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CHARDONNAY $15-30

September 18, 2000 • Old Doc's Discount Liquors

Although we tossed any notions of appellation or vintage and decided to judge Chardonnay on price worthiness in the mid-to-premium range, we ended up with an all-California line-up and had examples that both undershot and overshot our price range. The panelists considerably preferred the top four finishers (average price $19.25)...one even earned "BEST BUY" honors...to the bottom five, which tend to have Quality/Price Ratios that seem to favor producers (avg. $25.70), rather than consumers.

Moral: Don't judge quality by price; you may pay too much for too little!

Brand
Varietal or Proprietary Type Vintage & Appellation
$ price - alcohol content

Compilation Tasting Notes
(bold type = consensus; ? = flaw?)
[technique, if known]
#Rank
Buying Advice

Solitude
1999 Chardonnay
Carneros "Sangiacomo"
$23. -
14.4%

Medium straw; complex, peach pie, tropical, and grapefruit aromas with rich, toasty, honey, and vanilla bouquet; sweet entry, ripe, tropical, pineapple, well-integrated fruit flavors with noticeable oak; full body, tart, crisp balance; very clean, long finish with faintly harsh echoes of oak; seemingly high alcohol surprisingly unobtrusive. [French oak barrel-fermented, 100% malolactic & lees contact]

#1
Very Highly
Recommended

Dehlinger
1998 Chardonnay ESTATE
Russian River Valley
$23. -
14.1%

Medium straw; complex, fresh, ripe peach and hay aromas with butterscotch, sweet cream, vanilla, toast, spice, and a slightly musty bouquet; oaky entry, rich, citrussy, deep fruit flavors; crisp acidity, good balance; medium-long, slightly harsh (metallic?) finish. May improve with a few months bottle age. [unfiltered]

#2
Very Highly
Recommended

Thomas Fogarty
1998 Chardonnay
Monterey
$18. -
13%

Medium-dark yellow; complex, very ripe, lemon, pear and pineapple fruit aromas with spicy, resin (v.a.?), vanilla, caramel and barrel-fermentation bouquet; rich, woody, smoky, leesy flavors dominate floral, lemon, apple, pear, and fig fruit flavors; very smooth, round, creamy texture with nice harmony (fat?); smooth, medium-long finish, lingering oak with a faint bitterness. May improve.

#3
Highly
Recommended

Estancia
1998 Chardonnay
Monterey "Pinnacles"
$13. -
13.5%

Dark straw; sweet, straightforward, ripe tropical, pineapple, nectarine fruit aromas with sweet butter bouquet; fresh, charming, citrus, and stone fruit flavors with spice, honeysuckle, and barely noticeable wood; slightly rich, tart, crisp balance; clean, finish fades. Easy to drink now. [aged sur-lie, 7 months in French and American oak]

#4
Highly
Recommended

BEST BUY

Pine Ridge
1997 Chardonnay "Dijon Clones"
Napa Valley - Carneros
$22.50 -
13.8%

Dark straw; light apple and pineapple fruit aroma, touch of vanilla, toasted almond, and ginger spice; light, tart, lemon, green fruit flavors, very little oak (cedar?); elegant style, good balance; slightly bitter, medium-long finish.

#5
Recommended

Beringer
1995 Chardonnay PRIVATE RESERVE
Napa Valley
$35. -
13.4%

Medium-dark yellow; low-fruit lemony aroma with barrel-fermented, leesy, hazelnut, perfumed, faintly sherried (oxidation?) bouquet; mature flavors (bacon?), mask pineapple, tropical fruit, seems flat, flabby; fairly rich, creamy texture; woody, faintly harsh finish. The end is near---chill well and drink up. [aged sur lie, 9 months in French oak]

#6
Recommended

Steele
1998 Chardonnay "CUVEE"
California
$20. - 13%

Medium yellow; peach, melon, apple, tropical and bubble gum aromas are somewhat rich with a touch of spicy oak and an initial stench that dissipates; good mouthfeel and ripeness to the lemony fruit flavors; smooth, but slight heat offsets balance; long, slightly hot finish.

#7
Recommended

Long Vineyards
1997 Chardonnay
Russian River "Seghesio"
$21. - 13%

Medium straw; ripe tropical aroma with a faint (filter pad? butyl?) stench; lots of pleasant upfront oak flavors mask fig-like fruit; thin, low acidity; fairly long, rough, faintly harsh finish. [fermented and aged in new French Taransaud barrels]

#8
Not
Recommended

Chalk Hill
1997 Chardonnay ESTATE
Chalk Hill, Sonoma County
$30. - 13.5%

Medium yellow; heavy oak aroma with low fruit gives impression of much older wine, funky, initial matchstick (SO2); somewhat harsh entry, ponderously woody, faint fruit, almost bland flavors with some tannin harshness; oily with a hollow center; long finish echoes wood. Not pleasant. (Very disappointing showing for this Wine Spectator 1999 TOP 100 List wine - could this be a [too] late bottling?)

#9
Not
Recommended

This Panel included Regulars Mark, Deanna, Glenn,
Roy, Marlene, Jon, Ray, Jim, & James

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