Revisiting good Chardonnay
Poor old Chardonnay. Long considered the white-grape favourite hereabouts, it seems to have been knocked off its perch by the likes of Pinot Gris and, to a lesser extent, Viognier. A recent survey conducted by the Earls restaurant people indicated that more people were requesting Pinot Gris than the former fave. Certainly, there’s no shortage of well-made Gris (or Grigio) from B.C. wineries and the rest of the wine world available here, but there’s also plenty of Chardonnay, so I thought we’d sample some recent arrivals to see what, if anything, we’ve been missing.
Township 7 Chardonnay 2011 ($19.99, 308 cases made)
The grapes for this winner came from the famed Sundial Vineyard, T7’s Naramata Bench estate, and one of Seven Stones’ sites in the Similkameen Valley. A gorgeous wine through and through, the rich and buttery flavours coming at least in part from new-French-oak aging, resulting in, as winemaker Bradley Cooper says, “creamy vanilla and butter notes mingling with fresh apple and peach aromas”. On the palate: “apple pie, sweet corn, citrus and fig”. This is everything you want from a Chardonnay, including superb balance and complex, layered flavours—an all-around lovely wine for the sunny days ahead. When you’re serving cream-sauced pastas or smoked cheese, wild salmon or shellfish, this is the perfect companion.
Antinori Cervaro della Sala IGT (Chardonnay and Grechetto) 2009 (A birthday gift from a friend, from the Sutton Place Wine Merchant on Burrard Street)
Worth the quest to locate it and the (probably) hefty price (my friend doesn’t do anything by halves!), this is a rich and steely Chardonnay with a year of bottle age on top of whatever oak it may have seen. It starts with big, lemony colour, beautiful fresh aromas, and lots of ripe fruit, and has a fabulous, bright finish with a gentle, minerally edge.
Foxtrot Coolshanagh Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($44.95, from the winery and a few—very few!—private wine shops)
While we’re on the subject of costly Chards, do consider this one, if there’s any cash left in the coffers. This small, exclusive vineyard is on the Naramata Bench, between Naramata town and Indian Rock. The wine starts with a pretty straw colour and a solid whiff of lemon off the nose, opening up to big, bold tropical fruit and culminating in a lavish finish. An example of state-of-the-art Okanagan Chardonnay. Winemakers Gustav and Nadine Allander are brilliant and need to do nothing else to assure their place in the B.C. winemaking pantheon.
Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2011 Stewart Family Reserve ($30, at the winery)
Sumptuous stuff—at the price, it ought to be; no wonder they reserve it for the family. But they’re willing to share! A nice edge of yeast introduces the full fruit, and there’s an agreeable hint of lemon. Excellent, deep weight and beautiful balance. A fabulous mid-priced Chardonnay.
Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($19.99, specialty listing)
A well-made middleweight Chard with soft fruit and a beautiful, slightly floral finish that points a little in the direction of Viognier. Rich and delicious, this is a versatile luncheon wine and all-around food companion.
Fort Berens White Gold Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($24.99)
The so-far-singular Lillooet winery just goes from strength to strength with each successive vintage. This one wants action to locate it: they don’t say just how limited the “limited edition” is, but it can’t be more than a few dozen bottles, and you’ll want to get in on tasting some. The grapes came from Sundial Vineyard (Black Sage Bench in the South Okanagan), instead of their own ever-expanding properties. The nine months the wine spent in French oak have imparted a creamy, rich flavour with a gorgeous, long finish. The entire Fort Berens portfolio is worth your serious attention.
CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay Block 5 2011 ($29.95, at the winery and some VQA stores)
“Our very best wines are bottled as Platinum” say the producers of this acquired-taste Chard. A total of 533 cases were made, and while its green edge may not appeal to every palate, it’s a beautiful wine, well built and handsome. I think it’s best suited to solo sipping, although they suggest pairing it with “fish cakes made with fresh ling cod”. I like the musical note some wag included: “We’d also pair it with The Well-Tempered Clavier, J.S. Bach: like music made out of pinpricks. In a good way.”
JoieFarm Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 ($22.90, at the winery while supplies last)
If you’re a regular follower of my ramblings here, you’ll know that I think the proprietors of this little-but-oh-my Naramata winery can do no wrong. More proof, as if it were needed, is this bright and bracing Chard, the perfect accompaniment to fresh, iced, briny oysters.
Edna Valley California Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard 2010 ($19.99, specialty listing)
Big, tropical fruit off the nose—white peaches and some “sweet spice”; lots of lemon, too. For seafood, grilled chicken, or roast pork.
Lucky Penny Chardonnay/Viognier/Pinot Grigio 2011 ($15.99, specialty listing)
This one from the Yellow Tail folks brings all three of the fighting varieties together in one pleasant blend. The result is delicious honey, apricot, and pear aromas and flavours. Good value.
There, that’ll keep you in Chardonnay for at least a week. You may even forget to buy Pinot Gris this time around. We’ll get to some of those another time. Viogniers too.