Overheard at least 5x at the tasting tables of the Pebble Beach Food & Wine show: “I CAN’T STAND American chardonnays, because they are too…oaky, syrupy, monodimensional, unbalanced, (enter adjective here)…” Also heard at least 5x by servers of chardonnay (with insecure, apologetic tone): “Our wine is more BURGUNDIAN in style , unlike those other producers that make versions that are too oaky, syrupy, (enter adjective here)…”
Before spending a day inside the glitzy white tents (with Morimoto himself slinging jazzed up pork buns), I had thought the assualts/apologies for the “1990s style” of California chardonnay were long over. And that consumers are well aware of the amazing diversity and quality in domestic chardonnay styles available today.
But I was wrong.
So many people are stuck in chardonnay’s spotty American past. And to me, that’s sad. Domestic premium chardonnay ($15+ a bottle), as a whole, has never been better than it is now. And it’s not just California that’s producing the good stuff — Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, are doing quite well.
As proof, I’ve picked out a few wines ranging from $15-25, intended to counter the ‘classic complaints’ I’ve heard recently about what's wrong with American chardonnay:
* Over oaked? How about the no-oak 2008 Chehalem INOX Willamette Valley Chardonnay.
* Lacks balance? Try the 2007 Gainey Sta. Rita Hills.
* Like ‘em rich like Montrachet? Try the 2008 Alfaro, Lindsay Paige, Santa Cruz.
* Lacking acidity? Try the 2006 Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido Historic.
* Skip the butter? Try the 2007 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay.