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This Week's Tasting

New Style Chardonnay
May 24, 2017

Once upon a time the taste of chardonnay-based wines ran a spectrum; from lean and acid-green when white burgundies and other from the Old world didn't ripen enough to the over-the-top butterscotch banana split style of pretentiously over-ripened, over-oaked California renditions. The best wines were around the middle; ripe with pear, sometimes tropical fruit, with not so much oak that balance was foregone or terroir obscured.



Our tastes have changed and wine changed with it. New Chardonnays are made on a level above. They are un- or very lightly oaked, with acids that are appetizingly lively but not sharp, and textures that are plush without without being syrupy, mouth-filling but not heavy.

This week's six wines (out of 60 tasted) are wines of grace and verve, perfectly suited to lighter warmer-weather meals. They come from California and France, but could just as easily be searched out in the Pacific Northwest, New York, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand.

Tom Fetzer began Saracina in 2001 after the sale of his family's eponymous winery. He farms organically and has brought on David Ramey as consulting winemaker. His 2016 Chardonnay is light and lithe, fruity with very pretty acids.

2014 Twenty Rows has extensive acreage around Coombsville in southern Napa Valley. They use a bit more oak in a lighter style wine that has intriguing notes of ginger and honey.

Many federalistas know Auvigue, the excellent Maconnais producer. Their 2015 Auvigue Mâcon-Solutré comes from near Pouilly-Fuisse and is an fine example of that area's chardonnay. Its thickness and breadth are nicely balanced with an underlying firm acidity.

The young couple who owned the Champ Divin (Heavenly Field) vineyard in the hills of the Jura mountains make exquisitely poised wines. Jura chardonnays are most often hard with strong acidities. Not so this. It is pretty and delicate, lithe, entrancing in its freshness. It's also mouth filling and full textured without being heavy. We also love and feature their equally exquisite sparkling Cremant Brut Zero Dosage.

Tamber Bey is an impressive newer winery near Calistoga in Napa Valley. We were astonished by the precision and quality of their 2016 Chardonnay. No oak, no malolactic fermentation resulted in a wine that is ripely tropical in character but without weight. It is exquisite and struck us at first intensely concentrated taste.

The 2014 Collovray et Terrier Viré-Clessé is last and most. it is the complete Macon chardonnay.  From the great 2014 white burgundy vintage, it is concentrated and deep, with great underlying acidity, and a rich plush texture. It is both classic and mouth-filling. Only five cases left.


2016 Saracina Chardonnay Unoaked Organic; Aroma: light fresh clean; lightly fresh herbal round; Mouth: clean light & lithe, very pretty acid fruit, good acidity, bright fresh fruit; Very Good Plus 18.99; Mixed Case, 17.09; Case, 16.14

2014 Twenty Rows Chardonnay Napa; Aroma: restrained but juicy, light oak, fresh, very pretty fullish; Mouth: juicy tropical oak on the front, a touch of ginger & honey, round; Very Good Plus 19.99; Mixed Case, 17.99; Case, 16.99

2015 Auvigue Mâcon-Solutré; Aroma: Sweet fruit, pretty  lemon green plum; Mouth: Rich rather juicy, firm, fleshy & broad, thick; Very Good Plus 22.99; Mixed Case, 20.69; Case, 19.54

2015 Champ Divin Cotes de Jura Chardonnay Organic; Aroma: Rather dense fullish modern, rich; Mouth: Clean sweet pretty lightly oaky, nice acidity, thick very fresh &  juicy; Very Good Plus 26.99; Mixed Case, 24.29; Case, 22.94

2016 Tamber Bey Chardonnay Unoaked; Color: very pale green; Aroma: juicy chardonnay very fresh pretty, lean green papaya, crystalline in its precision; Mouth: juicy fresh lively pretty, nice acid juicy, tight, bright acid, clean; Very Good Plus 26.99; Mixed Case, 24.29; Case, 22.94

2014 Collovray et Terrier Viré-Clessé; Aroma: Sweet rather broad & rich; Mouth: Juicy very dense firm, fleshy very rich, pear Very Good - Excellent 25.99; Mixed Case, 23.39; Case, 22.09

5-24 New Style Chardonnay Case: Special, two each of the above wines - $242

Instore only 5-24 New Style Chardonnay Pack: Special, one each of the above wines - $128


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           - Len Rothenberg


(c) Federal Wine and Spirits Inc. 2017