Taking a new look at good old Chardonnay

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Seems to me we’ve been neglecting our old pal Chardonnay of late. There was a time not all that long ago when stores and restaurant wine lists were packed with this favourite. Then came the Pinot Gris wave—at least, as far as restaurants were concerned; that’s all we wanted to drink when it came to white wines. Viognier soon supplanted that as people became more daring in their choices, particularly in restaurants. Then came the slew of aromatics, especially Gewürztraminer; guess people liked to twist their tongues around the word.

Well, some of us haven’t forgotten good old Chard. I thought it’d be tasty to look at some new vintages of Chardonnay from a handful of favourite producers, so I invited the tasting panel to sit down for an augmented six-pack. There were many murmurs of appreciation, even delight. Hope you like some of the following wines too.

Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay 2010 ($14.99)
The cheapest of this batch and the only French wine in the lot. Lots of fruit, if a little bitter. Peppery in the finish; it wants food, the heartier the better.

Fort Berens Lillooet Chardonnay 2011 ($17.99 at the winery, some VQA stores, and selected restaurants)
Very soft and somewhat overstuffed. The first Chardonnay produced with the winery’s estate-grown grapes. Appealing on its own and an ideal poached-chicken wine.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2011 ($19.99)
Very soft fruit, rich and hearty, a little sweet in the approach, morphing into a nice bitter-almond finish. Quite mellow all along the palate, then it kicks in with some bite. Unique flavours. An excellent Chardonnay, if not for every palate. Fine with a pork stir-fry with fingerling potatoes, all the way through to Saskatoon-berry-and-rhubarb pie.

Township 7 Chardonnay 2010 ($19.99)
Light, deft, and delicate, with bright, fresh fruit and hints of caramel and honey throughout. Great balance between fruit, acidity, and oak. For once, they made enough to go around. Mushroom risotto loves it, and it’s another wine for Parmesan popcorn, if you remember how that goes.

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2011 ($20.90 at the winery)
Same quaint label, same great-quality Chard inside the bottle. Complex and rich. Forty percent aged and fermented in stainless steel, 60 percent in new to three-year-old French oak for seven months. A little green-tasting, in a nice way; lighter than some earlier vintages, but still fresh and full. A reliable, lovely wine that has kept on going steadily upward in quality.

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2010 ($25 at the winery)
A perennial favourite; this new vintage doesn’t disappoint. Crisp and bright, it comes off almost sparkly on the tongue. Super tasty, with a perfectly balanced hint of oak in the aftertaste. Another one that loves fingerling potatoes (I’m on a fingerling kick while they’re around) with butter, salt and pepper, dill, mint, and parsley. Nothing else needed for a satisfying dinner. The wine makes it wonderful.

Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Chardonnay 2011 ($25 at the winery)
Crisp and lemony, a bit buttery in that Chardonnay way, full and fruity. It spent six months in oak and it shows. An easy sipper with a gentle afterbite, fresh and springlike. Will there be any left come spring? Not in my cellar, but perhaps at the winery. Outstanding wine.

McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2011 ($29.99 at the winery)
The second vintage of this new-label Chard is even better than the first—and that was a stunner. Gently spicy, rich, and polished, with fruit and oak in seamless balance. There is pineapple, butter, and acacia honey with tangy lemon edges in abundance. The grapes came from the famous Sundial Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench near Oliver, a proving ground for great wines, particularly Chardonnays. Fine with rich fish or poultry dishes, but try it all on its own if you have a couple of bottles (or can get your hands on them); it will be a revelation, showing how good B.C. Chard can be if you have the right vineyard location and know how to handle the grapes.

The wine is available direct from the winery, although some independent wine stores and select restaurants in Vancouver may have it. Your best bet may be the producer; contact wine@harrymcwatters.com.

Tscharke Marananga Barossa Gold Shiraz 2010 ($19.99)
Because one cannot live by Chardonnay alone, this just-arrived red had the panel swooning. Shirazes are Australia’s biggest red-wine export, at least if the hundreds of Shirazes available here are any indicator. This one is—as good Shiraz should be—hale and hearty, mellow and round, a perfect roast-meat wine or a solid sipper for anyone who loves a good drinking bottle of red. The Aussies do know how to do it. A worthy addition to the lineup and well worth searching for.

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