The Many Faces of Chardonnay
Vintage Wines of San Diego has several different wine tasting formats. The one described below is the first in a series of Thursday evening tastings. The event was billed as:
The Many Faces of Chardonnay
April 22nd, 6:30-8:00PM, (Vintage Wines, San Diego, USA)
”We will explore the ideas and taste differences of: Malolactic fermentation, the use of oak vs. stainless steel, how the coastal regions of Sonoma vary from the Napa Valley, and finally the different winemaking philosophies of the French in Burgundy and the New World wines of California and Australia. Eight wines will be tasted, and the cost is $30.00 per person.”
The wines were poured and tasted blind. However “Steve”, who ran the tasting, liked to talk quite a bit as we did our own evaluation of the wines. For me this type of continual interruption breaks my concentration so I didn’t try to score the wines, but because the wines were so varied and interesting I thought I should at least share my tasting notes – sparse as they may be. (FYI: In any case you’ll never get 15 word descriptors of flavor from any tasting notes I provide, three is pretty much a maximum. Which is pretty good seeing as how only 5% of expert tasters can correctly identify up to 5 in a mix!!)
The wines were still being poured as we sat down and this did affect at least two of the wines over the 90 minutes of the tasting. It would have been better for these wines to have been poured at least 30-60 minutes before we got to them. At the end of my tasting notes, in brackets, are comments on the production of the wine, e.g. MAF = malolactic fermentation.
2003 Keller Estate, Napa Valley, Oro De Plata ($19.99US)
This was a light straw and quite aromatic (put me in mind of a Semillion). These aromas carried through onto the palate and finished with clean if a little sharp acidity. (Stainless steel, no MAF).
2002 William Fevre, Chablis, Champs Royaux ($19.99US)
Again light straw in color and I thought it showed a little oak. On the palate the wine was very dry, very crisp with a clean finish. Obviously well balanced, but no standout characteristics. (Stainless steel)
2002 Oliver Jomain Puligny-Montrachet, Les Perrieres ($41.99US)
Light straw in color. Nice toasted oak and anise and very good mouthfeel but finished bitter. We were also give two other Oliver Jomain wines (a Puligny-Montrachet AOC $32.99US, and a Bourgogne $12.99US) to taste. These were not on the list but I believe they were either 2002 or 2003. I was more impressed with the Bourgogne as it had light oak, good mouth feel and nice clean acid. The other was too high in alcohol for me. All three wines showed anise on the nose.
2001 Chateau Montelena, Napa Valley, Estate ($25.99US)
Straw yellow. Oak on the nose and a waxy aroma I often get with chardonnay. (I some times wonder if this is not a chemical interaction between residual sulfur and buttery oak flavors?) This was a very well balanced chardonnay. Some could taste a flinty, almost metallic character, but I could not. (Oak, MAF)
2002 Guillemot-Michel, Macon, Quintaine ($23.99US)
This wine was straw yellow with a very floral nose, almost a dessert wine. I got a hint of ethyl alcohol. The mouthfeel was somewhat light and thin, but the wine was well balanced and the finish was clean and crisp. Retronasal was floral and spicy with again just a hint of ethylOH. A very unusual Chardonnay. (The grapes are apparently picked very late and the wine sees little oak.)
2000 Mount Eden, Santa Cruz Mtns, Estate ($33.99US)
Again straw yellow color but very much toasted oak on the nose. This (to me) was a typical California chard with good mouthfeel, not over oaked with clean acid on the finish (well balanced). The toasty oak carried through strongly on retronasal and might be off putting to some. I rated this wine as typical of the style of chardonnay I prefer as did a number of others in the group. (Oak, 50% MAF)
2000 Albert Grivalt, Mersault, Les Perrieres ($45.999US)
This wine smelt of sulfur (I also wrote dirty drain water) and (for me) it never lost that character throughout the tasting. (To me this is a fault.) Some people said it did fade, and so this was one wine that might have done better with more time in the glass. The wine was a little thin but soft in the mouth with nice oak and a nice acid finish. Again a well balanced wine, but poooh!!
2002 Lewis Cellars, Napa Valley, Reserve ($44.99US)
This wine was the only wine to show a green tinge to its straw yellow. There was toasty oak on the nose together with an unusual (and strong) almost herbaceous (I still can’t accurately describe it.) aroma. This carried through onto the palate, and I noted this wine to be my least favorite. When “Steve” took our votes for favorite wine there were several comments about this being a “typical California Chard”. I pretty much fell off my chair! But as we then tasted back through the wines with “Steve” talking about oak, MAF etc. this was the one wine that really opened up and by the end of the tasting it was a delight to drink. The unusual aroma vanished and clean toasted oak predominated. On entry the wine was now soft and round with great mouthfeel and just washed over the palate to finish with wonderful crispness. Its rare that I’ve had a wine that you can experience changing in such a seamless progression while in the mouth. It definitely turned out to be the wine of the night for me. (New oak, MAF)
The downside of the evening? Where were the Aussie chards we were promised?? And what's with the $.99 in the price of every wine?