I cut my wine teeth when “ABC,” or anything but chardonnay, was all the rage. This was the golden era of buttery, oaky chards that cried out for “chicken in a cream sauce,” and I found myself gravitating more toward sauvignon blanc and riesling. Even now, decades later, chardonnay is rarely the first wine I reach for when I want a white. (Unless it’s Burgundy, of course. All generalizations about chardonnay stop at Burgundy. Including that one.)
So I tend to end up with chardonnays with some age on them. The other day as I was rummaging around in The Pile I found two of my favorites from 2015: Stony Hill from Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District and the Roserock from Drouhin Oregon in the Eola-Amity Hills of Willamette Valley. This was too good an opportunity to pass up.
My wife and I enjoyed these with dinner over a few nights. They paired beautifully with salmon, a Persian chicken and eggplant dish a neighbor brought us, and a simple spicy tofu stir fry. Each wine balances oak and acidity with vibrant fruit. The Stony Hill was a bit more voluptuous, while the Roserock remained laser-focused. Both had softened with a few years of age and shed any resistance, but they should also last many more years. Pity I don’t have more. (In what should become a regular caveat when I write about wines from The Pile, these were not in temperature-controlled storage but in the basement of my drafty suburban split-level home, which we keep slightly cooler than tolerable because — well, wine!)
These wines reminded me of my fondness for chardonnay from the Willamette Valley and certain mountainous outcrops of Napa Valley. Do you have any favorite chardonnays lurking in your collection? Which are your favorites, from California, Oregon or elsewhere? Any sleeper regions you wish you could find in stores? (Mine are Argentina and New Zealand.) Please let me know in the comments. (Both wines were samples.)
Jim Law at Linden Vineyards here in Virginia has a couple of really nice Chardonnays. They are much more French than California in orientation.
Yes! Jim’s chardonnays are outstanding and age-worthy. Michael Shaps also makes a stunning chard, and of course his Burgundy background invites that comparison as well. Jim’s are more mineral and austere, Chablis-like if I can get away with the comparison, while Michael’s are more full-bodied, Pouligny-Montrachet style.
Agree with Maxnhall about Jim Law’s Chardonnay. I also really like what Dave Collins at Big Cork in Rohrersville has produced. Both age nicely.
I second this — Dave Collins makes some delicious wines!
Well tonight I enjoyed another outstanding chard, David Ramey’s 2016 Woolsey Road Vineyard from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. Amazing concentration of fruit, laser-like acidity and yet plush texture and long finish. This wine has clearly benefited from a little bottle age, yet it should continue to evolve in a good way for a few more years should you like your chard with a little more color and coconut. (That last is an extrapolation from experience of older chards from The Pile, not specifically from experience with David Ramey’s.)
I have to admit I’m still a bit chard-averse, at least from the perspective of oak. Naturally, that means my go-to region for chardonnay is Chablis, and primarily 1er Cru vineyards. I’ve certainly loved some of the GC Chablis, but don’t find them worth the substantial uptick in price. Give me Fourchaume, Montmains, Vaillons, and Vaucopins from the likes of J. Moreau, Louis Moreau, Mallandes, William Fevre, and Long-Depaquit (Bichot). Minerality vs. oak – no contest.