Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-19-2015

Since the last report on California Chardonnay, I’ve tasted through a range of wines from around the state, most of them from the 2013 vintage.

From the Central Coast to the North Coast, winemakers have praised the 2013 as a warm but even year, producing wines with a lot of structure while still retaining a lively appeal. As is always the case, there is a California Chardonnay out there for everyone, consumers just need to know what they like and what they’re looking for (in terms of style). Differences in site, barrel aging, lees stirring, maloactic ferementation, etc., means there are wines that fall all over the spectrum. And it’s this diversity that keeps me passionate about Cali Chards.

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

Review: 2013 Concannon Vineyard Chardonnay California, Central Coast, Monterey County
SRP: $18
Bright lemon color. Aromas of honeysuckle, ocean spray, almonds and lemon oil. A honeyed texture on the palate, medium acid, a smooth and almost chewy feel on the palate with peaches and glazed yellow pears. Notes of vanilla and spiced apple sauce. A rich, baking spice-laden wine but some really tasty flavors. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Inconceivable Wines Chardonnay California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $25
Pale gold color. Aromas of apricots, honey, vanilla and nutmeg. Juicy yellow apples on the palate with apricots, honey butter and olive oil, some spiced cookie and honey notes. Rich and waxy but not too heavy, the moderate acid cleans it up. Tasty, crowd-pleasing stuff. Fermented in 30% new French oak. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Riverbench Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay Estate California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $26
Light gold color. Lovely, classic aromas of yellow apple, apricot, mixed with some honeycomb, nougat and brighter elements of sea spray and crushed chalk. Creamy, rich texture but some freshness from the moderately tangy acid as well. A rich fruity combo of bruised yellow apple, apricot jam and pineapple, mixed in with notes of nutshell, honeysuckle and baking spices, raw almond, olive oil. A bold, richly textured wine but well-put together and a ton to like. 30% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 William Hill Winery Chardonnay Bench Blend California, Napa Valley
SRP: $40
Rich golden color. Nose of rich buttercream, hazelnut, nougat, along with baked yellow apples and yellow plums, and nice combo of floral perfume and clove. Creamy and velvety on the palate but some freshness from the acid. The yellow apples and juicy baked pear fruit is ripe and creamy, and laced with notes of nougat, hazelnut, clove, nutmeg and white flowers. A bold of full-frontal appeal to this wine, but it’s also fresh and maintains some complexity and intrigue to it – works out together quite well. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 William Hill Winery Chardonnay North Coast California, North Coast
SRP: $17
Vibrant gold color. A vibrant, chalky nose with some limes, rich apples, honeysuckle and tennis balls. Creamy and silky on the palate with moderate acid. Rich yellow apples and pears with plenty of nutty, nougaty elements. Rich but harmonious with accents of nutmeg, vanilla, honeysuckle and talc powder. Impressive for the price. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 La Follette Chardonnay California, North Coast
SRP: $20
Light gold color. Smells of juicy apricots, peaches, sweet yellow flowers and some clover honey. Creamy and smooth on the palate, nice tartness too, quite floral in its approach with rich yellow apple, lemon meringue pie. Plenty here to please most every time of Chardonnay lover. A mix of stainless and barrel fermented Chardonnay from Sonoma and Mendocino. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2013 FEL Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $48
Pale yellow color. The aromas of rich apricot, yellow apples and pears, along with honey butter and almond oil, hints of salty air. The acid is clean and refreshing and provides everything this wine’s richness requires in order to maintain balance. The fruit is pure and juicy (apple, pear, cantaloupe, apricot, a squirt of lime), the almond, butterscotch and honey flavors are woven in so well, and the wine is peppered with these other sea salt and mineral elements, and the wine makes a compelling sort of sense. A profound sense of purity and briskness mixes with power and opulence.  Beautiful now but I’d like to retaste in two years to see what comes out. Fermented in French oak (50% new) and aged on the lees for 15 months. (93 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Landmark Chardonnay Overlook California, Sonoma County
SRP: $25
Light gold color. Nose of buttercream, honey, some crushed nutshells, on top of apricot and bruised yellow apple. Creamy texture on the palate, some moderate acid. A waxy, nutty element to this wine, on top of bruised apple, apricot, honeycomb, nougat, vanilla, a hint of white floral spice. It’s got good stirred lees creaminess, this is a rich and delicious style of Chardonnay. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Amici Chardonnay Olema California, Sonoma County
SRP: $15
Medium straw color. Nose of crushed nuts and honeybutter on top of lemon and orange peels, throw some baby’s breath on there. A waxy, full texture on the palate, a little low on the acid. Orange peel, pineapple, mango, topped with honeybutter. A rich, fun style. Half fermented in stainless steel, half-fermented in 25% new oak. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Anaba Chardonnay California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $28
Vibrant gold color. Rich aromas of peach cobbler, baked yellow apples and apricots, some chalky and crusty sea salt notes blend nicely with the hazelnut and honey butter. Bold and waxy presence on the palate, helped a bit by moderately crisp acid. The fruit tastes of baked apples, apricot jam and creamy peaches, topped with refreshing sea salt and honeysuckle notes, along with more powerful elements of crushed almond shells, buttered baguette and honeyed chamomile tea. Long, persistent finish. Rides the line, but does so impressively well. Aged nine months on the lees in 35% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 La Pitchoune Chardonnay California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $48
Medium gold color. Wonderful aromas of crusty sea salt, jetty rocks, bright lemons and green apples, sliced pears and almond. Full-bodied on the palate, a bold, waxy presence but the acid is so precise that the wine pulls off balance. Pears, baked apples, dried apricots, I get an interesting mix of hazelnut and honeyed tea with brisker elements of chalk and sea salt. Complex and intriguing but so easy to sip and enjoy. Some near-term aging potential here. Aged 18 months in used French oak barrels. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Biltmore Estate Chardonnay Antler Hill California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $30
Light golden color. Nose of sea salt, crushed shells and white flowers mixes with green pears and some chunkier yellow apple aromas. A rich body, it’s creamy yet quite bright with apricot, tart green apples and richer yellow apple fruit as well. Notes of dried honey and flowers, mixed with a sea salt aspect that lingers onto the finish. Quite nice if you’re looking for a brighter, unoaked style. 14.1% alcohol. (87 points IJB)

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