Chardonnay is perhaps the most familiar grape to both Afficianados and Indifferents alike. Vilified by those who hopped on to the “We Hate Oak” bandwagon (OK, there were excesses in the late 80’s and early 90’s to reel from – check out this abuse of good grapes that shows the use of oak chips in Chard as it ferments!), Chardonnay remains one of the most complex chameleons in the grape world and should never be dismissed.
Chardonnay = Chablis, Blanc de Blanc Champagne, Mersault, crisp unoaked food wines, and those luscious, buttery, vanilla-drenched oaked numbers that hail from both California and Australia. It is a winemaker’s delight, because it is so flexible and forgiving.
The California version of Chardonnay has a reputation for being too oaked too often. But for those of us who graduated from Baby Duck to the more “chi chi” white wines that were all the rage in the 80’s, oaked Chards from California were extremely popular. To this day, the whiff of strong oak in a glass of white takes me back to elegant dinners with MH– at Claude’s in Edmonton (back then, the finest of fine dining available in Alberta… )
But I digress. Oaked Chardonnay. The target of scorn for the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) set, I say to them: thou dost protest too much. A moderately oaked Chard can be heaven in a glass, perfect with creamy pastas, chicken Bordelaise, or any richer poultry or seafood dish.
With this welcoming attitude, I recently embarked upon a shopping spree that targeted California wines… specifically, California wines carried by the Princess Cruise Line that I could find here and acquaint myself with before this fall’s wine cruise. There was enough overlap to do some serious damage to the credit card, and the research is ongoing…
It was a lovely reintroduction. A very enjoyable pick for an aperitif with cheeses and olives, it was all about the fruit, showing only a hint of oak over a crisp apple and peach palate. I thought there would be more wood… perhaps this modern Chard has embarked on a redesign in response to the ABC backlash? Regardless, it was a very lovely wine at a very reasonable price point. I was pleasantly surprised by this bottle.
Appearance: medium golden colour.
Nose: apple, peach and tropical fruit.
Palate: baked apple and peach, with subtle vanilla from the oak.
Overall: Balanced acidity with “quiet” oak – very tasty, very accessible. Would be great with roast chicken or creamy pastas. Would not overwhelm fish dishes, even delicate white fish.
2008 Woodhaven Chardonnay Delicato. Manteca, California, USA. 13.5%, rubber cork closure. $13.99