Posts Tagged ‘Chardonnay’

As I sit down to write this post, the pressure’s on to make it a good one—given that it comes after a month-long blogging hiatus and will be one of my last, at least for a while…. Luckily I’ve got some good material to work with: notes on over a dozen Chardonnays, which we uncorked and tasted blind over the weekend.

Peter did a preliminary tasting of all the wines, proclaiming 10 to be worth a second pass. The thing that I found most notable about our results was that we both picked the same wine as our favorite. And, in a sea of Chards ranging in price from $13 to $48, it was the least expensive.

The winner: the 2009 L de Lyeth Sonoma County Chardonnay (the Sonoma County designation just means that the wine was made from grapes grown in different areas of the county, rather than just the Russian River Valley, say, or just the Sonoma Coast). It was more vegetal than fruity on the nose, with notes of straw and caramel. This unusual wine was delicately prickly on the palate and had a long and pleasant finish.

Runner-ups in the 2009 vintage included Kendall-Jackson’s Avant California Chardonnay ($14, medium-bodied and smooth, with a nice aroma of tropical fruit) and Clos du Bois’ Russian River Chardonnay ($18, lemon on the nose, lots more citrus on the palate, and great balance). In the 2008 vintage we liked Kendall-Jackson’s Grand Reserve Monterey/Santa Barbara Chardonnay ($20, a figgy aroma and notable residual sugar), Cambria Estate Winery’s Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($22, nicely balanced, with a bouquet of straw and a rough-silk mouthfeel); Mantanzas Creek’s Sonoma Chardonnay ($29, banana on the nose, light and smooth); and Waterstone’s Carneros Chardonnay ($18, grapefruit aroma, light and creamy).

Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve has moved on to the 2009 vintage, but given its impressive 2008 showing, the new vintage is well worth a try. And if you do try it, consider drinking a toast to Jess Jackson, the California wine industry giant who passed away on April 21st.

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The Story Arc of Wine

I love it when wine gets to be its own character in a great novel—so my hopes were high when Zinfandel made a daring appearance on page 4 of Freedom, Jonathan Franzen’s much-discussed latest book. In introducing the main female character, Franzen writes:

Behind her you could see the baby-encumbered preparations for a morning of baby-encumbered errands; ahead of her, an afternoon of public radio, the Silver Palate Cookbook, cloth diapers, drywall compound, and latex paint; and then Goodnight Moon, then zinfandel.”

Sounds innocent enough—and, to some of us, eerily familiar—right? Unfortunately things go downhill from there, and by page 15, Patty is described as “all Chardonnay Splotch.” I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that by page 162, she’s drinking cooking sherry.

Happily, wine regains its dignity by novel’s end—although it’s somewhat overshadowed by beer, martinis, and, of course, the completely absorbing and labyrinthine primary story line.

If you’re looking for other literary works in which wine gets a satisfying cameo, a little anthology called Wine Memories: Great Writers on the Pleasures of Wine (Chronicle Books, 2000) serves as an excellent source. Edited by Sara Nicklès, the book consists of 40 excerpts from novels, essays, and memoirs. A favorite, from The Sun Also Rises:

“This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.”

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