Chardonnay is often a love-it or hate-it kind of thing. The 'California' style of creamy, butterscotched big-oak potion seems to knock many critics' socks off, but the only thing I can drink them with is lobster with drawn butter. Generally speaking, I prefer a leaner, more food friendly style, where you're actually tasting the grapes and not the expensive high-toast barrels. But that's just me, your mileage may vary.

The Australian Premium Wine Collection Chardonnay Western Australia 'The Wishing Tree' Unoaked 2004 ($9) (Boatloads VI): Smells like a juicy pear mixed with apple candy, juicy-fruity and simple. Tastes much the same, simply and straightforwardly fruity, rounded mouthfeel, sufficient acidity. Appealingly plain and rather friendly, it has the quality of a mix of fruit juices and goes down smoothly and easily. Pretty darn decent, another drop in the empty bucket of evidence that chardonnay isn't entirely a waste of vineyard space. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Yeah, sure.] (12/05)

Babich Chardonnay Hawke's Bay (NZ) 'Unwooded' 2004 ($9) (Boatloads II): Pale lemon color. Touch of yeastiness, yellow Bartlett-pear aromatics underneath, hints of white grape juice. Fresh tasting and juicy-fruity, mediumweight chardonnay with some substance but clean and crisp and bright. Tastes crisp and apple-pineappley, zippy acidity, a bit simple but friendly and unmarred by winemaking antics. No Brun, but actually quite decent, if you're not looking for complexity. [Buy again? Sure.] (11/04)

Barnardus Chardonnay Monterey County 1997 ($25): Pale, pale gold color. Quiet nose, some light soft yellow fruit and vanilla, not much going on. This wine isn't doing it for me; soft and slightly milky in the mouth, some light vanillin oakiness emerges in the midpalate and dominates the finish, but other than that there's not much going on--it's simply and oddly neutral, marked with oakiness. (1/29/00)

Beamsville Bench Chardonnay Cuvée Temkin-Paskus 1999 (Misplaced Weekend II): Hmmm... smells lightly of pineapple juice, white flowers and raw marshmallow. A sip, and it's a light, flighty little wine, pleasantly underripe and well balanced. It doesn't taste particularly good (more lean pear-pineapple and marshmallow), but it's got an elegance and lightness that serve it well. Probably could be a heck of a lot worse. (5/9/04)

Belle Pente Winery Chardonnay Willamette Valley 1999 ($25) (Oregon): Smells pleasantly tropical, pineapple, pear and hints of vanilla-coconut. A substantial wine with fine supporting acidity. The wood is spicy and distinct but doesn't overwhelm the fruit (elevage is in a mixture of French and Oregon oak). As west coast chardonnays go, it's quite decently restrained (i.e., you can still taste fruit). Of course, I've never been entirely convinced that chardonnay is a grape worth cultivating outside of Chablis, and I find this by a good margin to be the least interesting of the wines. (5/04)

Beringer Chardonnay Napa Valley 1996 ($14): Lemony yellow color, full of crossings of pear, apple and other fruit flavors overlaid with plenty of buttery vanilla, viscous yet with a decent spine, a nice crisp acidity and plenty o'fat. Bright and cheerful, a tasty wine if you like the style and don't mind a bit of a California buttery/vanilla/oak bomb. (5/98)

Beringer Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve 1996 ($30): Spicy nose of vanilla & lemon cream. Buttery & full-bodied in the mouth, with zesty lemony acidity trying to maintain balance-nice and fat, but not quite flabby. Clearer & paler yellow than the Napa chard; buttery vanilla & butterscotchy flavors round out the midpalate, and the flavors linger on the finish for a long time--round and smooth, primo California-styled fatso chardonnay. (1/98)

Beringer Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve 1996 ($30) (All CNN Wines): Medium gold color, like a twenty-year-old Sauternes. The once creamy pear/apple fruit has fallen away almost entirely, leaving a mess of wood-toast flavors. What fruit is left has flattened out and turned marmaladey; the formerly round leesy mouthfeel has collapsed like yesterday's soufflé. On release, this was quite drinkable if you don't mind a big gooey-oaky style of chardonnay; four years later it has become a geriatric ruin of a wine. Appalling. (11/11/01)

Beringer Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve 1996 ($30) (Drunken Hawaiian Holidays): AaaaaAAAAACKKKK! Hhokkk-hhokkkk ffuhfuhfuffhh ffff hhck hhck. Mn. Pluh. (5/03)

After liking the Wolf Blass Shiraz I decided to give their Wolf Blass Chardonnay 1996 a try. The same wood troll quality that I liked in the Shiraz was present to a lesser degree in the chard; something I'm usually not crazy about in whites, but it also had some nice rich fruity flavors and bit of acidic tang. Had a bit of a glyceriney, syrupy quality to it. Aftertaste was a little sour, seemingly a touch out of balance. Not bad, all in all, for about $11. (9/98)

