On this night, tasters, mainly our VINO staff, brought an assortment of Chardonnays just to try side by side. Since it was a group tasting, we asked everyone to add in their 2 cents, so we could all learn together as group, from the wines & each other’s comments. Thank you Keith for hosting this wonderful learning opportunity.
Here is the list of wines everyone brought–
2010 Ridge Chardonnay “Monte Bello”; 2015 Ballard Lane Chardonnay: 2015 Foxen Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard–UU Block”; 2014 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Santa Barbara”; 2007 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”; 2013 Jean-Paul Brun Beaujolais Blanc; 2015 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon Chardonnay “Clos de la Crochette”; 2016 William Fèvre Chablis “Champs Royaux”; 2104 Savary Chablis “Vieilles Vignes”; 2010 Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru “Vaillons”; 2012 Robert Denogent Pouilly Fuissé “Vieilles Vignes–La Croix”; 2004 Cherisey Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru “La Genellotte”; 1996 François Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrières”. Yes, lots of highly rated wines! Thank you all for sharing.
Here are some of my highlights.
The 2010 Ridge Chardonnay “Monte Bello” (roughly $80 a bottle retail–92 to 94 point ratings)–showed lots of blatant, toasty oak/hazelnut (with apparent American oak pungency) notes right out of the gates. Well made, good flow, structure, stony, surprisingly light on its feet (in comparison to what the nose forewarned), oak framed with prominent alcohol in the finish (more than the 14.4% shown on the label). A question mark purchase for me after seeing the price. 2015 Foxen Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard–UU Block” (roughly $40 retail–rated 90 points)–reminiscent of the region’s old guard & therefore balance & mineral driven, more so than expensive oak, flashiness & alcohol. This wine showed a better finish & therefore was much more palatable than the previous 2. Surprisingly elegant, though forward with well integrated oak & high lemon like acidity (almost too much so for some tasters). It is also a peculiar combination of stony, fresh steamed rice nuanced & an old fashion pungency (the latter I sometimes get from Santa Maria Valley old vine clone 4). Interestingly, the 2014 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Santa Barbara” (roughly $22 retail–88 points)–was much more seamless from beginning to end, classy, better textured & more complete than the previous 3 wines. Tasting these wines side by side was really eye opening & made me appreciate the Au Bon Climat winemaking even that much more. While it wasn’t grand or anything of the sorts, it displayed sublime minerality, grace, deliciousness & real value. 2007 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” (roughly $35 retail–88 points)–there is no doubt this was by far the most compelling of the Californian Chardonnays we sampled on this night. By far! The wine had mesmerizing vinosity, minerality & mojo, like one would expect from a Cru bottling with superb texture, seamlessness, balance & class. We hear more & more rumblings of how ABC has seen their best days or their production is way too high to make top echelon wines. This bottling clearly shows otherwise……AND, at 11 years old. What a wine! Thank you Erica & Jamm for sharing.
We then segued into Chardonnays from Burgundy, France. While on paper the list looked impressive & interesting, I scratched my head in wonderment as I felt some of them greatly under delivered. Still, tasting these wines side by side turned out to be quite the learning experience–which made some wines really shine & others not. (We didn’t do the tasting blind, in order to make the experience less intimidating for the new attendees).
The 2016 William Fèvre Chablis “Champs Royaux” was a real surprise, as it perennially receives media high praise, is surprisingly reasonably priced & has wide appeal. The 2016 features a pretty floral, seashell & mineral scented nose with a delicious, rounder than expected mouthfeel. In comparison, the 2104 Savary Chablis “Vieilles Vignes” was a Chablis of wonderful, sheer etherealness & mesmerizing, pristine purity. The finesse, vinosity, delicate intricacies carry through on the palate, done with great class & truly remarkable lightness/airiness. WOW! The 2012 Robert Denogent Pouilly Fuissé “Vieilles Vignes–La Croix” also showed exceptionally well on this night. Much richer, seemingly riper & therefore more showy than the preceeding Chablis born wines, this La Croix vineyard (but 2 hectares of 80 year old vines) bottling had prominent & captivating vinosity & character done with superb texture, balance & class. Stellar! I distinctly remember the 2004 Cherisey Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru “La Genellotte” upon its release, mostly because how much I loved this newly discovered domaine for me & its wines. Theirs was very reminiscent of the old style of artisan white Burgundy I grew up with. It was vehemently masculine, virile & seemingly like a chiseled block of rock……with a resounding oak thread framing it. I remember thinking, “I wish I could taste this wine again when it is 20 years old!” On this night, it was but 14 years of age & I was quite stunned at how beautiful, seamless & stunning it truly evolved to be in the bottle with age. I understand & appreciate that it is a VERY unique style & therefore VERY different from the more highly acclaimed domaines such as Coche Dury, Ente & Roulot. And, I am most thankful for the difference, because it is so good, artisan & unique. (Thank you Cheryle for sharing!) The shining star of the evening for me was the 1996 François Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrières” (thank you VERY much Jamm & Erica for sharing). I also remember having this wine upon release. It was unbelievably tight fisted & hard. (I think this style has held them back from gaining the true acclaim they profoundly deserve). I also remember thinking, I can’t wait to try this wine again when it is 25 years old. Here it was 23 years old…..in all its glory. For me, this was having a grand wine at an ideal point of its life. (I should also mention, that in the early days, I thought their Premier Cru Charmes parcel was their showpiece. While it still is so very impressive, I find their Genevrières to be worthy of Grand Cru level quality & this wine clearly shows why).