It’s Summer! Drink Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Happy Summer, Winos! Those of us who live in the Phoenix, Arizona area have been experiencing summer for a solid 3 months. From now until September, we accept “Excessive Heat Warnings” of over 110 degrees as just another summer day.

Whether you are experiencing excessive heat or just regular ol’ “hot and humid”, nothing goes better with heat than refreshing alcoholic beverages. And I presume that wine is your alcoholic beverage of choice. One of the most refreshing wines to sip on by the pool or beach is Sauvignon Blanc.

Q: Is “Sauvignon Blanc” a grape varietal or a region?

 

A: Grape varietal.

Wines made from primarily one grape varietal are often referred to by their varietal. E.g. [the bracketed words are not usually stated.] “That bottle of [wine made from] Sauvignon Blanc [grapes] has a lovely balance of fruit flavors and minerality.”

Like many grapes, Sauvignon Blanc can result in a large range of flavor and style in the bottle depending on where it is grown and how it is made. A Sauvignon Blanc from France, for example, has a different flavor profile than that of California. Sure, there are common characteristics across the board, but understanding the differences helps us refine our palates. Here’s a quick look at the different flavor profiles between each of the key regions that produce Sauvignon Blanc.

Note: There are, of course, more regions that make Sauvignon Blanc. For the sake of blog posting length, I’m just covering these primary SB growing areas!

General Characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc:

Dry, white wine that is typically light to medium bodied and has an herbal undertone. From there, the wine can have fruity, floral, and/or smoky characteristics.

France

  • Region: Loire Valley
  • On the Label: “Sancerre” or “Pouilly-Fumé”
  • Typical Flavors: Herbal, Smokey (gunflint)
  • Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Elegant

WINE-KNOW PAUSE: Ok – are you thinking… “Gunflint’?! What the heck kind of flavor is that?!” Well, think smoky, but that sort of metallic smokiness that you can smell after shooting a cap. This is caused by the kind of soil/gravel that the vines grow in!

  • Region: Bordeux
  • On the Label: Graves
  • Note: White wines from Graves are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and another grape called Semillon. This changes the flavor profile quite a bit.
  • Typical Flavors: Honey, Minerals
  • Typical Characteristics: Rich, Round, Bright

Note about “On the Label”: European/French wines don’t always include the grape varietal (“Sauvignon Blanc”) on the label, so look for a white wine with these words on the label. They are regions that make white wine with Sauvignon Blanc.

New Zealand

  • Region: Hawkes Bay, Marlborough
  • On the Label: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Typical Flavors: Grapefruit, Limes, Herbs, Melons
  • Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Sharp

(I know – this is quite a range! But think green fruit and herbs)

California

  • Region: Napa Valley, Sonoma
  • What to look for on the label: “Sauvignon Blanc” or “Fumé Blanc” (<<it’s the same)
  • Typical Flavors: Citrus/Grapefruit, Melon, Herbal
  • Typical Characteristics: Refreshing, Vibrant, Clean

Chile

  • Region: Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley
  • Typical Flavors: Melon, Floral
  • Typical Characteristics: Light, Fresh, Some Minerality
  • Note: Can be made from a different and similar grape called “Sauvignon Vert” or “Sauvignonasse”, but labeled Sauvignon Blanc.

South Africa, Italy, and Austria are also known for producing lovely Sauvignon Blanc.

Go get out there in the hot summer sun and taste the differences between regional Sauvignon Blancs! I think you’ll be quite surprised at how easily you’ll be able to pick up both the commonalities AND the differences. (Of course, Wine Star Services is always happy to help with such comparative wine tastings!)

 

Sauvignon Blanc At A Glance

Sauvignon Blanc At A Glance

 

Divine Wine Sunday: ViNO Pinot Grigio

For those of you who have been following W2WK for a while, you may remember past posts on Charles Smith wines including, Kung-Fu Girl Riesling and The Velvet Devil Merlot. Well today’s post is on yet another Charles Smith wine… ViNO Pinot Grigio.   What can I say, I have a weakness for the way this winery smashes its grapes into drinkable liquid. (And at a great price, I might add.)

ViNO Pinot Grigio by Charles Smith

ViNO Pinot Grigio by Charles Smith

Divine Wine: ViNO Pinot Grigio, Charles Smith Winery, Washington State

Price Range: $10-15

Wino Assessment: When I picked up a bottle of this white wine delight, it happened to be on clearance at the wine shop.  Although I hadn’t tried this particular wine before, I couldn’t resist grabbing several bottles at that special clearance price, and walked away from the wine shop just hoping I’d enjoy it enough to consume several bottles (over a period of weeks). Conveniently, I did.  (I know, I know. I’m such a risk taker.)

