F&W Free Preview All You Coastal Living Cooking Light Food and Wine tab Health myRecipes Southern Living Sunset
My F&W
quick save (...)

Best New California Chardonnays

California chardonnay is the pop star of wine grapes. Immensely popular, it has also hit the equivalent of wine-world scandal sheets for having gotten too fat, too buffed up with steroidal oak and too boozily alcoholic.

The obvious solution is to send it to rehab. Don't let Chardonnay vines luxuriate in the lush warmth of Napa Valley; don't let them spend summers soaking up the rays in Paso Robles. Instead, plant Chardonnay somewhere cold. In California, that means somewhere near the coast.

California Chardonnay redeems itself when it's grown close to the Pacific's chilly influence. Fog and wind off the ocean moderate daytime heat and lengthen the growing season, helping grapes retain acidity. At the same time, the ocean actually helps keep temperatures in winter from getting too cold, since a vast body of water tends to remain at a stable temperature, even on the coldest days.

In these conditions, California Chardonnay's fruit character shifts away from fleshy pineapple flavors toward more compelling citrus and stone fruit (white peach, nectarine) notes. Instead of feeling unctuous, the wine feels focused, thanks to vibrant acidity and modest alcohol levels. And, possibly the most significant benefit, Chardonnay planted near the coast transforms from a wine that often overwhelms food to one that complements a remarkably wide range of dishes—everything from delicate fish like sole to a classic roasted chicken.

Most good coastal Chardonnay comes from a handful of appellations: Anderson Valley, Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills, and the coolest section of the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, in Sonoma. Carneros is also ocean-influenced, though it's warmer, since it's closer to San Pablo Bay than to the Pacific. And Chardonnays from vineyards on the mountain ridges at the edge of the Sonoma Coast AVA are some of the best in the state.

Published August 2007
You Might Also Like

Comments

Add A Comment

    Add a Comment

    See our terms
    You must be logged in to comment. or
    advertisement
    The Dish
    Receive delicious recipes and smart wine advice 4x per week in this e-newsletter.
    The Wine List Weekly pairing plus best bottles to buy.
    F&W Daily One sensational dish served fresh every day.
    American Express Publishing ("AEP") may use your email address to send you account updates and offers that may interest you. To learn more about the ways we may use your email address and about your privacy choices, read the AEP Privacy Statement.
    How we use your email address
    advertisement
    Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

    Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.