Chardonnay is a grape that easily takes on influence of its surrounding. That means the climate, terroir, and aging vessels can all influence what the wine tastes like. If Chardonnay is grown in a warm climate, there will be a tropical fruit influence. If it’s grown in a cold climate, it the citrus and stone fruit influenced.
When Chardonnay is fermented, it usually goes through a process called malolactic fermentation. This turns the more tart acids into smoother buttery tastes. What some wine makers are now doing is partial malolactic fermentation. This means you will get the buttery taste, but at a smaller volume and will keep that tartness from the grape.
When Chardonnay is aged additional flavor characteristics can be added. When winemakers want to accentuate the crisp acid tastes of a Chardonnay from a cool-climate, they usually age it in stainless steel tanks or older oak barrels. The stainless steel imparts no flavor and an older, used wine barrel imparts little to none. If a winemaker wants to add the aspects of vanilla, butter, and they will new age oak barrels.
Knowing this information, read the Chardonnay labels or ask your wine steward for help. Remember, if you want the full mouthfeel of buttery and oaky Chardonnay, you should find one that has gone through malolactic conversion as well as having been aged in oak. If you are looking for a Chardonnay that has tastes of green apples and citrus, ask for a cool climate Chardonnay and check for one that has only had partial or no malolactic fermentation. Give all the styles and find out which ones you like the best!
On Thursday I went to a wine tasting at Cellar 24. The featured winery was from Sonoma and is called Bruliam. This is a boutique winery that focuses on Pinot Noir. I was fortunate enough to not only meet the wine maker Kerith Overstreet, but to hear her very interesting story. She was once a doctor of pathology and has a degree in enology. Read more about it here:
The wines were lovely with Rosé of Pinot Noir. There were also 3 Pinot Noirs from different vineyards to taste. It was quite interesting to taste the difference each terroir provided for the wine. I bought a bottle of the Sangiacomo Pinot Noir. It had a very bright red fruit expression.
As summer approaches, I start drinking white wine more often than red. If you are looking for a new white to try, give Pinot Blanc a try. Pinot Blanc is grown in France, German, Austria, Italy and Hungary and California. (and a few other places). I LOVE the Pinot Blanc from Trimbach Winery in Alsace. The Pinot Blancs in Alsace tend to be full bodied and acidic. Pinot Blancs are meant to be enjoyed young. Remember – French wine labels usually have the region first, but Alsace is the exception. Wineries from Alsace do label their bottles the “new world way” by putting the grape varietal, making it easy for those of us used to seeing varietals on the label. This is an excellent apertif wine. Which means have it first, serve it with a seafood appetizer, or of course, cheese! I had it tonight with Chabrin Onetik and Comté. Both are French cheeses. Chabrin Onetik is a very dry goat cheese, it would go great in any kind of spinach salad. This cheese dates back to at least 3800 years old. It has a touch of sweetness with hints of olive oil and is nutty. Crumbles easily. Comté is made in Eastern France and is the highest produced DOC cheese. It is also an ancient cheese as it was produced in the times of Charlegmagne. It melts well and can be used in fondues. It has a complex nutty flavor.
The easiest way to explain this – it’s French-Swiss cheese. Made in a French speaking region of Switzerland, this cheese first appeared centuries ago. The name Raclette comes from the French word “racler” which means to scrape. In the mountains of the Alps, the cow herders would take the cheese in a semi-hard form so it would last. Legend has it one, night, one of the men put a piece of cheese on his knife and placed it over the fire creating the melting goodness and then used the cheese to put on his potatoes. The cheese continued to grow in popularity and is now a dish in Switzerland. There are grills and melters designed for this dish and many different items for dipping in the cheese. This cheese has a salty and nutty taste and a “distinctive” smell. It is slightly acidic and made from cow’s milk. It has a creamy consistency and balanced fat content so it melts well without separating or becoming oily. Tonight, it’s going on my pizza, but I will be trying more of the traditional Raclette recipes I found while doing research!
I spent my Saturday afternoon in one of the best places in the world. Napa.
First stop, Clos Du Val. I have a membership there and we had reserved a picnic table. Luckily they had a cancellation and we got to move to the cabana area. Clos du Val really knows how to take care of its members. I was with a large group and we were allowed to go in and out to get out tastings and return to our table with no issues. We did make a quick run down to the local deli and pick up some meats and cheeses to enjoy. My favorite taste from their winery was the Cab Franc-Cab Sauvignon blend.
Second stop was one of my favorites, Beringer. Their service is excellent! Go see my friend Gina, she will take care of you! Best surprise of the day, half off of any cases. What a deal for a case of wine, especially when shipping for members was a flat $20. If you think Beringer is only about white zin, you are mis-informed. Tons of great choices and good wines. This is a beautiful facility and is one of the oldest wineries in Napa. It was established in 1875.
Last was Cosentino Winery. Small tasting room, but again a friendly staff, especially since traffic was bad and we were there right at closing time. I did purchase a Meritage and Sangiovese. What is Meritage? It is a blend fashioned after the red Bordeaux wines of France. Any winery that wants to label their wine as a Meritage has to register it and have it approved.
Sadly, I only had one day to spend in Napa with some friends. Too short, but well worth it. I’m hoping to come back in August to hit my usual places and try a few new ones!