Friday, August 7, 2015

Chardonnay Gives Creaminess, Acidity Equal Billing

Chardonnay is, if memory serves, the most popular white wine grape in the U.S. Despite that rank, Chardonnay is sometimes held in low regard by more snobbish wine folk, who disdain it for its popularity. It is similar to my own failing feelings for a particular musical artist who has hit the big time - it was much more fun backing him before everyone knew about him.

I'm not a Chardonnay hater, even though I will usually opt for something a little racier, a little more daring, a little ... less Chardonnay. Even so, California Chardonnay has become a lot more interesting over the last half decade or so.

No longer typified by flabby, overoaked wines, the Chardonnay segment of wine styles has become nearly as fragmented as that of Riesling. Oak has become less dominant, acidity has become a focal point and it's hard to find a California winery which doesn't produce at least one completely unoaked Chardonnay.

The many different types of Chardonnay - steely, oaky, fresh, full - may call for a scale on the label, a la Riesling, to show the consumer what to expect inside the bottle. Until then, ask your wine merchant what sort of Chardonnay it is that you are buying. Have him or her guide you to the style that suits you.

The CrossBarn Chardonnay 2014 Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County wine comes from select vineyards of the cool Sonoma Coast appellation. The grapes are pressed in whole clusters, stems and all, adding a freshness and vibrancy to the wine. Only 10% of the juice feels any oak - the rest is aged five months in steel tanks. The wine is, however, left in contact with the spent yeast cells during aging - with weekly stirring to keep the lees suspended. This imparts a creamy richness without so much reliance on oak. The wine also underwent full malolactic fermentation, which also adds to the creamy texture.

The '14 CrossBarn Chardonnay looks golden in the glass and smells nice and ripe. Peaches, pineapples and lemons burst forth like so much fruit basket. The palate shines as brightly, with wonderful fruit led by apples and lemons. The creamy quality resulting from the production techniques stands opposite an eye-popping acidity. Pair this with salads, soups and seafood anytime, but it can handle a pork chop or roasted chicken just as effortlessly.

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