After tasting more than 300 affordable American wines, Senior Editor Ray Isle reports on his most exciting Chardonnay finds.
Additional research by Megan Krigbaum
2005 Pine & Post Washington Chardonnay ($6)
Pine & Post produced a steal of a Chardonnay in a terrific vintage for Washington white wines, with spicy oak notes balanced against lively apple and apricot fruit.
2005 Manzanita Canyon California Chardonnay ($7)
Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish, an appropriate name for this full-bodied, apple-inflected Chardonnay.
2006 Heron California Chardonnay ($11)
Proprietor Laely Heron buys grapes from some of California’s top Chardonnay regions—the Russian River Valley, Carneros and the Santa Maria Valley—for this crisp, light Chardonnay.
2006 Meridian Vineyards Santa Barbara County Chardonnay ($10)
It may not be wildly complex, but Meridian Vineyards’ crisp, tasty Chardonnay offers plenty of lively lemon-lime and tropical fruit with a clean finish.
2006 Jekel Monterey County Gravelstone Chardonnay ($13)
Jekel’s rocky estate vineyard in California’s Salinas Valley (the lettuce capital of the United States, oddly enough) provides the fruit for this floral, apricot-rich white.
2006 Carmel Road Monterey County Chardonnay ($14)
One of the many brands in wine magnate Jess Jackson’s ever-expanding portfolio, Carmel Road produces a Chardonnay with pear and vanilla nuances.
2006 Windmill Lodi Chardonnay ($12)
This pineappley Chardonnay from the Lodi region is made without much oak, helping keep its fruit flavors fresh.
2006 Echelon Chardonnay ($8)
A touch of Gewürztraminer (four percent) adds a spicy note to the lemon and apricot flavors in this broadly appealing California white.
2006 Sonoma Vineyards Sonoma County Chardonnay ($15)
Only Sonoma-appellation fruit is used to make this bright, unoaked Chardonnay. Lithe and crisp, it’s full of cool pear and spice notes.
2006 A to Z Wineworks Oregon Chardonnay ($15)
A to Z Wineworks is one of Oregon’s biggest recent success stories. In a little more than five years, founders Bill Hatcher, Deb Hatcher, Sam Tannahill and Cheryl Francis have turned A to Z into the state’s biggest wine producer. Focused apple flavors drive the flavor of its clean, unoaked Oregon Chardonnay.