California is the center of viticulture in the United States and is known for its rich, large and bold Cabernet Sauvignon. However, the most common grape variety in the state is Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is a winemaker’s dream because it is easy and straightforward to influence the selection of wines. It can offer citrus notes and mineral purity, but also refers to the ageing of oak and stainless steel. The 10 bottles below are just a few examples of why California Chardonnay is worth emphasizing.
Hartford Court 2017 Stone Cote Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast); $65, 97 points. This wine comes from a block domain within the original Durell vineyard, 100% fermented and aged in barrels, only 27% new French oak. It is complex and exotic in cooked pear, walnut, mandarin and gravel and offers all its richness balanced by the mineral tension and persistent acidity. -Virginie Boone
Massican 2019 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay (Napa Valley); $50, 97 points. It is a white wine, fermented and aged in barrels, from the famous Carneros farm, which allows its soul to live. The aromas of brioche and nutmeg lead to a medium intense entrance of green apple, pear and juicy oak, with a spicy, clear, layered acidity. Complex and absolutely delicious, it remains throughout its useful and balanced course. The editor’s choice. -WATER SERVICE
Beauregard 2018 Bald Mountain Sand Hill Vineyard Chardonnay (Mount St. Croix); $65, 95 points. Aromas of chalk meet lime peel and yuzu in the sharp, refined nose of this bottle. Its limy character is reflected in the sip, with flavours of shellfish and lively lime reminiscent of crunchy and tight Chablis, but highly addictive. -Matt Kettmann
Benovia 2018 Three Sisters Chardonnay (Fort Ross-Sea View); $55, 95 points. On the waterfront, cultivated by the Martinelli family, it is an amazing possession of white flowers and sea air. The palate presents a juicy nectarine and pear with notes of ground stone, a pinch of cooking herbs and a lemon meringue. It is both beautifully refined and elegant. -WATER SERVICE
Donnachadh 2017 Chardonnay Estate (Sta. Rita Hills); $42, 95 points. Meyer lemon, crunchy jicama, light mint and a pinch of oak reveal themselves in the very exciting and inviting nose of this bottle from a new vineyard on the south side of Sta. Rita Hills. A light oak kiss on the palate frames the flavours of yuzu peel, chamomile and crushed shells. -M.K.
Gary Farrell 2018 Russian River Chardonnay Choice; $35, 95 points. This wine offers exceptional value and quality – it should be on the list of all lovers of the Russian river valley Chardonnay. The flavours of lime, fig and grapefruit peel are released with a spicy, bruised texture and a lively acidity. This wine is impressive from start to finish. The editor’s choice. -WATER SERVICE
Migration 2018 Good Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley); $56, 95 points. Clean, spicy aromas of white fruit, honeysuckle, lemon peel and a hint of buttered ghee turn this complex bottling plant into a wonderfully floral yet rich wine. A pungent aroma of citrus and zest leads to light toast and woody elements in the sip, ending with blanched almonds, brown and clove dust. -M.K.
Ramey 2017 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley); $42.95 Point. This is one of the fewest apple wines that lies far above it in its quality and impeccability, which comes from such outstanding places as Westside Farms, Roccioli Allen and others. Stein, Melone and Meyer-Zitrone are a frische Säure, which is both stable and breeding, with blumigem Jasmin on the Rändern. Wahl of the Herausgebers. -WATER SERVICE
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Scar of the Sea 2018 Rancho Tepulet Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley); $38.95 Punkte. Von Reben, who flashed on his own Wurzeln in 1973, beets those Flasche Aromen von asiatic Birne, starter Kreide, Jicama and weicher Butter. The palate is incredibly crispy, clearly calcareous and tight, with flavors of lime, talcum powder, jicama and lots of white fruit. -Matt Kettmann
Best Man 2018 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay (Carneros); 52.95 points. This robust and rich white retains its weight and pedigree remarkably well and offers a tasty, layered experience that does full justice to its freshness. Apple, cinnamon and nutmeg are complemented by roasted oak and a robust structure. -WATER SERVICE
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