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Finding My Chardonnay Palate

In November I attended a ‘Virginia vs. The World’ blind tasting hosted by Andy Reagan at Jefferson Vineyards.  The intent of the tasting was to explore the subject of price competitiveness of Virginia wine in a blind comparative tasting setting.   Following the tasting, I wrote a smart little piece here on the blog entitled ‘Is Virginia Wine Overpriced?

This piece was republished in the Spring 2011 issue of Virginia Wine Lover Magazine, which resulted in a welcome amount of positive feedback.  Interestingly, I also received feedback from several dedicated Chardonnay fans taking exception to my casual dismissal of Chardonnay.  Several of those who contacted me cited the following introduction to the Chardonnay blind tasting flight,

Boring. Snorefest.  I respect the fact that Chardonnay is a global workhorse, but I simply cannot get into this varietal…

The most curious of the Chardonnay supporters came from a neighbor who happened upon the Virginia Wine Lover Magazine at a local wine shop.   I was introduced to her opinion on Chardonnay while walking my dogs when she announced from the other side of the street that ‘she had a bone to pick with me.’  I have a natural tendency to say or do things that draw the ire of people, especially neighbors, so I was pleasantly curious as to this particular bone to pick.

My neighbor first noted her surprised to see my article and me in a local wine magazine, and then went on to tell me how much she really likes Chardonnay.  As it turns out, Chardonnay is the drink of choice of our neighborhood Bunco Babes. (Editorial note for context: Bunco is a dice game that is played by small groups, particularly popular among suburban neighborhood ladies.  Bunko may also be found in Webster’s under ‘Monthly Neighborhood Gossip Time.’)

Given some of the pro-Chardonnay feedback I received, I took the occasion of Virginia Wine Week last week to revisit the subject of Chardonnay.   I opened five Virginia Chardonnay’s throughout the week – my two favorites of the bunch:  Jefferson Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay and Chatham 2009 Steel Chardonnay.

Jefferson 2009 Chardonnay: I tend to like Jefferson Vineyards’ entire lineup, but this Chardonnay is near the bottom.  The first sniffs and sips were muted, which I attributed to being too cold.  Pleasant apple, stone, and lemon aromas were revealed as the wine warmed.  I picked up the same apple and stone flavors in the mouth with reasonable acidity.  The crab leg pairing made this wine better.  Although I did enjoy this wine with dinner, this one didn’t wow me.

Chatham Vineyards 2008 Steel Chardonnay:  I’ve had more Chatham Chardonnay than any other, Virginia or otherwise.  Our family spends a lot of time on Virginia’s Eastern Shore during the summer months, and Chatham is the closest respite from an overcrowded family cottage.  Since there is an abundance of fresh-caught Chesapeake Bay seafood available in the summer, I tend to pair Chatham Chardonnay’s with crab cakes or local mussels and always enjoy the pairing.  Light gold in the glass, I get pungent lemon and grapefruit aromas with hints of tropical fruits on the edges that keep the lemon contained.  In the mouth, lemon sweetarts dominate. In looking back at my old tasting notes, I seemed to enjoy this wine much more during the summer months.  Time and place do matter.

I rarely, if ever, make a call for comments, but I am very curious to hear from Chardonnay fans with their ‘must try’ bottle, and from Virginia wine enthusiasts with their favorite Virginia Chardonnay.  Take a couple of minutes to post a comment, please.

Up next in my in ‘Finding My Chardonnay Palate’ experiment is a high-end (code word: perhaps overpriced) California Chardonnay tasting with a couple friends.  I’m brining the Ramey Chardonnay that was gifted to me by my mother-in-law last year.


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