Chadds Ford Chardonnay Pennsylvania 2001 (Summer Mishmash): Medium-light straw-gold color. Smells of vanilla, ripe pear and butter, with a good dose of burnt firecracker paper underneath and a banana-candy hint above. Tastes burnt, plenty of ripe pear and vanilla, good acidity but no finish. Ugly, but not quite undrinkable. Strangely, Andrew seems to like it, his point being that it's just as good as more expensive bad chardonnay from California. Point taken: if you like woody California chardonnay here's an opportunity to save some serious simoleons. (4/03)

Chasseur Chardonnay Dutton Vineyard, Russian River Valley 1996 ($35)(CalChards): Ever so slightly cloudy yellow-tan; surprisingly crisp & tangy at first, but watery immediately thereafter--the wine just goes a bit flat after an initial zing. (5/27/99)

Clark-Scott Chardonnay Finger Lakes Kabinett Trocken 'Bath' 2003 (Steamed Steaks): Pale pale straw color. Smells lean and minerally. Tastes lemony-tart and chisel-hard, very light bodied and crisp, crisp, crisp. Bending the scales at a whopping 10% alcohol, this is a food wine all the way, a sort of chardonnay-Muscadet hybrid. Damn, this is a change of pace from the huge alcoholic chardonnays this place used to make. I like it; it's severe, but I like it. What I don't like is the name change, as that's going to throw off my alphabetization. Stupid Japanese investment consortiums, can't they leave well enough alone? (10/2/04)

D'Arenburg Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Mclaren Vale 1994 ($6): Fairly dark gold-amber color; on the nose pear syrup & buttery oak & the unmistakable whiff of olive juice. Lisa spots it first and makes me go fish out a jar of olives to compare it to, and the match is dead on. Very odd. In the mouth kind of big, with a viscous roundness, some apple/pear fruit & butteryness. Kind of generic except for the olive thing. Oxidized? (8/99)

Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay Oregon Red Hills Estate 2000 ($25) (Fisting Punts): At first almost neutral, this needs an hour or two to warm up and open. Light peachy-tropical hints, creamy, with a whiff of vanilla rather than the butterscotchy smokiness of the first. Softer than the other, creamier, lighter and more velvety. There is less overt wooding and better cohesion, but less weight and substance as well. It's a pretty, smaller style of chardonnay that is honestly flavorful and easy to drink. (10/13/02)

Echeverria Chardonnay Molina 'Unwooded' (Chile) 2005 ($6) (Boatloads VIII): Rather neutral aromatics, shy pear and yellow apple hints, kind of reserved but sort of appealing in a gentle, nonintrusive way. Tastes quiet and fresh-fruity, rather grapejuicy really, which isn't too bad all in all. Medium acidity that's a little spiky but not overly so. Amiable little wine, unadorned and friendly. [Buy again? Sure.] (9/06)

Estancia Chardonnay 1996 ($10): All right, too oaky even for me -- this one was very buttery, oaky, rounded; admittedly had a bit of acidity to counterbalance all that, but I'm getting a warning flag from the dark first-pee-in-the-morning yellow color that I think of as the tipoff to chards of this ilk. Not flabby, really, but closer than I'd want. No, check that. It is flabby. For a cheap chard I'm going back to the Mondavi Coastal, which seems simple and refreshing in comparison. (7/98)

Excelsior Chardonnay Robertson (South Africa) 2006 ($6) (Boatloads XI): Lightly creamy-smelling, vanilla-dusted pear-apple aromatics, sort of generic chardonnay smells. Tastes white-grapey and firm, nicely composed and without much fat. Has some zippy acidity, but it's of the vitamin-C-tablet variety and runs parallel to the fruit rather than supporting it. Still, not bad at all, the flavors are simple but well-focused, you could do worse for six bucks. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Yup.] (11/07)

Flowers Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard Sonoma Coast 1997 ($35)(Loirenatics): Brutally oaky nose--vanilla, sawdust, caramel, underneath which some poor little pear-tinged chardonnay fruit is crying out for help. Tastes like it smells. Blech. This wine is immediately and unanimously voted the Ghastly New World Wine of the Evening. (11/99)

Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma County Porter Bass Vineyard 1998 (Sleeping Cats): We all take a good sniff. Then another. Unfortunately for SFJoe, it's not too bad. There's oak, yes, but it's rather restrained, a warm glow of charred vanilla suffusing the subtly tropical yellow fruit beneath an unusual light mintiness, a high-toned green streak. It does taste substantially woodier than it smells, with strong butterscotch flavors warring with what seems like some pleasingly ponderous yellow pineapple-pear fruit. Still, this bottle is merely generic fat and woody California chardonnay, nothing stomach-turning. Wine will surprise us, won't it? (9/17/02)

Frey Chardonnay Mendocino 1998 ($9)(Cape May Geeks): Pale straw-lemon color; smells lemon-Pledgey, with flinty and pear juice notes, a bit odd but not unpleasant, turning floral and almost viognierish, with an old-lettuce green note creeping in as well. It's actually a fairly rich wine, with a glyceriney mouthfeel and more lettuce in the midpalate, turning slightly flinty-smoky on the finish. Andrew says it sees no oak, but it tastes smoky-oaky to me. Go figure. Anyway, it's a significant improvement over the cabernet, although the consensus is that it's amiable but a bit nerdy, with bandaged glasses and a pocket protector. (6/3/00)

