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Essential Drinking

A Beautiful, Balanced California Chardonnay

2012 Hanzell Vineyards Sebella Chardonnay Photo courtesy of Hanzell Vineyards

2012 Hanzell Vineyards Sebella Chardonnay: It used to be that California Chardonnay was heavily oaked by default, meaning it was aged in oak barrels (or subject to a lower-rent process) to produce sweet, toasty vanilla flavors. Then there was the oak backlash of the last decade, which resulted in a flood of super-lean, totally unoaked California Chard. Unswayed by the trend winds since 1957, Hanzell has subscribed to the notion (popular in Chardonnay's spiritual home of Burgundy) that oak, applied deftly, can round out and enrich a wine without getting in the way of its natural fruit character. Like most great Sonoma wines, Hanzell's aren't cheap—but its Sebella bottling offers a satisfying taste of the producer's beautifully balanced, Burgundian style at around half the cost of the producer's flagship Chardonnay.

Drink It With: Chardonnay-braised chicken thighs with parsnips. (Use a cheaper Chardonnay in the recipe.)

Best Price Online: $32 at Saratoga Wine Exchange. (Find more stores.)

Also Look For: Other balanced California Chardonnays, such as those from Flowers, Failla and Copain.

Related: Sonoma County Wineries to Visit
Best California Wine
Chardonnay Pairings

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