit easier. To give you a quick refresher course, Chardonnay is traditionally aged in some sort of barrel. That's what can give it the cinnamon/vanilla/oaky/buttery flavors. But, as with any rule, there are exceptions, and some winemakers are giving us unoaked Chardonnays. No wood shall touch these grapes! And as I have tried more of these Chards, I am becoming a big fan of them. Why not let the grapes speak for themselves?
So, the wine in question for this review comes from Smoking Loon, part of the Don Sebastiani & Sons family of wines. It's called Steelbird Unoaked Chardonnay (13.5%, 2012, Napa, CA) and true to its name, the wine is fermented for 5 months in stainless steel tanks. It's a very pretty spring green color - sort of a golden green - and has lush aromas of mango and apricot and very ripe pears. It tastes of yellow apples with a hint of that pear. And oddly enough, it ends on a toasty note. I swear it was in there - kind of oaky and toasty. Not overwhelmingly so, but there all the same. So you can attribute this to the power of the grapes (while Steelbird is 92% Chardonnay, there is some Chenin Blanc, Symphony and Sauvignon Blanc blended in) and not the barrel. The wine feels very round in your mouth and there is a wonderful touch of velvet running through the middle of it.
And boy am I glad they decided to let these grapes sing on their own. I felt like I was getting a true Chardonnay flavor without giving it all up to the oak. The tastes were well layered with fruit and grape skins all pitching in here. I liked this wine a lot. If you don't want your Chardonnay big and buttery and oaky and woodsy, you will love this! The fruits are there, but not in an overly sweet way. Just true fruit flavors blended together in a big old steel tank. It retails for about $10 and is readily available. A bit of a different take for National Chardonnay Day 2014. And in this case, different is a yummy thing.