Category Archives: Chardonnay

Gauthier 2014 Chardonnay

Rockin’ H Ranch Vineyards, Sonoma Coast, CA; 13.9% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store many weeks ago.  No longer there.

Some folks may have liked this wine, but to me this was a weird Chardonnay.  It tastes intensely of assertive, even abrasive, ripe or over-ripe tropical yellow fruit (starfruit (Carambola), maybe mango), caramelized yellow apple, with perhaps even a slightly spoiled character, and slight green apple.  I don’t like it, and my suspicion is that it will be worse the next day.

Indeed, the next day it’s just awful: sour and abrasive.  I would be glad to hear from anyone who had a better experience with this wine, since I have generally liked the Gauthier selection wines, but my bottle definitely gets a Thumbs Down.  I won’t even cook with this.


Magnolia Court 2013 Chardonnay

Central Coast, CA; 13.5% ABV
Cellared and bottled by Turn Key Wine Brands
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 April.  A small amount still there.

I was very intrigued by this wine because the back label reads, in part, “Our Chardonnay combines the structure and minerality often associated with coastal Chardonnay, with a seductive, measured oak profile.  It has generous notes of sub-tropical fruit, toasted hazelnut, and crushed wet stones.”  At one point, I urged Seedboy to try this wine if he saw it, because the above sounded up his alley.  However, now that I try it, it’s almost certainly not.

On the first night, I wondered what those notes meant by “structure and minerality,” since the wine struck me as soft and sweet.  I thought it had a rich and smooth, fairly complex and delineated taste of ripe white and yellow pear, yellow apple, slight yellow tropical fruit, with a creamy, oak / vanilla finish.  There was some minerality, but it was rather soft or even oily.  I conceded it was pretty tasty wine, if not in a style I prefer.

On the second night, however, the wine gained some more acid and, to my taste, became much more balanced.  The flavors were all still there without degradation, and I tasted the “toasted hazelnut” in the label notes.  It’s very Central Coast, and, to me, quite good.

JoelA noted recently that there is a Magnolia Court Pinot Noir, also $7, available at the Oakland, CA, store.  I’d be curious about the reactions of anyone who has tasted it.

Castillo Monjardin 2014 unoaked Chardonnay “El Cerezo”

Navarra DO, Spain; 13% ABV
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 Feb

img_00491This very pretty label and low price were immediately interesting!  I opened it this evening and I think it is quite good wine for the money, but it is very Spanish…

… which means (IMO) that its fruit is quite restrained, with more acid and minerality than most CA Chardonnays.  It tastes of green / yellow grape skin, riper yellow apple / pineapple, and white-fruity mineral oil.  I’d guess that Seedboy would like this pretty well, although bets on his preferences are always risky.  🙂

The next day, the flavors are much the same, although more smooth and perhaps showing a little oxidation.

Rustenberg 2014 Sauvignon Blanc blend

58% Sauvignon Blanc, 33% Chardonnay, 9% Viognier; 13% ABV
Wine of Origin Western Cape, South Africa
$4 at the Richmond, Ca, store.  Gone now.

rustenberg_2014_whiteblendSorry to take a while getting to this; it was one of a couple white wines sitting in my fridge while I got over my cold.  Anyway, I think this is a nice wine for the money if any of it is still around.

I was intrigued by the blend, because I have noticed yellow tropical fruit flavors in SA SB that I haven’t in SB from anywhere else, and I thought the blend with Chardonnay and especially Viognier could be very nice.  The wine was indeed quite well made.  The nose showed yellow melon / apple, less ripe green melon, and some light yellow peach / apricot.  The palate is clean, gently crisp, and slightly minerally, with the ripe fruit flavors on the nose plus slight tropical fruit (mostly golden kiwi), balanced by some bitterness of citrus pith and grape skin.  The blend is seamless, although to me the wine is a bit intellectual rather than yummy.

The next day, however, the wine is definitely also yummy, with the sweetly ripe fruit coming forward over the bitterness, still elegantly blended and reasonably structured.

2013 Woodenhead Chardonnay

Buena Tierra Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA; 14.3% ABV
Purchased at Palo Alto for $7.99 on December 3, 2016

woodenhead_chard_origI was really excited to see a wine from Woodenhead show up at GO. This winery is known for their Zins and Pinots, both of which are regularly well received by major publications and priced mid-30’s to mid-40’s per bottle. A single vineyard, Russian River, unfined and unfiltered Chardonnay from a quality producer sounded like a sure bet. Alas, this is “the wine that almost was.”

The wine pours a medium gold with clear edges, and on the palate showed great intensity with pear and some gala apple with well integrated oak and enough acidity to keep everything fresh. However, even these great qualities were not enough to overcome the offputting and unrelenting sulfer odor in the nose. I kept the wine open for almost a week, hoping the sulfer would eventually blow off. While it did fade somewhat, it never went away.

Surprised, I returned to the web to try to find more information on this specific wine. It’s as if the winery has wiped all traces of this wine’s production. Tech sheets abound for past vintages of all of their other wines, yet a search for this wine yielded nothing. An effort that didn’t meet winery standards that appears to have never been marketed and quietly sold off to Grocery Outlet. Pass on this one.

2012 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay

Carneros AVA, CA; 13.5% ABV
$12.99 at the Palo Alto Store on November 27th

saintsbury_2012_chardonnayI’m always on the hunt for a good Chardonnay that blends balance and brightness with some well-integrated oak notes. This bottle caught my eye as Carneros tends to be a cooler growing area, and the back label touted phrases like “good acidity” and “subtle seasoning of oak and lees” which sounded right up my alley. A brief internet query yielded a thorough tech sheet from the producer (available here) revealing a wine that was barrel fermented in 20% new French oak while only undergoing partial malolactic fermentation. There are indeed some nice elements to the wine, but in the end they struggle to come together in a way befitting the hefty-for-GO-whites price tag.

