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CHARDONNAYS

October 8, 2001 • Chez Johansen

Turns out several of us had the same idea to bring a "good value" to this tasting. Also turns out we each had the very same bottle (although different vintages) in mind. While this doesn't do much for the breadth of our tasting experience, it does challenge the consistency of our palates and serves to validate the value and quality consistency of the brand. In this case, the wine is widely available and more than fairly priced. Wine lovers who have avoided or written off Gallo of Sonoma Chardonnay are simply cheating themselves and validating their own snobbery. We enjoyed Marlene's hospitality and a good selection of fresh fruit, crackers and soft cheeses to sample with Chardonnays.

Wines are judged Equal Within Categories or Recommendation and listed Alphabetically by Brand
Brand
Vintage Varietal or "Name"
Appellation, Vineyard
TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish, alcohol %. Summary. ($ paid)

KEY: consensus (flaws?)

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Acacia Chardonnay '99.Acacia
1999 Chardonnay
Carneros, Napa County

Light yellow-green; complex, attractive butter, tropical, pineapple, fig, peach, dill and mineral aromas show lees, malolactic fermentation and oak (too much?); lightly sweet, fruity, tropical, slightly candied, mineral, citric, deep flavors; soft mouthfeel, light to medium body with some richness; balanced; slightly tart, faint heat in the long finish, 13.9%. Pleasing, complex style; very nice wine, although some panelists thought a little too oaky. ($15) WEBSITE

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Gallo of Sonoma Chardonnay '99.Gallo of Sonoma
1999 Chardonnay
Sonoma County

Light yellow; sweet, ripe citrus, apple, nectarine, peach and tropical fruit and floral aromas with touches of yeast, vanilla and toasty oak in the background; pleasant, peach and tropical fruit flavors; light to medium body, rich, luscious, with a soft mouthfeel; balanced; noticeable oak in slightly lingering finish, 13.5%. Very nice, very varietal and easy to drink Chardonnay at a very good price. BEST BUY ($10) WEBSITE

(2nd bottle)
Gallo of Sonoma
1999 Chardonnay
Sonoma County

Light yellow; light, fruity, melon, pineapple, toast and mineral aromas; pleasant, fruity, complex, lemon zest, fig and butter flavors; medium to full body (faint spritz?); balanced; crisp, slightly sweet, faint heat in lingering finish, 13.5%. Very nice, easy drinking Chardonnay at a very good price. BEST BUY ($10) WEBSITE

Gallo of Sonoma Chardonnay.Gallo of Sonoma
1998 Chardonnay
Sonoma County

Light yellow; green olive, muted apple and tropical fruit, toasty, vanilla, oak, baby powder and creamy-buttery, malolactic aromas; ripe melon, juicy fruit and oak flavors, a little hollow in the center; mouth-filling, medium to full body; balance is slightly low in acid; faint heat in the long finish, 13.5%. Not quite a fresh tasting as its younger sisters, this vintage seems to have more oak influence; still a nice wine and a value. BEST BUY ($10) WEBSITE

Solitude Chardonnay 2000.Solitude
2000 Chardonnay
Carneros, Sonoma County

Pale yellow-green; fruity, slightly floral, rose petal and tropical aromas with butter, nuts, butterscotch, minerals, toasty oak; soft, ripe, pleasantly fruity flavors begin well, fall off; light body; very good balance, seems a touch sweet as it warms; slightly lingering finish, 14.4%. Nice wine that shows the youthful tendency toward freshness and simplicity; should gain complexity and harmony in a few months. ($23) *WEBSITE

RECOMMENDED

Beckman Chardonnay '96.Beckman
1996 Chardonnay "Barrel Select"
Santa Barbara

Pale straw yellow; sweet vanilla, caramel, oak, nutty, lees, baby powder and toasted marshmallow aromas dominate citric fruit; complex, initially sweet, citrus, caramel, fig and walnut flavors are followed by tartness; light to medium body; balanced, although it seems somewhat segmented; tart finish, 13.2%. Fairly varietal and easy-drinking wine, although its elements seem not quite "married". ($20.50) *WEBSITE

Ch St Jean Chardonnay Robt Young 1996.Ch. St. Jean
1996 Chardonnay
Alexander Valley, "Robert Young"

Light straw yellow; complex, mature, slightly fruity, lemony aromas with touches of butter, butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, nuts, oak, baby powder, lees and toast; mature flavors; medium body with good mouthfeel and some richness; well-balanced; finishes long, slightly harsh, slightly hot, 14.9%. This wine scored very high marks in wine publications when released and is showing very well now, three years later. ($30 at release, available at $15 while supply lasts). WEBSITE

TASTED

Murphy-Goode Chardonnay '99.Murphy-Goode
1999 Chardonnay
Alexander Valley

Pale straw yellow; lean, light nondescript fruit, vanilla and cardboard, slightly musty, sweaty, soapy aromas (filter pad?); weak, light, lean, citric, chemical, sweat,alcohol and aspirin-like flavors; thin, light body; crisp, tart balance, lacks fruit (sour?); tart, hot finish, 13.5%. Flavors seem unripe and chemical, very disappointing. ($12) WEBSITE

Ridege Chardonnay '99 Monte Bello.Ridge
1999 Chardonnay
Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains

Light yellow-green; strong, pungent, burnt, chemical, smoky-woody aroma hides light, flowery fruit (ethyl acetate?); dull flavors also dominated by earth, wood, terpene; medium body; needs fruit to be balanced; finishes tart, slightly harsh from tannin, and a little hot, 14.5%. Ten months have lapsed since this wine was bottled. Could there possibly still be some fruit that has yet to come out of hiding? ($44) WEBSITE

CORKED BOTTLE

Clos du Bois Chardonnay '99 Calcaire.Clos du Bois
1999 Chardonnay
Calcaire Vineyard, Alexander Valley

Very pale yellow-green; oak and ripe apple or nectarine fruit aromas marred by rubber (sulfur?), musty and distinct TCA cork taint; TCA also ruins lean, Chablis-style flavors; thin body; balanced (?); finishes tart, hot and slightly bitter, 14.1%. Past versions of this wine have scored well; cork taint ruins another bottle. ($22) WEBSITE


This Panel included Regulars Kevin, Mark, Deanna, Glenn, Bob, Diana, Marlene, Jon, Jim, and James
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