Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-08-2015

Since my last report on California Chardonnays, I’ve tasted through a group of interesting and exciting wines. The best hail from that beautiful Central Coast Chardonnay haven, the Santa Maria Valley, but I also found a few fun and inexpensive Chards that would please many a palate.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

Review: 2013 Tolosa Winery Chardonnay Estate Edna Ranch- California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $26
Light gold color. Nose of golden apples, yellow pears, orange rind, some chalky and salty elements back up against the nutshell and nougat. Full-bodied, creamy, medium acid, lots of yellow apples and pears, some juicy apricot and orange marmalade notes. Notes of toasted bagel, buttercream, vanilla and hazelnut, but stays lively and fresh despite the richness. This Chardonnay walks the line well. 35% new French oak barrels. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Cambria Chardonnay Katherine’s Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $22
Light gold color. On the nose I get butter, yellow apple and peaches, along with a nice mix of oranges and lemons. The palate shows some moderate acid and a full, creamy body. Yellow apples and peaches are glazed in honey and covered in chopped hazelnut and nougat. Toasted bread and butter on the finish, but also some bright floral and slight chalky notes. Not super complex, but good stuff, a lot of fun. Aged six months in 14% new oak. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Solomon Hills Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $45
Medium gold color. Bright and vibrant on the nose with white peach, green and yellow apples, some kiwi, while the fruit is touched with honeysuckle, baby’s breath and crushed chalk notes. Clean, tingling acid meets a creamy, moderately rich body. The white peach, glazed pear and tangy kiwi fruit is bright but rich. I love the chalk, oyster shell, candied ginger and lime zest elements to this wine. A vibrant and fruity Chardonnay, but also very clean. Just enough toasted nut and buttered, flaky biscuit notes, but they don’t come close to overwhelming the other elements. A beautiful wine, highly complex yet effortless in its balance. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2013 J. Wilkes Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $20
Light gold color. Green and yellow apples on the nose, some richer notes of melon, white peach, white flowers and honeyed tea. Richly textured, a creamy wine but some medium acid. A bold presence of fruit (apricot, apple sauce, orange marmalade), some nutmeg, hazelnut and caramel corn elements, hints of white tea and honeysuckle as well. A richer style wine with lots of flavor yet stays relatively fresh. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $45
Light gold color. Very nutty and toasty on the nose, nougat and crushed almond shells on top of yellow apples and apricot jam. Ripe, rich yellow apples and apricot fruit, acid comes in and cleans a lot of it up. Almonds, peanuts, nougat, vanilla drizzled with some lime. Add in some honeysuckle, lilies, chalk, quinine and white tea notes. A rich and forward wine but I like the depth, complexity and the lively acid to keep this interesting. Long, rich finish yet the acid keeps it refreshing on the palate. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Dierberg Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard – California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $32
Light gold color. Nose shows yellow apple, juicy peaches, lime zest, some honeyed tea and light almond elements. A creamy, richness to the wine but the acid cuts through and jolts it to life. Peaches, yellow apples, some papaya, kiwi, lime drizzled on top. Honeyed notes, along with almond and spiced tea, but it stays juicy and tangy. A lasting sense of mineral and river rocks, clean and bright, chalk and seashells. Very complex, could show a lot to the patient. A wonderful blend of sunshiny fruit mixed with pure, mineral elegance. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Jackson Estate - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $28
Medium gold color. Aromatically, we’re dealing with a high butter content, but it’s also very fresh with white and yellow floral tones, along with a fruit salad of yellow and green apples,  apricot and pineapple. Full bodied and rich on the palate, almost oily, with medium-low acid. A high octane style with candied pecans, walnuts and cinnamon toast leading the way, backed up by baked pear and apple flavors, notes of honeycomb and lemon oil. Wow, I like plenty of big, toasty Chards, but you really need to love that style, in which case, buy this. If you hate that style, avoid this at all costs. Aged nine months in 55% new French oak. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Oro Bello Chardonnay California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $20
Clear, light gold color. Aromatically, we’re dealing with some green melon, yellow apples, drizzled with a bit of lemon, underneath it all a sense of buttercream and almond shells. Moderate creaminess on the palate, medium acid, the yellow apple and apricot fruit is rich but accented by hints of lemon-lime. Almond, honeycomb, some toasted biscuits flavors. Moderate length, not very deep but a solid Chardonnay. Mostly oak-fermented, and aged in 30% new. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Franciscan Estate Chardonnay Cuvée Sauvage - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $40
Bright gold color. Great combination of bright lime, green apple and wildflowers with richer elements of bruised yellow apple, pineapple cake and toasted bread. Juicy but bold texture, medium acid. I get lots of yellow apple, apricot and yellow pear, a bit of lime juice mixed in. Lots of honey butter, toasted almond, hints of vanilla, spiced applesauce, this is quite oaky yet it maintains nuance and cleanliness throughout. Complex and attractive in spite, but also because of, it’s bold approach. Aged 14 months in 94% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay Russian River Valley - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $30
Pale gold color. Nose of salted lime, apple slices, brisk seashells and white flowers, some richer honeyed notes. Crispy, bright, lively acid, but a juicy and creamy body. Lemon curd, lime, apricot, green apples, rich notes of nougat and almond shell but it stays lively throughout. Tingly finish with sea salt and minerals. Really delicious stuff. 18% maloactic fermentation, this wine is aged six months in 40% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Grand Réserve - California
SRP: $22
Medium golden colored. Buttery, creamy and rich on the nose, with yellow apple, mango, some floral notes and peanut shell. Medium+ bodied palate, acid in moderate doses. Creamy yellow apple, peach, some green melon mixed in. Interesting combination of nougat, honey butter and olive oil with notes of peanut shell. A rich style, but some freshness keeps and still food-friendly. From Monterey and Santa Barbara, aged nine months in 30% new oak, mostly French, some American. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Tom Gore Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Central Coast
SRP: $13
Light gold color. Smells rich with, melon and yellow apple glazed with honey and apricot jam, some peanut shell and hazelnut. Creamy body, quite rich, but some medium acid to keep it in tempered. Rich yellow apple, apricot and peaches, but some lime drizzled on top. Honey, candied pecans, peanut shells. Rich and yummy, showing a bit of brightness though. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Magnolia Court Chardonnay - California, Central Coast
SRP: $15
Light gold color. Tropical mix on the nose (papaya, green apple, lime) some green herbs, a kind of cotton candy and clean laundry element. A bold, waxy presence on the palate, some moderate acid. The flavors of baked pear, green and yellow apples and apricots mix with notes of toasted nuts, marshmallow, but also some chalk and mountain stream elements. Rich and attractive yet held together well. Surprised for the price. (86 points IJB)

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