This Pinot Grigio is very crisp and refreshing.  I think the crispness of it reminded me of apples, but it has a lot of melon flavor and honeysuckle aromas.  It was a nice balance between fruit and flowers.  For me, this is a wine I’ll look forward to enjoying on summer afternoons.  (Which, by the way, has arrived here in Phoenix already… it’s 100 degrees today!)

Tasting Notes: Here’s what the winemaker says about its ViNO Pinot Grigio. 

“Italian inspired, locally produced. Cut summer grass gives way to white nectarine, honeysuckle, Italian melon and white anise, crushed seashells and minerals.”

“Minerals” is an interesting way of describing wine – and one I see often.  If you’re curious what a “minerally” wine might taste like, try this one.  It’s sort of like when you get a bottle of water that has that extra mineral-ness to it… but in wine.  (And in a good way.)

Divine Bite:  So what to enjoy with a glass of ViNO? Pinot Grigio tends to be a great wine for lunches and appetizers, or foods with high acidity.  Try it with salads or a shellfish dish.  The winery recommends oysters, which would be complementary with regard to the mineral flavors in the oysters as well as the wine.  I enjoyed this wine with salmon topped with arugula/parsley/lemon pesto.  The crisp herbal and citrus flavors of the pesto accompanied the ViNO very nicely.

Divine Wine Sunday: Martin Codax Albariño

Aaaah Alabariño.  It is a wine that is relatively new to me – just came across it about 2.5 years ago while meandering the streets of Barcelona.  And I have to admit, it was a true “wino moment”.  While looking at the bottle, pretending to be studying its label with all my fake “Wine Know”, I was really wondering what the heck “Albarino” was… the name of the winery? The type of wine? The region it came from? Something else? I had no idea.  So I did what any good Wino would do… I bought it to see if I would like it.  And… like it, I did!

Divine Wine of the Week: Martin Codax Albariño, Rias Baixas, España

Martin Codax Alabariño

Price Range: $13.49 at Total Wine

Wino Assessment

For starters, the Martin Codax Alabariño has a fun label, so we all know that makes the wine tastier.  But as far as flavor, this lovely white wine is crisp and clean.  It has apple and peachy kind of flavors to it – making it really refreshing to drink as the weather gets warmer.

The Wine…

Alabariño is a white Spanish grape from the Rias Baixas region in northwestern Spain. Most Spanish wines are referred to by region (as it is in France), but wines from Rias Baixas are often referred to as an Alabariño.  (E.g. – “That alabariño is outstanding!” instead of “That Rias Baixas is outstanding!” ) It is the most commonly planted grape in the region and nearly all the wine made in this region uses this grape. (I suddenly feel like my “wino moment” noted above was based on sound confusion rather than just wino confusion!)

Alabariño wines are aromatic and flavorful.  The flavors range from “zingy citrus-peach to almond-honeysuckle” (The Wine Bible) but still have a creamy element to them, which often makes for a more interesting tasting! Here’s what Total Wine says of the Martin Codax Alabariño:

“Crisp, Citrus, Peach, Medium-bodied

Rias Baixas, Spain- Medium to light-bodied white wine that is rich with peach and citrus fruits while the aromas tend to the floral and slightly nutty end of the spectrum. The wine has bright acidity and an easy-drinking quality.”

I definitely agree with the “easy drinking quality” – this bottle drinks very easy! And I think you Winos will especially enjoy it on these fine, warm spring days.

The Bite…

So what does one eat with this fine bottle of Alabariño?  Well, The Wine Bible notes that it is “considered one of the best matches in the world for seafood”.  So I suppose that’s a good start!  More specifically, shrimp dishes are especially tasty with this wine.  Also, because it does have that citrusy-peach flavor, it goes well with spicy or creamy foods as well – creates a nice balance. Try Alabariño with some spicy pad thai or green curry.

 

So there it is… go enjoy some Martin Codax Alabariño, Winos! You won’t be disappointed!

