Mom may have been right.
Today, certain wine people are over chardonnay, saying it’s been over-served, over-relied upon, (over-oaked and over-wrought.
But mom liked her chardonnay, and her generation made chardonnay synonymous with white wine from the ’70s through the ’90s. Now, people may order a “grigio” and sometimes even “pinot” for a pinot grigio, which became another wine list must-have. But chardonnay still is the most-consumed white wine in the United States. Sauvignon blanc and riesling trail in third and fourth, respectively.
We can thank mom with a chardonnay toast.
Chardonnays of old were guilty as charged. Tropical, spicy and buttery — like a piña colada topped with caramel (and popcorn butter. They were a mouthful and buried the idea of chardonnay.
I found some chardonnays that deliver without being excessive, offering rich fruit and enough oak to be prominent but not the center of attention — like a bodyguard.
Cline Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is spicy and tropical with apple and baked pineapple character and a citrus finish with touch of caramel. $15. ★★★1/2
California’s Santa Lucia Highlands is a great spot for pinot noir and chardonnay, which both trace their roots to Burgundy, France. French oak barrel-fermented Hahn SLH 2015 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay shows vibrant apple/spice flavors and rich texture. $21. ★★★1/2
Wente Riva Ranch 2015 Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco, not far from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, is the result of lots of tweaking from this leading chardonnay producer with different proportions fermented in barrel and steel plus partially aged in various types of oak. The result is an expertly balanced mix of apple skin, citrus, subtle oak and spice with prominent acids that leaves you wanting more. $20. ★★★★1/2