On open at refrigerator temp the nose was predominantly lemon and metal and the wine had a slight acrid / aspartame note to it. After about 30 minutes of warming up it came into its own a bit more. Still fairly faint on entry, but with a dose of acidity so strong that it bordered on unpleasant. On the palate I did get some nice pear and creamed citrus notes with a bit of baking spices, but the elements of the wine never really came together and instead felt in competition with each other.

Day 2 yielded a more pleasant experience. Again, the wine needed about 30-40 minutes to warm up from refrigerator temp, but the acidity, oak, and fruit were much more in balance with the fruit gaining in intensity and the oak and acidity playing more of a supporting role rather than competing for the lead. Definitely a passable Chardonnay, and even a good one, but at that price point there are more compelling wines out there. Not a repeat purchase for me.

Macrae Family Winery 2013 Chardonnay

Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA; 14.6% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 12 October

macrae_2013_chard_bacigalupivnyd_2This was a in a group of four Macrae Family wines we received in one shipment.  The others were the 2012 “Hidden Ridge” Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($20), 2013 Bacigalupi Vineyard Petite Sirah ($10), and 2010 (I think) Cole Ranch Riesling ($7).  DavidLikesWine gave a positive review to the Petite Sirah here.  I thought the Cabernet was a pretty good wine for the price, but that it should really just be laid down to age for several years, at least, as it’s really not showing that much right now.  This Chardonnay, however, I found disappointing.

My first impression was that the nose was rather subdued, making me search for some pear, yellow and green apple, lemon, vanilla.  There was more this on the delicate palate, but more lemony, and slightly creamy, with good acid on the finish.  I was left with the feeling that, while the wine wasn’t showing that much on the first night, it seemed very elegant and well made, so it might be more lively and interesting on the second day.

However, the next day, when I had hoped that more intensity and complexity might emerge, the wine was still a bit dull: green grape / pear / melon, maybe lime, with some solid yellow apple and gentle oak supporting.  It was really only okay for the price, at least at the GO.  Overall, I was quite underwhelmed given my high expectations.  What am I missing?

Woodwork 2013 Chardonnay

Central Coast, CA; 13% ABV
wood: French White Oak
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 19 October

woodwork_2013_chardonnayI wanted to try this wine after liking the Woodwork red blend several months ago, which I thought I had reviewed, but I apparently didn’t.  Anyway, I thought that red blend — which could have been called a Meritage by composition, but the producers probably didn’t want to pay to use the trademarked name — was on the lighter side, but nicely complex, and featured quite tasty wood.  IMO, this Chardonnay is better!

The wine shows juicy, ripe, Central Coast fruit of typical Chardonnay yellow apple and lemon, with some green apple, and nice, slightly buttery oak.  I found the fruit, acid, and wood all in nice balance and delicious, going down way too easily.  The body is perhaps a little light, but it’s heavy enough for the low price and wine has a lot of flavor.

The next day, the last glass in the bottle was regrettably not as good, becoming more simple and acid, and the wood becoming less well integrated and more blunt.  However, as it warms from fridge temp and the fruit becomes more prominent, the wine becomes palatable, still pretty tasty, even.  Overall, I think this wine is a very good value, especially if you’ll consume it in one evening.  But even if not, it’s amazingly good on the first day and not bad on the second.

Jade Mountain 2013 Chardonnay

84% Napa County, 16% Mendocino County; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 September

jademountain_2013_chardonnayI had been interested in this wine for a while because I recall the name Jade Mountain from when I started drinking wine in the later 90s.  I seem to recall they made some interesting Rhone-varietal wines.  Although I’m sure they’ve been through a lot of changes in the intervening years, the personal association still made me hopeful this would be a good wine.  ‘Twas not to be.

On first pour, the wine showed typical Chardonnay yellow apple, but with some unpleasant and rough funkiness.  This sometimes means that the wine just needed a little more air, and indeed, smooth and ripe fruit of apple, pineapple, and pear did come forth significantly more, becoming reasonably drinkable but still sort of off-putting for me.

The next day, the fruit and unpleasant flavor had both become more fully pronounced, making it overall worse in my opinion: medium-ripe yellow apple, dried pineapple (slightly sulfurous?), ripe and smooth but with an unpleasant over-ripeness or perhaps slight oxidation.  Although it’s not tremendously offensive, I didn’t like it very much.

Open Hills Ranch 2013 Chardonnay

Central Coast, CA; 14.9% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Aug

OpenHillsRanch_2013_ChardonnayUsually I don’t help with ordering the wine too much, but I ordered this wine, and since then it has pretty much just sat on the shelves.  It beat me why, since I thought it looked pretty good, so I finally tried one.  While it’s a little heavily ripe for my taste, it is pretty good for the price, and of course I think that’s not just because I ordered it.

Even at refrigerator coldness, the wine is quite ripe, full-flavored and -bodied, and smooth, showing predominantly yellow apple and butter, with some nice complexity of white / yellow pear, and vanilla oak, with a slight, chalky minerality.  I’d guess full malolactic fermentation here.  As it warms from fridge temp, the fruit becomes less balanced, with the ripe fruit becoming a bit solid and dull to my taste.  Still, although the wine is a few years old now, it is not oxidized, there are no off flavors, and it is a pretty powerful Chardonnay. I expect to recommend this to many customers who like it ripe and buttery.