 

[Sources for all Wine Know in this post: The Wine Bible, Food, Friends & Wine]

Divine Wine Sunday: Chateau Petit-Freylon Bordeaux Blanc

It was a big weekend, folks… defined by a long-awaited trip to Costco.  And as some of W2WK followers know, Costco is my favorite place to pick up a few bottles of wine.  (By the way, I just learned that Costco is the largest retailer of wine in the United States!  There’s an extra fun fact for you in the mix of Divine Wine Sunday!)  On this trip, the Costco Wine Guy was setting up a display up at the front of the store (instead of in the back in the standard wine section), as if he was just waiting for me to walk through the large garage door entrances.  We started chatting and he had all kinds of information to share about the special selection of wines he was putting on display.  And one of those fine bottles was a white Bordeaux.

I’m also particularly excited to have found a bottle of Bordeaux to write about this week…  My friend, Ms. Snodgrass, gave me a gift this weekend in a wine bag that said, “WINEAUX” on it.  Ha! Awesome, right?  So for this post, this Wino and all you Winos will be referred to as Wineauxs…

Before we progress too far along this post, I would like to let you all know that Divine Wine Sundays are “under construction”.  This post doesn’t have all the sections of previous Divine Wine Sundays, and it has one new section.  See what you Wineauxs think…

Divine Wine of the Week: Chateau Petit-Freylon Bordeaux Blanc (2010)

Chateau Petit-Freylon Bordeaux Blanc 2010

Price Range: $8.99 at Costco (a steal!)

Wineaux Assessment…

I’ve enjoyed a few white Bordeauxs over the years and have typically enjoyed them… and this one was no different.  It is on the dry side for a fruity white wine, but with lots of crisp fruit flavors.  I definitely taste some apple – maybe even sour apple –  and perhaps even a a little citrus in flavor.  Something about it also reminds me of the lovely smell of orange tree blossoms – that sweet fragrant smell.  But again, all this flavor without the sweet factor- but not too dry either.

The Wine…

White Bordeauxs are made from a few different types of grapes, including Musccadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Ugni Blanc.  The Chateau Petit-Freylon uses three of the four – all but the Ugni Blanc.  It is 50% Sauvignon Blanc which typically provides a crisp flavor.  It is also 25% Muscadelle which typically gives wines a light floral character, and 25% Semillon which is a dry grape.  The label describes this wine as:

A Sauvignon Blanc dominated blend from Bordeaux, has aromas of succulent pear and tropical fruit, a punchy, vibrant palate and a crisply-defined finish.

They say “crisply-defined finish” – I think that might be a bit of that sour apple flavor I tasted.  And one of these days, this Wineaux will think to put a word like “succulent” in front of a fruit when describing a wine.  ….some day.

The Bite…

If you’re a Wineaux, you probably have a bit of a Foodie in you as well.  So as W2WK has progressed, I have sensed a stronger need for a discussion about food with the wines.  Enter… The Bite.  In this section, I hope to find out what foods would typically pair well with the respective Divine Wine.

So what, you ask, would a Wineaux pair with a Bordeaux Blanc?  Well, given the “succulent pear” and “crisply-defined finish”, you probably want something more savory and/or creamy to balance it out.  Some good seafood options may include scallops or salmon or sushi (all that soy needs a little something crisp to wash it all down).  It would also go well with alfredo or pesto sauces or a creamy white soup. If you’re a cheese fan (let’s be frank… if you’re not a cheese fan, I’m not sure we can be Wineaux friends)… drink this one with creamier heavier semi-soft cheeses or of the blue cheese types.

Now that I’ve tasted the wine, I kinda wish I had enjoyed it with some fettuccine alfredo… all the sudden, that sounds pretty darn delish.

 

So Wineauxs (sorry- I couldn’t resist using that one more time after already using it a bit too much in one short post)… there’s both a tid bit on white Bordeaux AND a bit of a new look to Divine Wine Sunday.  Hope you all have a Divine week!!

Divine Wine Sunday: Kung Fu Girl Riesling

Winos – let’s be honest.  A lot of times we pick a wine out at the wine shop not because of the vintage or our Wine Know regarding that region or varietal or anything of the sort.  We pick it because of the label.  And THAT is exactly why I picked up Kung Fu Girl Riesling.

