Wednesday, January 19, 2011


My dear Wineaux, be prepared to raise a glass and toast farewell to the over-oaked clumsy powerhouses of yore: so many of today's Napa Chardonnays are nuanced, elegant, complex, and ready to welcome you back to the fold.

Napa Valley (located in northern California; if you didn't know this, you have to go out and get me one of the following wines right now) is one of the most beautifully diverse wine regions in the world. It has an incredibly wide range of climates, soils and terrains, and a number of prominent grape varietals grow wonderfully there, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. It also houses some of the most passionate winemakers I've ever encountered. Without further ado, here are some superb current releases of Napa Chardonnays to ponder:

2008 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Arcadia Napa Valley Chardonnay
Incredibly light color. Very strong notes of petrol, lots of straw and grass. Quite viscous. Luscious in the mouth with good acidity. Stylistically a little unusual & intriguing, very compelling. ~$50

2008 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Karia Napa Valley Chardonnay
Pale yellow-gold. Light butter nose with perfume & herbs. Nicely balanced with lots of layers, including notes of baked apple and a hint of taffy. Not overly acidic and very approachable. ~$35

*2008 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay
Pale straw-yellow. Super buttery nose with subtle grass and florals. Flinty, warm stone fruit, lemon verbena, dried grasses and buttered popcorn. Tons of acidity and great all-over mouthfeel. ~$42

2008 Trefethen Oak Knoll Napa Valley Chardonnay
Very light color. Earth and mineral notes on nose. Nice light lemon and herbs, not overly acidic, but wonderful length. Supremely quaffable. ~$30

2008 Heitz Wine Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay
Pale straw yellow. Touch of oak on the nose. Clean feel with a refreshing minerality and grassiness. Nice acidity. ~$20

*2009 I'M Napa Valley Chardonnay
(I'M = Isabel Mondavi; these wines are made by her son, Rob Mondavi Jr. of the renowned Mondavi winemaking dynasty.) Pale straw yellow. Warm nose of melon, pear, and perfume. Luxurious yet elegant, good acid and deep length. Lovely variety of components, including peach, orange blossom, and honey notes. Wonderful value as well. ~$19

*2008 Cakebread Cellars Reserve Los Carneros Chardonnay
Light yellow-gold. This wine did spend fourteen months in the barrel and has subsequent relatively prominent oak notes, but they are perfectly integrated with florals, lime and a hint of vanilla. A great example of oak used to wonderful effect in this stellar reserve wine. ~$55

2007 Clos Pegase Hommage Artist Series Reserve, Mitsuko's Vineyard Los Carneros Chardonnay
Light yellow color. Nice warm buttery nose. Green apple and pear notes with a lively acidity and a nicely integrated, balanced finish. ~$40

2009 Antica Napa Valley - Antinori Family Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay
Light pale straw yellow. This single-vineyard Chardonnay from an Italian clone has a very flinty and mineral-y nose. Bright grassiness, sour lemon, minerals and herbs with a finish for days. ~$27

Starred entries are personal favorites. Prices are suggested retail. As always, any factual errors or omissions are mine alone.

Aa I wind up this post, I have a strong urge to push aside the computer and head for the nearest bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay. This is a common impulse for me - surprise, surprise - but truly these wines are worthy of a second look. And a third. And a fourth. It's been cold and rainy here in New York but I suddenly feel as if I'm enjoying a lovely afternoon in Napa, and you should certainly take a virtual visit yourself! (Keep watch for upcoming posts on some more stellar wines from the AMAZING Napa Valley...)