Gallo Sonoma Chardonnay Northern Sonoma 1995 ($25)(NJers): Pale yellow-gold; oh god, here we go again... butter, pear-apple, piles of oak, creamy popcorn, yadda yadda, you know the drill. Not undrinkable, but on the cusp. Flecks of fig & pear play peekaboo amidst the brutal oakiness; a disjointed wine with decent acidity, but a hollowness in the fat butter-flavored-oil midpalate that segues quickly into a pervasive bitter-flinty quality and then simply falls off a cliff. Short, ugly. There is talk that the bottle is 'flawed' somehow, but I'm not sure what is meant by that other than the taste, which I suspect is as it is meant to be. Dump bucket fodder. (1/23/00)

Hammacher Chardonnay Willamette Valley 'H' NV ($14) (Oregon): Loose pear-apple fruit laced with light vanilla-butterscotchy hints. Round, soft and clean, a loose little wine with three or four calm flavors and a lightness that helps to allay the general lack of spine. A bit short and vague, but decent enough sipping wine. (5/04)

Hansel Family Vineyards Chardonnay Russian River Valley 1997 ($25)(CalChards): Also fairly cloudy, slightly amber-yellow; tight nose--I swirl and swirl and get not much more than light caramel & hints of vague apple-y fruit. Fairly crisp, but kind of chunky and again, there's that burn on the finish. (5/27/99)

Hogue Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2002 ($8) (Boatloads VIII): Smells like buttered popcorn, yellow pear and seared caramel. Tastes crisp and lean, but also tastes like it smells--buttered popcorn, yellow pear, seared caramel. Apart from the aromas and flavors this is a decently built wine, but I can't get past them, or the notion that any wine should taste like buttered popcorn, yellow pear and seared caramel. Ick. [Buy again? Never.] (9/06)

Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Livermore Valley Cuvée W 1992 (Shanks): Slightly cloudy medium lemon-gold color. Smells of butter, stewed apple and nail polish remover. Tastes flat and stagnant, with some unpleasant spiky-tart acidity the only sign of life. This wine is dead, a very poor match with Brad's lobster-mango salad with avocado dressing. (4/24/04)

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Vintner's Reserve 1996 ($11) was better than I had expected, given the general animosity this mass-market winery seems to inspire among wine geeks -- buttery, oaky flavors came out at first, but it had some good structure and acidity underlying that, earthy notes I couldn't quite place... Very smooth and round after the lighter whites I've been having. Maybe a touch of sweetness, but not intrusively so. They'll take my winegeek membership card away, but I didn't hate this. Nothing life-changing, but a decent quaff. (5/98)

Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma County Kistler Vineyard 1992 (Culling Me Softly): "Freshly-sawed wood!" exclaims Jay Miller. Yes, and toasted vanilla too. Creamy, balanced and nicely weighty, but tastes very very bad, just stridently oaky and boozy on the finish. Approaching undrinkability. (9/03)

Kistler 'Kistler Vineyard' Chardonnay Sonoma County 1996 ($60) (CalChards): Deepest color of this flight; odd, slightly funky nose, some kind of sulfur/animal thing going on over the fruit. Sulfur animal? Buttery/caramel in the mouth, REALLY round & flabby, tongue-coating glyceriney feel--oak for days. Also a bit hot, but not as nakedly hot as the Newton. (5/27/99)

Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma 1996 ($40)(Motor Oil): Medium straw-lemon color. Plenty of oak here on the heavy nose, vanilla, vanilla, toast, toast, but not quite enough to drown all traces of fruit. There's a pleasant hint of rainwatery flintiness, and some pear-apple hints buried under there, something I've not found in Kistlers past. A taste, and it's viscous and creamy-round, toast, toast, vanilla, vanilla, segueing into a finish with a roasted-pear charred note and a flash of alcoholic heat. The best Kistler I've had; perhaps the "lesser" Sonoma bottling doesn't get the entire full-throttle oak treatment that so dooms the poor single vineyard wines? (6/29/00)

Los Vascos Chardonnay Colchagua (Chile) 1999 ($8)(Good Chardonnay?): Seems to be a pale straw yellow color, a good chardonnay color. A sniff or three, and it's a bright, fresh and fruity-smelling wine, with nice yellow-grapey chardonnay hints on the nose mixing with an unripe-pear greenness. In the mouth there's some good thin diluted chardonnay fruit, but there's some bright acidity to cheer you up a bit. Simple and plain, but it has a very appealing juicy-fruity nose and there's no overt oak to speak of. I'd take this over Kistler any day of the week, but then that's just me. (1/29/00)