After I got home and looked at the label a little more closely, I realized this wine is made by a winery with which I’m already familiar – Charles Smith Wines. I’ve tried their Boom Boom Shiraz (at La Grande Orange in Phoenix and elsewhere) and their Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon (at Kazimierz in Scottsdale) – the latter being one of my favorite wines, but both I enjoyed immensely.  Ordinarily, I think of Rieslings as overly sweet and – not having a sweet tooth when it comes to wine – I do not usually seek it out.  However, earlier this week, I was talking with Sister Kai (my actual sister, not a nun) who commented on how she enjoys Rieslings… AND I read something about how Rieslings pair with many different types of food.  So I took it as two indicators of needing to study up a bit on Rieslings.  And when I came across one from a winery that I knew I liked, it just seemed that the stars had aligned.

Diving Wine of the Week: Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington

Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, WA

Price Range: $9.99 at Sunflower Market and other grocery stores, $12.00 from Charles Smith Wines

Wino Assessment…

I approach Rieslings with a bit of an attitude to start – primarily because of that presumed sweetness factor that I previously mentioned.  But if I had to guess what Kung Fu Girl was on a blind taste test, I probably would have guessed a Pinot Grigio.  The wine had flavors of apples and peaches or apricots and was very light and delicious.  Cousin K enjoyed the bottle with me and she has a similar feeling regarding Rieslings.  But for the sake of the blog, she went with it, and we both were pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the wine was. Overall, it was light and easy to drink – it was sweet, but not sugary sweet – it was appley sweet… which was lovely.

The Grape…

Riesling grapes originate in Germany and have “been arguably the world’s most undervalued” grape. (The Oxford Companion to Wine) What makes the Riesling grape so impressive is its ability to not lose its unique style as a wine while allowing a winery to place its own characteristics on the end product.  The Riesling vine itself is extremely “cold-hardy” meaning it can withstand colder temperatures than most vines – convenient in its home (cold) region of Germany.  The difficult growing conditions in which Riesling grapes ripen results in the acid-sugar balance that is so uniquely Riesling-esque.  (The Wine Avenger)

The Wine…

According to The Wine Avenger, “no grape, white or red, goes better with more foods than Riesling.”  I was pretty surprised to read that as I would never have paired a Riesling with any food, quite frankly.  But The Wine Avenger also notes that Riesling is the most misunderstood wine.  The alcohol levels in Rieslings are below average, and the wines can range from dry to “opulently sweet”. (The Wine Avenger)  In fact, most Rieslings are around 8% alcohol content compared to about 13% for Chardonnays.  Depending on the wine-making process, most Rieslings are busting with flavor due to their “high acidity, high extract, and low alcohol levels”. (The Wine Bible)

As stated, I always associate these wines with über-sweetness, but Kung Fu Girl – while sweet in a fruity way – was not über-sweet.  (Do you like my use of a German word in the post about wine originating from the Germanic regions!?!).  I would indeed go and get another bottle of this wine to enjoy it on multiple occasions.

In general, Riesling typically has flavors of ripe peaches, apricots, and melons, and sometimes a mineral-like quality (The Wine Bible).  But what does Charles Smith have to say about Kung Fu Girl?

“A long cool awesome vintage. Heightened minerality. White stone fruit, you know, apricot, nectarine, peach also satsuma and lime leaves. This girl is kickass as ever! We love Riesling from Evergreen Vineyard in The Ancient Lakes area of the Columbia Valley AVA.”

90pts Wine Spectator

“Vivid, distinctive and immensely appealing for its juicy Winesap apple, apricot and citrus flavors, finishing with zing to balance the sweetness.”

Ummm… I’d just like to remind you Winos that I always write my assessment before looking up what the winery or world-wide-web says about a wine that I’m blogging about.  And can I just say that apples, apricots, and peaches were ALL in my description!?! (Having a proud moment here…)

The Region…

Riesling’s home is Germany and is very popular in Austria and Alsace (which is the French side of the Franco-German border).  But Kung Fu Girl comes from Columbia Valley in Washington State.  This state is known for its “bright fruit and relatively crisp acidity” in wines (The Oxford Companion to Wine).  White grapes are the most commonly planted grapes in the state, and Rieslings in particular do especially well.  The region in general prides itself on high value wines for less than high dollar (something most of us Winos appreciate).

 

I especially hope you all give this wine a try as it was surprisingly delicious in my humble Wino opinion (for Ms. Snodgrass, that abbreviation is IMHWO).  If you do, let me know what you think!

 

[Source for all Wine Know, unless otherwise stated, is The Oxford Companion to Wine.]

