Russ Winton: Wine List

Which chardonnay for you?

Chardonnay is the most popular white grape variety and is planted worldwide. France is chardonnay’s original home and there it’s called chablis or white burgundy. If planted in cool climates (France), it will taste of citrus (lemon, grapefruit, lime) or minerals (wet rock or flint). In warm climates (California), you’ll get tropical fruit (pineapple, mango or banana), stone fruit (apricot, peach), tree fruit (apple, pear) and melon (cantaloupe, honeydew).

If fermented or aged in new oak barrels, it will pick up aromas of smoke, toasted bread, butterscotch, and vanilla. If it goes through a second fermentation (malolactic) the wine converts malic acid (think green apple) to lactic acid (think cream/butter). Cool-climate chardonnays are generally austere and steely and those from warmer areas are big, ripe and luscious. So which do your prefer?

Steely vs. Luscious

I chose five chardonnays and invited eight Wineaux friends (I do have more friends, really) to a blind tasting. The wines selected were; 2014 Hess Select Monterey County ($14), Kendall-Jackson Avant ($13), 2014 Navarro Anderson Valley Premium Reserve ($27), 2015 Stoller Estate Dundee Hills, Oregon ($25) and the French 2015 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages ($15). Tasters who preferred the steely-crisp chards voted against all the oaky-buttery chards and the oaky-butteries did the same to the steely-crispers. Here is how the scoring went: The Monterey County Hess scored 20, the Kendall-Jackson Avant 19, the Navarro Reserve 21, the Stoller Estate 20 and the Louis Jadot 21. So I declared a five-way tie, all were winners. This really didn’t surprise me. It supports what I’ve been saying in this column for the past nine years. Have fun with wine, trust your palate and drink what you like. Period.

What’s On Our Table

Most stores have sale-priced the 2015 rosés, and in our house, rosé season runs from Easter to Thanksgiving. Three sale-priced rosés at World Market are Ryder Estate’s pinot noir, Mercer Horse Heaven Hill’s grenache and Bernard Griffen’s sangiovese, all under $10. Two excellent red blends worth finding are Chronic Cellar’s 2014 Purple Paradise (77 percent zinfandel, 14 percent syrah, 8 percent petite sirah and 1 percent grenache) and their 2014 the Suite Petite (87 percent petitie sirah and (13 percent syrah), both under $14. The 2014 Columbia Winery Merlot ($12) also made our table and is worthy of a multiple bottle purchase. Happy hunting. Cheers!

If you missed celebrating California Wine Month, don’t miss the Big Crush in Amador County on Saturday and Sunday, Oct 1-2. It’s a fun weekend of wine, food and music. Find more information at

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