Leeuwin Hills Estate Chardonnay, Margaret River 1995 ($39.99): pale gingerale colored in the glass, smooth, buttery chardonnay nose with touches of pear & pineapple. Has a nice crispness, but definitely some chard fat around the edges. Smooth in the mouth, glyceriney feel, butterscotchy & tangy tropical fruit notes (like the juice from canned tropical fruit salad), fairly well-integrated combination of typical new-world butteriness and spicy fruity notes, with enough acidity to keep it from cloying. Very pleasant for those (like me) who like this style of wine-as-apertif (i.e., I probably wouldn't serve it with something other than lobster...). Mmmmm... (3/7/99)

Alois Lageder Chardonnay Alto Adige 1997 ($11): A very good pale chardonnay color, very light. The nose is also light, giving up some good chardonnay hints of green apple and pear with some aggressive swirling, but not being too happy about it. Tasting this wine, you get an immediate impression of a glass-hard mouthfeel, tangy acidity, tart & grippy in the mouth, a lean and hungry wine. Lemony-tangy hints emerge in the midpalate and linger long enough to be a finish. Again, no overtly oaky notes to speak of, which suits me fine. Interesting. Not a wine to cuddle up with, but some fighting spirit and a lot of spine gives it some credit with me. (1/29/00)

Lindeman's Padthaway Chardonnay South Australia 1996 ($11): Pale yellow; spicy nose full of pear, apple & sweet nectarine notes, along with some hints of bakery-fresh breadiness. Tangy & crisp chardonnay, with nice balanced acidity & a glyceriny feel in the mouth. Slightly buttery/butterscotchy, but not a fatty by any means. Pretty good QPR for the money. (5/4/99)

Lokoya 'Wild Yeast' Chardonnay 1995($50)(Cult Madness): Uh, oh. There's trouble in cult city. Medium lemony-gold-tan color. Smoky flinty hints, butter-pear-caramel-butterscotch nose, big and rich; pear-oak syrup on the palate, with decent acidity, some crispness there, but viscous & butter-vanilla creamy, not a style of wine I like at all. Could be any one of two dozen big-name, overoaked Cal chards--slap a Marcassin label on it and it's Marcassin, or many others. This may be a long night. (2/8/00)

Marcassin Chardonnay Lorenzo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast 1996 ($100) (CalChards): Thought this might have been corked at first, but initial musty wet-squirrel odors blow off fairly quickly; medium-crisp wine, medium-weight pear & fruit syrup flavors, fairly round, but enough acidity to give a pleasant feel on the palate. (5/27/99)

Matua Valley Chardonnay Gisborne 2002 ($10). (Boatloads I): I bought this by accident, as a bottle of the chardonnay somehow snuck into the sauvignon shelf. Smells of ripe pear and apple pie, with light vanilla-caramel hints. Medium-light bodied, at least there's a bit of structure, but there's no focus and the wine is wan and oaky, perfectly nondescript. Drinkable, but only just. [Buy again? No.] (8/04)

Mer Soleil Chardonnay Central Coast 1996 ($38)(CalChards): Pretty crystal-clear wine; tropical-fruity nose, pear, pineapple--nicest nose of the flight; fresh, crisp & fruity up front, but sadly the fruit melts away quickly, leaving our old friends vanilla & buttery oakiness behind. Still, two-thirds of a very nice wine, and my favorite of the flight. (5/27/99)

Peter Michael Chardonnay Belle Cote Sonoma 1997 (CalChards)($55): Light, soft, fruity nose--bright, tangy & simple, pleasant integration of fruit, acidity & oak--zippy & spritzy & minerally (called 'Riesling-like' by others, which fits the bill very well). (5/27/99)

Peter Michael Chardonnay Clos du Ciel 1995 ($35)(Canadians Invade): Pale yellow; velvety-lush buttery-pear-oak nose; rich & a bit viscous in the mouth, bit of crispness, more pear & butter. To me it seems a kind of a generic big calchard, but I'm not a fan of the style--others find it more appealing. (8/99)

Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 1995 (Culling Me Softly): The label declares that this was made from "A selected, authentic clone." A clone of what, they don't say, but from the taste I might guess Dolly the Sheep. The medium-gold color is worrying. Smells of golden raisins lightly dusted with cinnamon. Oxidized, tart and dead; even more unpleasant than the Kistler. With this wine, true undrinkability is achieved. (9/03)

Pellegrini Vineyards Chardonnay North Fork of Long Island "East End Select' 2005 ($9) (Boatloads XI): Local produce, from the big island immediately to our east. Quiet apple-pear-fig aromatics, touch of toastiness, but mostly gentle pear-yellow apple fruitiness. A sip, and there's a nice lightness here, firm acidity, perhaps a little unfocused but finishes with a pleasantly tart tang. Or perhaps a pleasantly tangy tart, I'm on the fence there. Perfectly drinkable and rather food-friendly, which is a surprise to me. When did they start laying off trying to make California-style butterscotch parfaits? [Buy again? Yes, I think so.] (11/07)

