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Anything But Chardonnay!?

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Anything But Chardonnay!?

Phoo D | Sep 4, 2006 08:45 PM

I still remember the first bottle of Chardonnay I ever tasted. My girlfriend and I were invited to some soirée at her manager's place in 1974 or 75. We were supposed to bring a bottle of white wine. I probably just went to a grocery store, but I really don't remember where I found the bottle of wine. The label said it was a Pinot Chardonnay from Christian Brothers' winery. I probably had a couple of glasses of the wine that evening and remember that I liked it immensely.

Thereafter for the next 20 years, my white wine of choice was Chardonnay. Of course I would drink other white wines; in particular I have always had a fondness for Rieslings and also sometimes would have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Nonetheless, I drank far more Chardonnay than all other white wines combined. I even grew to love the super buttery, oakey California versions of the grape.

Then one night began to change my tastes in white wine. A friend of mine and I were enjoying a special dinner at the Sardine Factory in Monterey, California. We started with the bottle of Le Sophiste, a Marsanne and Rousanne blend from Bonny Doon winery. It went well with the food and I enjoyed its minerality and its structure. It was so good that we finished it before our main courses arrived, so we asked the sommelier - an older gentleman with a German accent, a black patch over one eye, and a tastevin around his neck - to recommend a nice big California Chardonnay to go with the main courses. When we began to taste the Sanford Chardonnay he suggested, it seemed flabby, simple, and uninteresting. I really missed the Sophiste.

This would be a better story if I said that I'd never again enjoyed Chardonnay, but actually it took a few years for me to come to the point where I no longer liked the flavor profile of that grape. Don't get me wrong, if you buy me a nice bottle of Chardonnay, I will find a way to drink it. If you serve a chard with the dinner over at your place, I promise I won't complain, but I no longer order Chardonnay, buy it myself, or even taste it in wineries.

Having given up Chardonnay has opened my mouth to a large range of other whites. NZ Sauvignon Blancs are probably my current dry white favorite, but I also have enjoyed all sorts of white blends, regained a fondness for Chenin Blanc, and discovered Torrontes, Alsatian wines of all sorts, Viogniers, Pinot Grigios (or Gris) etc.

In any case, my experience with Chardonnay leads me to ask you other hounds out there if you've had similar experiences to mine. Have your views of a varietal ever changed dramatically? Have you ever burned out on a grape varietal? How do you feel about Chardonnay? What are your favorite white varietals?

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