Chardonnay is the world’s white wine darling. And at Santa Maria Valley’s recent Chardonnay Symposium, we learned she is also one of the most debated. Whether you love an oaky + buttery one, a stainless steel + flinty one, or prefer to never drink the stuff, it’s definitely a wine that makes for a heated discussion. Burgundian white is usually considered the pinnacle of a well-made Chardonnay. Although the California style has typically meant more: more fruit, more oak, and more butter. Jay McInerney compared this old California classic style to another California classic, Pamela Anderson. In his view, this type of Chardonnay is more about silicone enhancements to try and please the sweet American palate than about a true representation of the grape. He later wrote about a new style of Chardonnay coming out of California, one being passionately followed by winemakers Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton of Brewer-Clifton.
This new style, described as zingy, nervous and fresh, attempts to let the varietal stand out on its own, without a lot of manipulation in the winery, over-malolactic-ization or years of cradling in the bosom of new French oak. This is the style, according to Brewer, that lets Chardonnay shine – although he does wave a white flag for Chardonnay (c’est trés charmant).
And the Chardonnay was shining, along with the sun, on newcomer Ryan Deovlet of Deovlet Wines, who poured his first release of 2009 Solomon Hills Chardonnay.
Another Santa Barbara county favorite is Flying Goat Blanc de Blanc, the only sparkling wine made entirely locally and known in these parts as Goat Bubbles, a great palate refresher for all that Chard!
Also, don’t miss Foxen’s Steel Cut Chardonnay, which is soon to be released, for that unoaked new California Chardonnay experience. Some more notable Chardonnays at the Symposium:
- Alta Maria Vineyards Chardonnay
- Brewer-Clifton Santa Rita Hills & Mount Carmel Chardonnay
- Clendenen Family Vineyards Chardonnay
- Diatom Hamon Chardonnay
- Riverbench Bedrock Chardonnay – a higher acidity Chard
- Qupe 1997 Bien Nacido Vineyard, Reserve.
I like my Chardonnay oaked, unoaked, from California and from Burgundy, but what I like best is how Chardonnay is not-so-quietly evolving, while also staying tried and true. Well done darling.
Get info about the Chardonnay Symposium & Grand Tasting here.