Penfolds Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 'Trial Bin' 1996 (Return of the Jeebi): Here we have yet another version of Generic Fat Oaky New World Chardonnay #9: heavy and creamy, quite startlingly wooded (how do they get all that oak into one little glass of wine?), big, blowsy and flat as a millpond. There is some fruit, some pear and apple hints squeak desperately at me from underneath a mountain of lumber, voices growing fainter and more plaintive as the wine is aired and the toasted-vanilla-cream thugs beat them into submission. A goon of a wine, brutish and obvious, with a strange acidic tang waltzing in uninvited on the finish. Could be any of six dozen big, flabby California chardonnays, and someone whispers amazedly "The wild thing is, they actually meant it to taste this way." A Trial Bin, eh? What say you good people? Guilty! Guilty! (10/7/00)

Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay "Coastal" 1996 ($11) was very nice and smooth and had a good balace of crispness and buttery/oaky flavor. A nice, unflabby little number, but nothing to write home about. Perhaps it just paled a bit after the (admittedly somewhat pallid) Rodney Strong zin that we started with, but all in all a nice, unassuming little wine that had good balance. The next day, it seemed even nicer, with lots of fruit flavor, crisp and light. This is drinkable. (10/97)

Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve 1994 ($30)(Return to Kane Manor): Medium straw-lemon color. The aroma of creamy vanillin oak is a bit startling after the last wine, but there's some creamy-smoky lemon-pineapple-pear fruit as well, and it doesn't seem to be trying to cram a forest's worth of barrels into one bottle. Tastes fat and creamy, with enough acidity to keep things moving, the wine is still alive and kicking, plenty more smoky vanilla and some light tropical fruit. I dunno, perhaps my oak scale has been recalibrated by the last offline for Robin, but I find this at least briefly drinkable, although still unfortunately oaky. (6/10/00)

Mount Eden Vineyards 'Estate' Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 1996 ($45)(CalChards): Okay, finally a bit of backbone... butter, lemon, melon nose; this one has some acidity, anyway, and probably couldn't be used to oil ball bearings... slight sharp tang after the initial fruit. Wood. Not much of an impression. (5/27/99)

Newton 'Unfiltered' Chardonnay Napa 1996 ($45)(CalChards): Lightest of flight, straw-yellow; butter & pear, bit of spritzy minerality; in the mouth viscous and honeydewish, round mouthfeel, minor acidity, then a major flash of alcoholic heat. Not too bad, but lacks backbone & too hot for this wino. (5/27/99)

Pahlmeyer Chardonnay Napa 1997 ($60)(CalChards): Cloudy wine. Is there any nose at all? Seems aromatically closed, very soft traces of... nope, gone. Bit of lemon? Maybe. Much nicer in the mouth, smooth, maybe a bit too round, and there's that heat again. (5/27/99)

Pindar 'Sunflower Chardonnay' North Fork of Long Island 1995 ($17) (Nonoffensive Notes): Caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, no perceptible fruit. Crisp and tangy wood water. Perhaps my yelp of "Are you trying to kill me?!" at my kind host was overstating the case, though. 'Not exactly to my taste, although surely capable of pleasing others' is what I really meant to say. (3/20/00)

Plumpjack Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve 1997 ($30): Pale gingerale yellow. Spicy nose of vanilla caramel, pear & apricot. Full-bodied, but nicely crisp & tangy; lemony notes on the midpalate combine with a bit of butteriness & segue into a long vanillin finish. Bit of heat, for some reason, on the finish, but rich & crisp, a nice wine, if a trifle pricey. (11/98)

Plumpjack Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve 1997 ($30) (Winterfest 2003): Medium gold color, the color of ten year-old Sauternes. Smells like fruit cocktail drizzled with butterscotch and soaked in rum. This has not aged well: the flavors are flattening out and starting to really come unglued. It's not dead, but it's sliding downhill quickly--the midpalate is all poached pineapple and pear, vanilla and a good flash of alcoholic heat, and there's no finish to speak of other than a burn. Either drink it tonight or resign it to be cooking wine. (2/03)

Prager Feinburgunder Smaragd 1995 ($31)(Chateau Joe): Pretty, light lemony-yellow. Light, bright nose, slightly creamy lemon/lime, stony notes underneath and an odd note that Kim describes as celery, but strikes me as almost gunpowdery; tart & crisp, slightly puckery-tart at first, a medium-weight wine, slightly heavy mouthfeel, but very crisp, bit of a creaminess to the minerally background & citrusy notes, tangy long finish. Seems like a riesling to me. (8/99)

Domaine du Prieuré d'Amilhac Pinot-Chardonnay Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue 2001 ($7) (Boatloads I): Smells of light caramel, vanilla extract and lemon-pear. Tastes crisp and underripe, but wan and oaky as well. Inoffensive in its dilution, probably could be worse, especially if woody chardonnay is your thing, but nothing even remotely interesting going on. Competent at best, this coats de tongue with wood chips and watery yellowfruit. Drinkable, just barely. [Buy again? Nosirree-bob.] (8/04)

