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What I'm Drinking - 6 Chardonnays for Your Next At Home Wine Tasting

I thought it might be fun to write a blog about the different wines I’m currently drinking, thinking about drinking or having drunk! So, to start the series out with a bang, here’s what we tasted during a recent wine tasting we hosted for friends.

We sampled six bottles of California Chardonnay. Chardonnay (you know, that other wine from Burgundy, France) is one of those wines that can be big and bold and buttery, or lean, flinty, and really, really lemony. It all depends on the soil, climate, wine-maker (whether to put the wine to process in oak or steel or go through another fermentation process called *Malolactic Fermentation), and where the grapes are grown. In years past, California chardonnay wine was so oaky and buttery that you could have put it on toast. The winds of wine and taste buds have changed, and Chardonnay is now made with much less emphasis on oak. So, now you can taste the fruit… lemon, citrus, green apple, and sometimes a touch of tropical fruit, depending on where the wine was made.

The Reveal: Six Can't-Miss California Chardonnays

So, it was with great anticipation we broke out the Coravin (more about this marvelous device in another blog) and opened six bottles of Chardonnay from California:

  • Three Sticks Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay 2019;

  • Rochioli Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020;

  • Black Kite (named after a bird, not the other flying device) Santa Lucia Highlands

  • Chardonnay 2016;

  • Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2019;

  • Black Kite Sonoma Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay 2018;

  • Flanagan Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2017.

A table is set for wine tasting, with a plate of snacks in the middle of the table.
Image via Wine By Appointment LLC

So, we swilled, swirled, sipped, and noshed (on my friend Shelley’s stupendous charcuterie platters) the evening away. This blog will not dissect each wine and give the merits of one over another; frankly, all of the wines were over-the-top great. There are differences between the wines, to be sure, but that’s the fun of trying new wines and figuring out if they’re worth remembering (or a second glass) or not your cup of tea, so to speak. That said, here are some guidelines to ponder when and if you run into a bottle of California Chardonnay. Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley and Gap’s Crown tend to be more acidic with hints of citrus (lemon), stone fruit (peaches), apples, and yes, stone, which is a good thing in a wine. Ritchie Vineyard, in particular, is the holy grail for Chardonnay wine. Let’s put it this way, people who won’t drink Chardonnay drink Chardonnay from Ritchie Vineyard and like it. Enough said.

Like Chardonnay and want to learn more about it? Check out my Chardonnay Guide which features wineries in Sonoma and Napa with stellar Chardonnay wines.

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