I deeply regret it now: California Chardonnay, like Napa Vally Cab[ernet Sauvignon], was a byword for everything that we didn’t like in wine. Even without tasting such a wine, we just knew that it was oaky and buttery, with ramped up alcohol and yeasted flavors.
Attribute it to youth: I was in my 30s back then, living in New York, and we wouldn’t have been caught dead with a glass of then loathsome “Chard” (as it was called) in hand.
I use the royal we here because my (now unforgivable) attitudes toward Californian interpretations of the Burgundian white were shared nearly unanimously by my peers. We didn’t even trust the newly coined “unoaked Chardonnays” that began to appear in the aughts of our lives. Surely, we were confident, they had been tricked out by their Dr. Frankenstein creators using unnatural enzymes and inauspiciously administered yeast and synthetic additives we couldn’t even named if we tried.
Looking back on it all now, there’s really no excuse.
But enough with my apostasy! I’ve already renounced my creed and screed about California wine (California wine, I was wrong about you. I’m sorry…).
I continued my rehabilitation last week with the two bottles above.
Paolo, one of my best friends, was in town from Puglia. He’s always been an unabashed lover of Californian Chardonnay. I wanted to share a couple of my recent favorites with him and so I splurged on two expressions of California Chardonnay that I can hardly afford.
I tasted the 2010 Stony Hill (a current library release for the estate) for the first time earlier this year. Chardonnay’s primary flavors here have evolved into a nuanced spectrum of rich fruit and gentle nutty flavors. I can’t think of a better example of elegance and balance in California. What a wine!
This is Napa Valley Chardonnay at its best imho.
The 2015 Ceritas Santa Cruz Mountains Trout Gulch had been on my radar for a few years now, since I tasted it for the first time while working on the first edition of the Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of California.
Arguably a more au courant interpretation of Chardonnay, this wine has only gotten better with age, with its minerality and tropical fruit coming into fine focus with hints of spearmint and sage.
Even though both wines strain my personal budget, they both represent extreme value for their quality and collectibility.
California Chardonnay, I hope you’ve begun to forgive me. But I fear not: though the road through Purgatory may be steep, my penance is ever so sweet…