Domaine Provenquiere Chardonnay Vin de Pays D'Oc 1997 ($7): One of Mr. Andrew Scott's bargain finds, this is a crisp, light, pear-apple-fruit-salad kind of wine that sits happily in my mouth, tangy-fruity and simple, but appealingly fresh, juicy and non-oaky. (9/99)

Qupé Chardonnay Bien Nacido Reserve 1996 ($35)(I Get the Shakes): Clear lemon-yellow color. This is a wine I would normally flinch at these days, but after the previous chardonnay it seems almost a modicum of restraint. Pear, apple and vanilla on the nose in about equal balance, creamy and weighty in the mouth, more vanilla and some lemon-leesiness peeks through as the slightly candied midpalate swirls past, then it's finished rather abruptly. Not great, but drinkable. (6/6/00)

Qupé Chardonnay Bien Nacido Reserve, Santa Barbara 1997 ($35)(CalChards): Crystal-clear & pretty. Favorite of the evening at first sip. Another very light nose-closed up. Light pear & vanilla--beautifully balanced, crisp, concentrated fruit, smooth & complete--total package. (5/27/99)

Qupê Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Vineyard 'Y' Block 2004 ($23) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): I bought this in one of my brief Reconsider Your Prejudices, Man! phases, and it made damn sure that it'll be a long time until the next one overtakes me. Smells yellowoody--barlett pear and yellow apple hints, overlaid with toffee, butterscotch and toasted vanilla. Medium acidity, there's a quiet crispness and a broad, almost buttery mouthfeel. There seems to be some decent fruit underneath the candyshop aromas, but the wine is scarred and twisted, the Phantom of the Opera in a glass. Bleh. (11/06)

Red Newt Cellars Chardonnay Finger Lakes 1998 (Finger Lakin' Good): Very pale, almost colorless. The program says that this is produced in the 'banana belt,' and several of us immediately catch hints of banana aroma, but shake it off and reboot our noses. Light vanilla and pear hints with an odd celeryish kind of greenness; in the mouth light to medium-bodied, fairly round in texture, a bit soft. Small. Could use a bit more zip, but the midpalate seems decent until a slightly bitter, flinty quality kicks in on the finish. Kind of inoffensive at first, but takes a decided turn for the worse. (12/8/99)

Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 1993 ($16)(Chateau Joe): Pale yellow; light chardonnay nose--pear & slight butteriness with some flinty notes underneath; bit of wood, but not enough to be a problem. In the mouth slightly oily, chardonnay feel, round in the mouth but with some nice crisp acidity & a flinty undertone that follows the nose. Pear flavors in the midpalate, quiet smooth finish. Pleasant. Nice white Burg? (8/99)

Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 1993 ($16) (Casus Bello): Medium lemon-gold color. There's a little cheesy funk at first that blows off, smells of butterscotch, vanilla, baked pear. Tastes rather tired, a faint minerality arises wanly in the midpalate, kicks a few times, then gives up the ghost entirely as the flavors simply stop dead. Over-the-hill chardonnay of some kind; with air the oakiness becomes even more pronounced. Not good. (3/02)

Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 1996($25.99): Opened to celebrate my Jeopardy audition: Pale yellow-tan; spritzy nose, bright minerally aromas with flashes of breadiness, lemon & vanilla, very nuanced and intriguing. Fairly crisp on the palate, with some nice minerally notes coming through the pear & light vanillin flavors, and lemoniness emerging more on the finish, which is long and bright. As it warms, the wine feels a little plumper, but still far from flabby. A nice, well-balanced wine that is a pleasure to drink. (5/14/99)

Rijckaert Chardonnay Arbois 2004 ($10) (Boatloads V): Barely-ripe chardonnay aromatics, rock-hard pear and yellow apple, with a subtle whitestony minerality. A sip, and there's zippy yellowfruit, light and tart and straightforward. The acidity is vivid and propels the light flavors into a puckerish lemony finish. Pretty good, for chardonnay--brownie points for rising above its humble cepage. A fine summer-food wine, bright and ethereal. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? You bet.] (10/05)

Robert Sinskey Chardonnay Napa Valley 'Solstice' 1997 ($20): Pale lemony yellow; light nose of spicy pear, lemon and fairly unobtrusive vanilla; light feel in the mouth--round, but with enough acidity to not be a flabmonster. Smooth & pleasantly fruity, light minerally quality flickers through the pear/buttery main flavors. Long, slippery/glyceriney finish. Pretty decent little chardonnay. (6/6/99)

