Recommendation columns are always a bit tricky. Write them too often, and customers lose interest. Write them too much from our own perspective, and we risk losing part of our audience. After all, tastes in wine are more varied than wine regions and varietals. If we don’t write them often enough, we hear about that too, as our readers want to know what is new in all things wine, including what we like. Over the next 4 weeks, we are going to take a bit of a different approach to recommending wines. Each week we will focus on the most requested varietals and what our customers like the best. We will start this week with Chardonnay, followed by Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Pinot Noir.
Will this approach miss some great and popular bottles? Of course. Leaving out blends, other varietals and many “Old World” bottles because many are blends or grapes that are less prominent here in the States, will cause us to miss some popular and delicious wines. We promise to make up for those later. But let’s get started with our most popular: Chardonnay.
The Landmark Overlook Chardonnay ($22, Wine Club $19.80) is currently on the 2016 vintage. For California Chardonnay consumers who don’t wish to break the bank on a bottle, this wine is not only great, but also punches way over its weight, or shall we say, dollar, class. It has all the components California Chardonnay lovers crave but with restraint and balance at the same time. It really delivers in an understated and elegant fashion.
The 2017 Sous le Bois white Burgundy from Chateau La Greffiere ($20, Wine Club $18) is a lovely French Chardonnay. We have a customer who collects Burgundy bottles that are over $100. Once he tried this one, he bought over a case; it was all we had in the shop at the time. We were first introduced to this wine by Sam Lange on a cold winter night at Beverly’s. We tracked it down instantly and added it to the shelf. It is a truly lovely wine. it is leaner than domestic Chardonnay but with perfect notes of citrus and ripe golden apples, and just the slightest touch of butter and oak for those who like their Chardonnay on the lighter side.
The winemaker at Matchbook Winery is my friend, Dan Cederquist. Dan was the winemaker at Balletto Vineyards when I worked at the winery in the tasting room. We connected immediately when we met and worked on a few wines together. He is a Chardonnay master. Dan always said, “Chardonnay is the easiest grape to make.” Or maybe he is just that good at it! The 2017 Matchbook Chardonnay ($15, Wine Club $13.50) is a big, rich and viscous Chardonnay, with ample butter and oak carefully framed with ideal acids and fruit flavors.
It is nothing new for me to write about Truchard Chardonnay ($37, Wine Club $33.30). The Truchard family and their delicious lineup of Napa Valley wines hold a special place in my heart. It was one of the first wines I encountered in my own wine journey and have loved it ever since. The current 2017 vintage is a study in Napa Valley opulence. The wine is lush and silky in the mouth. The aromas and flavors are a bit decadent and I frankly could drink it all day. Beyond what I think of the wine, it has garnered a loyal following among our customers who love big, rich Chardonnay.
Patz & Hall winery is now owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington. “Patz” only produces two varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. While their Pinot Noir is top-notch, I have always felt that Chardonnay is what they do best. Their 2017 Chardonnay, from Dutton Ranch Vineyard ($52, Wine Club $46.80), is in a class all by itself. I worked with Steve Dutton when I was at Balletto Vineyards, we shared a tasting room with Steve’s winery. The Dutton family is, first and foremost, one of the premier growers of Pinot Noir in all of California, and the Dutton produced fruit shines through in this bottle of Patz and Hall. One of our more savvy consumers of California Chardonnay saves this wine for his most special occasions.
Finally, I have to mention the Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay ($70, Wine Club $63). We are currently on the 2016 vintage and it remains one of the best Chardonnays we have ever had. Our high-end consumers of California Chardonnay flock to this wine as their most prized purchase. The wine has earned this spot.
Next week we are on to Sauvignon Blanc.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.