Posted by: tomciocco | February 19, 2014

CHARDONNAY: CALIFORNIA’S SIGNATURE WHITE AS IT SHOULD BE

There been rivers of ink spilled, both in print and electronically, about what is almost certainly the world’s most famous white grape variety, Chardonnay, so I shan’t go on about it as such. And though Chardonnay has never been my all-time favorite white grape variety, there are more than a few white Burgundies that I wouldn’t kick out of bed for eating water crackers, for sure…

But if Chardonnay’s pinnacle of quality and refinement is almost indubitably to be found in its original terrain of Burgundy, California, for a huge number of other winos, is definitely a very close second at least in terms of reputation, though not for this guy, at least in most cases. Scads too many California Chardonnays are grown in places like Napa that frankly are just too hot and sunny for this variety that originates in the cool, damp climes of the gently rolling hills of Burgundy, France. Further, the styles that have evolved in the Golden State too often involve slathering punishing layers of new oak on to the juice and forced, ham-fisted malolactic fermentations techniques that together make up the unfortunate “buttered baseball bat” class of California Chardonnays that shamefully spatter the market.

This one’s different though. This is a wine that doesn’t originate from the heat of Napa but rather the cooler, foggier Sonoma region. And though Sonoma doesn’t produce the steeliest most austere Chardonnays that places like the Russian River or Carneros or Mendocino do, Sonoma presents this great vine with a terroir that is much more in line with its climatic wheelhouse. In addition, this wine is aged in 85% stainless steel tanks with the remaining 15% resting in used, neutral oak barrels. The upshot of all these details is, at least to my palate, that this is a wine that beautifully represents the more lush and chewy Chardonnays for which California has become famous without turning the volume up to “11” by over-oaking, and employing the exaggerated hang times that boost ripeness and therefore alcohol levels over 14% (this wine has a reasonable 13.5%), and thick coats of creaminess from clumsy malolactic fermentations. So to make a short story long, this is for me a Chardonnay that strikes a nearly perfect balance between California’s overarching generous terroir and the soil and style of Burgundy that made Chardonnay a great grape in the first place.

This very clean, well-made, and charming wine went to the table with a first course of a “kitchen sink” vegan soup (with white beans, potatoes, rice) in addition to all of the other typical veggies that go in the pot. The main course was a completely-from-scratch traditional tuna casserole (with peas, mushrooms, cheese et al.).

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Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay 2012

Bright, pale golden color. Very fresh and minerally nose of muskmelon, fresh pineapple, lemon egg custard, sweet aromatic herbs, curacao, crushed pine nuts, and cheese curds. In the mouth the wine shows a medium-full body with a fine but firm structure and flavors of white currants, pear nectar, lime, crystallized ginger, oatmeal and dried yellow flowers that explode in the mid-palate. Very clean and crisp quinine finish. Cali Chard at its best.

 

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