Scott Clark Cellars Chardonnay Central Coast 1999 ($20)(Loirenatics): Pale yellow; very tropicalfruity nose--banana and pineapple; a light, honest, bright and crisp mouthful of chardonnay. It's a bit soft, but has simple good honest fruit, and, after the Flowers woodhorror, it's a real pleasure to drink. Even a snappily-dressed Callahan gives it the nod, calling it "the second-best California chardonnay I've had this year." (11/99)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chardonnay Central Coast 'Pigeon' 1999 ($30)(Return to Kane Manor): This, I believe, is the SCC luxury cuvee, as the label is one I haven't seen before. Pale straw-tan color, smells less exuberantly fruity than the regular chard but also richer and deeper. There is a touch of RS that serves to point up the pleasant pear and yellow appleskin-tinged fruit. The wine is slightly round in the mouth but doesn't show any intrusive oaking, allowing the fruit to speak for itself. Very nice, and the quick winner of the Thunderbird Prize. (6/10/00)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chardonnay Central Coast 'Pigeon' 1999 ($30) (McNetta 2002): Pale lemon-gold color, smells of light pear and yellow apple, chardonnayish. Apparently entirely unmarked by wood, light-bodied but flavorful and supple. Seems well-rounded but fairly light, honestly flavored and straighforward. I guess Brun Beaujolais Blanc. Most other guesses range across the white Burgundy spectrum. Turns out to be Scott-Clark Cellars Chardonnay California 'Pigeon' 1999, the unwooded luxury cuvée from the iconoclastic Lodi producer ("Minimal Process"). Shoulda known. Or not. (6/02)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chardonnay Central Coast 2000 (Tank Sample)(Baseball Jeebus): This is not the 'Pigeon' luxury cuvee, at least not yet, but some of it may go into the final blend. It's a pale yellow-gold color, and offers up placid, restrained notes of yellow apple and pear with light butterscotchy hints--several of us smell this and question the 'no oak' statement, but we're assured that it comes entirely from the new program of extended lees contact that they've been toying with this year. A sip, and it's jarringly large and rich, surprising to me after the light, elegant 1999. This year's version rings in at a whopping 14.5% alcohol, reflecting the unusually warm growing conditions, and it's a mouthfiller, robust and weighty, leesy and richly creamy, finishing with a fine apple-pear flourish. Perhaps a bit shy in the acidity department, but happily gobular and lush. Quite a departure for this adventurous producer, but it's an exciting experiment that has the room buzzing. (10/24/00)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chardonnay Central Coast 'Pigeon' 2000 ($30) (Cape Mayhem): Medium straw-gold color, smells apple-juicy, with delicate hints of acetone and good whiffs of lees and butterscotch. Tastes overripe, very little acidity, flattened out, a touch oxidized. If this is a representative bottle then Scott-Clark, a producer I admire (charmingly, the new motto on their bottles reads "Minimal Process"), dropped the ball in 2000 with this cuvée. I've got a few more bottles of this from my allocation, so I'll give it another chance down the line, but if this was anyone else I'd dismiss it as an overripe, poorly-made freak of a wine along the lines of a Sine Qua Non white, minus the lumberyardful of new oak those unfortunate potions bring to the table. (5/26/01)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chardonnay California 'Pigeon' 2000 ($30) (Foodies 2): This vintage of the Scott-Clark luxury cuvée has always been a problem child. Smells like three day old apple-pear compote, spicy but a little sickly-sweet smelling. Has a flattened out, baked quality to the midpalate fruit, seems to have gone belly up, resembling nothing so much as an older Beringer Private Reserve with a strong streak of leesiness in place of the aggressive wooding. I'd been holding out hope that this would come around with time, but I'm not optimistic about my remaining bottles. Scott-Clark's motto is 'minimal process,' but this probably needed major process merely to make it drinkable. (2/03)

Sharpe Hill Vineyards Chardonnay 'American Barrel Fermented' Connecticut 1999 ($13) (Winterfest '03): This bottle simply cried out to be taken back and consumed. Upon first whiffage it smells much as I'd have expected, meek apple-pear fruit overwhelmed by sawdust, vanilla and popcorn hints, plus an ususual dentist's-drill/vaporized tooth/smoky note, but with air it settles somewhat and veers slightly to the left of undrinkability. Under the wood the pear-yellow apple fruit is lean and racy and decently underripe, and there's some pert acidity in there too. But there's that wood again, vanilla and sawdust dominating the finish. Yeah, it's pretty ugly, but I've had much worse for more simoleons--at least there's structure. (1/22/03)

Spann Vineyards Chardonnay-Viognier Sonoma County 2003 ($13) (Boatloads VII): Interesting aromatics, bartlett pear and tart yellow apple base, honeysuckle hint up high, waxy-vanilla notes down low. A sip, and it's a wine of surprising balance, full-flavored stuff with firm midpalate heft that manages to stay footloose and nimble. There's a butterscotchy note that's a bit distracting in the middle, but it fades into the background soon enough and whitefloral apple-pear fruitiness dominates the finish. Amazingly, the profile is rather classically white-burgish. As an oaky California white featuring two of my least favorite grape varieties, this wins the So Open Minded My Brain Fell Out Award for 2006, wherein I pat myself on the back for liking a wine I was absolutely positive I was going to hate. [Buy again? Yes, dog help me.] (4/06)

Starvedog Lane Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 'No Oak' 2004 ($12) (Boatloads VII): 'No oak' as a selling point? You had me at no oak. Smells like a ripe pear, juicy-fruity pear-apple aromatics. Tastes much the same, friendly and simple, medium bodied and gentle. There's a bit of heat in the middle, but once past that it's a soothing apertif-style wine--there's structure but it's edgeless and almost unnecessary. [Buy again? Yes.] (4/06)

