A Pair of Terrific California Chardonnays
I've decided that I'm in love with a clone. Specifically, the Rued clone of Chardonnay (yes, that's what it's come to). It's a selection that originally came from a vineyard Warren Dutton planted in Sonoma's Green Valley in 1969, and to my mind it produces some of California's most compelling Chardonnays. A case in point is the 2006 Dutton Goldfield Rued Vineyard Chardonnay ($45, find this wine), which combines spiced pear and tangerine-lime notes in a way that gives it both lusciousness and vibrancy, a kind of savory leesiness that adds depth, and a touch of bitter (in an appealing way) spice on the end. It's impressive Chardonnay, worth the price.
(On a side note, when I went to the Dutton Goldfield site to check my recollection of the Rued clone's origins, I noticed that Dan Goldfield also describes the wine with the words "spiced pear" and "tangerine," among others. This happens less often than one might think; in fact, it's a worthwhile wine-education exercise to line up several different wine critics' descriptions of the same wine side-by-side and take a look at how completely different they are, then taste the wine yourself and see who you agree with.)
I also recently tasted the 2007 Hirsch Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($50, find this wine), a more minerally take on Chardonnay that leans more toward stone-fruits like peach and nectarine than pear and ends on a creamy spice note. Hirsch is justifiably known as one of California's greatest Pinot Noir vineyards, and there are only four acres of Chardonnay on the property, yet the little that's produced—about 500 cases—is very, very good. A portion of this wine was fermented in stainless steel, a portion in oak (mostly old), and a final portion, oddly enough, in glass containers. It's got that far Sonoma Coast precision and focus, yet is luscious enough to be inviting at the same time.