Stonestreet 'Upper Barn,' Chardonnay Alexander Valley 1996 ($35)(CalChards): Flinty, minerally-est nose so far, with hints of buttered toast; in the mouth a kind of odd disjointedness--bit tart, slightly nutty, butterscotchy; decent, but fairly generic. (5/27/99)

Stony Hill Chardonnay Napa Valley 1985 (Fisting Punts): Muted, aromatically flat tropical nose, overripe pineapple soaked in butterscotch and laced with nutmeg. A sip, and here's exhausted yellow fruit and a good amount of toastiness. The middle is flattened out and applejuicy--there is balance here as well as an interesting stony undercurrent, but this is tired, faded chardonnay of some kind. (10/13/02)

Sylvin Farms Chardonnay Atlantic County 1999 ($13)(Cape Mayhem): A good whiff of sulfur and wood greets my startled nostrils. Underneath that there's lean yellowfruity hints and a celery-green streak. Tastes of lean pear, vanilla and smoke. Underripe, overoaked. One wag, nosing this, says "There's a lot going on here... and it's all bad." I'm not yet convinced that Atlantic County has the right terroir for chardonnay, despite Jean-Paul Brun's hopeful notions. (5/27/01)

Testarossa Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley 1997 ($30): Pale lemon-yellow. Hello there, here's a big, tropical nose that just dances around inside my glass. Very interesting, pineappley-pear-lemon, vivid and happy. Weighty in the mouth, with a glyceriney feel, but lots of good chardonnay fruit, a judicious use of oak and a nice smooth lemon-creamy finish. Enough acidity to get by tonight, but I wouldn't try aging this. Very smooth and exuberant, a big wine that this confirmed Calchard-hater has to admit is his favorite of the evening's assembled chardonnays. Just goes to show you... well, something or other, surely. (1/29/00)

Thunder Mountain Chardonnay Bald Mountain Vineyard 1997 ($35)(Elegant Americans): Very oaky, buttery-toasty nose with some figgy hints in there as well; a big wine, rich and viscous, caramel, vanilla & pear, but not a style of wine that I like. (9/99)

Thunder Mountain Chardonnay Ciardella Vineyard 1997 ($40)(I Get the Shakes): Medium lemon-tan color, heading towards ginger ale tan. Whoa, this smells of oak. Smoky pear and fig hints are in there somewhere, there's some decent fruit, but it's been smothered into submission under a torrent of wood. Some people at my end of the table won't even taste it after smelling it, but I do, and it's got more oak on the palate. Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, what have you. Not my style of chardonnay, now #2 on my All-Time Overoaked White Hall of Fame, second only to the now-legendary SQN 'Twisted and Bent,' which at least did have the decency of honesty in naming. (6/6/00)

Tomasello Collier's Victorian Cape May New Jersey Chardonnay 1998 ($8) (Geekfest '99): Funky, chalky, stinky-celery nose, inspiring a few 'Cuvée Meadowlands' jokes; under the nose mostly fruitless, tasting mainly of buttery brown-sugar/vanilla with touches of pear & apple popping up once in awhile and turning butterscotchy on the finish. Not undrinkable, but not too far off. There was a faction that thought this was badly corked--it certainly did seem like it was 'off', and I don't have much of a nose for TCA (Lisa does, and she thought it corked), so I'd like to try this one again. (6/5/99)

Treleaven Chardonnay Reserve Finger Lakes 1997 (Finger Lakin' Good): Pale again, but a bit more color than the Red Gingrich; yah, here's some oak--toasty, buttery and vanillin notes dominate the nose, masking what's underneath. Oh, wait, here's some light pear and yellowfruity hints. Fairly low acid, round and soft, more toast and butterscotch flavors, just more oak than the light fruit can handle. Joe mentions that this is an attempt at a 'California-style' chardonnay, but the lightness of the fruit underneath the woodwork doesn't seem to reward that kind of approach. (12/8/99)

Clos de Tue-Boeuf Chardonnay Vin de Pays du Loir et Cher 1999 ($12) (Threesomes): Lightly tropical nose, pineapple and pear, smells like fresh pear juice infused with a streak of date. Neither sharp nor flat, slightly rounded but brightly flavored with a rather broad mouthfeel. It's not a well honed wine, but it's fresh and amiable and real, turning towards flintiness on the finish. Nice, peasanty. (2/02)

Hermann J. Wiemer Chardonnay Finger Lakes Reserve 1995 ($16) (Finger Lakin' Good): Yes, it's pale too; very light nose, but what's there is spritzy and flinty, with hints of yellowfruit and light toastiness. This has a bit more spine than the other two, the oak is much more balanced than the Treleaven, still fairly light in body, with a pleasant toasty finish. If I had to choose one of these chards this would be the one, but this doesn't really do much for me either. (12/8/99)

Compleat Winegeek | TN Archive | Essays | Glossary