 

Thoroughly Wino Thursday: Let’s Talk About Taste – Part I of II

All of us Winos have been there… that moment when you go out with other friends who like wine, and seem to know a little something about it.  You feel good about checking out the wine menu… you pick one out confidently.  The server brings it to your table and you reach for your glass to take a sip.  You look up… and then it happens.  Your seemingly Wine Know friend is swirling that glass more comfortably than you… they’re more willing to take a big ol’ sniff of that wine while there in public… they swish their first sip – maybe even second – in their mouth… and there you have it.  Your Wine Know confidence is shot and you’ve just downgraded yourself back to a Wino.

This Wino knows that self-wine-doubt… So I figured some tips on tasting wine should be shared.  There are essentially four key areas to consider when tasting wine: Aroma, Body, Texture, and Flavor.  Today on Thoroughly Wino Thursday, we’re only going to get into Aroma and Flavor.  Next week (Let’s Talk About Taste – Part II of II), we’ll take a look at Body and Texture.

Aroma

There are a couple of parts to getting the sense of a wine’s aroma.  You can start with the swirl of the wine glass – it helps aerate the wine, which I like to think of as a bit of a “loosening up”.  (Just try not to get carried away and swirl that wine right out of your glass.  That’s embarrassing. – or so I hear.)

After swirling, get your nose in there and sniff that wine.  Don’t sniff it as if the aroma is wafting its way towards you.  Seriously get your nose in the glass and take a handful of small sniffs.  “Sniffing creates tiny air currents in the nose that carry aroma molecules up to the nerve receptors and ultimately to the brain for intpretation.” (The Wine Bible)

Now here’s the hard part.  Articulating that which you just sniffed.  The Wine Bible suggests not trying to think of what that aroma is, but to run through a list of possibilities in your mind.  We human creatures seem to have difficulty in our current evolutionary state with verbally articulating smell.  “Scientists call this the “tip of the nost phenomenon.” Smell, they hypothesize, is elusive because it is the most primitive of the senses.  … smell is not easily grasped by the verbal-semantic parts of the brain.” (The Wine Bible)  So true, right? We always say things like, “that smells like…”.  Nothing has its own smell.  Except maybe roses… which I hear is what my breath smells like early in the morning.

Here’s a little nugget of Wine Knowledge regarding wine terms… “aroma” and “bouquet” are often used interchangeably in the wine world.  But they actually are two different things.  Aroma indicates the smell of the grape, while bouquet should be used to identify the smell of the wine once it has matured or evolved in the bottle.   Next time you pop open a bottle, be sure to say something like, “My, oh my, this wine’s bouquet is lovely!”

Flavor

The flavor of a wine may prove to be just as difficult to articulate as the smell.  Basically, one may want to be able to articulate the flavor so that the wine can be remembered.  I have so many memories of enjoying a bottle of wine… and while I can almost taste the wine from my memory, I would have difficulty describing it to anyone. As noted above, it may be easier to start with a general list of potential flavors so you can pick and choose familiar descriptors, and from there it will be easier to come up with something that may not be on your flavor list.  Everyone’s flavor list may be different, but I’ve copied a starter list from The Wine Bible to help get you started.  In general, I like this approach… I feel like many of the words below are often used on the back of bottles.

One thing my wine sipping sister likes to do describe a wine using her own words before reading the description on the back of the bottle.  Then she can see how her assessment matches up to that of the winemaker. It’s a great way to better understand your own preferences… I suppose in many ways, that is what Divine Wine Sundays are all about as well!

The below list of descriptions for Flavors and Aromas are taken directly out of The Wine Bible.

Flavors and Aromas of White Wines

Fruits:

Fresh – apple, apricot, banana, coconut, fig, grapefruit, lemon, lime, litchi, melon, dried orange peel, peach, pear, pineapple;

Cooked – baked apple, baked pear

Butter and Cream: Butter, butterscotch, caramel, cream, custard

Vegetables: Asparagus, bell pepper, green beans, olives

Grains and Nuts: Almond, biscuit, bread dough, brioche, hazelnut, roasted nut, yeast

Spices: Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, white pepper

Flowers: Gardenia, geranium, honeysuckle, rose

Earth: Chalk, flint, grass, hay, minerals, stone, straw

Barrel Aromas and Flavors: Oak, toast, vanilla

Other Aromas and Flavors: Honey, gasoline, rubber boot

 

Flavors and Aromas of Red Wines

Fruits:

Fresh – blackberry, black currant, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, dried orange peel, plum, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry

Cooked – baked blackberry, baked cherry, baked raspberry, jam, prunes

Vegetables: Asparagus, bell pepper, green beans, mushrooms, olives, truffle

Chocolate and Coffee: Bitter chocolate, cocoa, milk chocolate, mocha, coffee, espresso

Spices and Herbs: Black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, licorice, mint, spiced tea

Tobacco: Cigar box, pipe tobacco, smoke

Flowers: Geranium, rose, violet

Earth: Cedar, damp earth, dried leaves, eucalyptus, forest floor, gravel, pine, stone

Animal: Barnyard, horse blanket, manure, sweat

Barrel Aromas and Flavors: Oak, toast, vanilla

Other Aromas and Flavors: Cola, game, leather, tar, tea, worn boot

 

Next time I taste a wine that I might describe as “asparagus like” or “like a worn boot”, you can be sure that I’ll post about that wine!!  Do you have any other wine flavor and aroma words that you often use in describing a wine??

Divine Wine Sunday: La Crema

A few years back during a lovely dinner party, someone pulled out a bottle of La Crema Chardonnay.  And I remember it distinctly – mostly because white wines do not usually make a memorable impression on me.  Sure, I like white wines and drink them regularly.  But for whatever reason, reds typically leave me wanting more than white wines do.  However, I remember so clearly sitting around the dinner table with many good friends, and taking a sip of this Chardonnay and thinking, “wow – this is lovely.”  Since then, I have enjoyed La Crema on multiple Chardonnay occasions… but it’s time to Wine Know a little more about it….

Divine Wine of the Week: La Crema Chardonnay, La Crema Winery, Sonoma Coast, CA

La Crema Chardonnay

Price Range: $15-20 in a wine store (it is available at most grocery stores, World Market, and even Costco), $22 from the winery

Wino Assessment…

What I like the most about La Crema Chardonnay is while it has some soft fruit or flowery flavors, its buttery and smooth finish is what makes it interesting.  I think it would go well salmon or any fish, but also with a steak.  I would not necessarily just sip this one without food – it seems like it would be best with a little something to bring out its flavor.

The Grape…

Chardonnay grapes are originally from the Burgundy region of France and is now one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in the world – it seems it is essentially planted everywhere that grapes are grown.  It makes up approximately 40% of the white grape vines planted in California and is the second most widely planted white grape in France. Chardonnay grapes are often used in making Champagne – often combined with Pinot Noir grapes.  In the Chablis region of France, Chardonnay grapes are the only grapes permitted in making white wines within the European Union “wine laws” (I put that in quotes because I believe there is a more proper name for said laws).  So basically, if you say, “I’ll take a glass of Chablis!”,  you’re really saying, “I’ll take a glass of Chardonnay from Chablis in France!”

The grape is generally easy to grow and is highly resistant to vine diseases.  It is not especially flavorful in and of itself, which means that a  winemaker has a lot of control in a wine’s taste via the winemaking process (see next section).  And in general, as a wine, Chardonnay is extremely popular, making it a relatively easy sell for winemakers.  “A typical Chardonnay winemaker is more chemist than vitner.”  (The Wine Avenger) That might be a harsh assessment, but when you read below, you may feel the same!

The Wine…

Two things primarily affect the flavor of Chardonnay grapes when turning them into wine.

(1) Malolactic Fermentation (yes – there will eventually be a wine word guide on Wino to Wine Know – this Wino can’t keep up!). According to my good friend, Wikipedia, “Malolactic fermentation (or sometimes malolactic conversion or MLF) is a process in winemaking where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.”  So, now that we know that, we know that the wines that go through that fermentation process have a more buttery taste, and those that do not go through the fermentation process have a crisper appley taste.  My guess is that the La Crema Chardonnay does indeed have some MLF happening (look at me already abbreviating my new favorite winemaking verbiage!).

(2) Barrel Choice:  There are generally three types of barrels used in wine making – stainless steel, used oak, or new oak. (The Wine Avenger).  Chardonnay is typically made in oak, and the flavor of the wine is highly dependent on how much that oak barrel was charred.  With a highly charred barrel, the wine will be rather “toasty”.  Other flavors tasted when drinking a glass of Chardonnay that come from the oak of the barrel include caramel, cream, smoke, spice, coconut, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. (“New World Chardonnay”, The Wine Spectator)

So what we’ve learned so far is that Chardonnay grapes are grown all over the world, and the taste of a Chardonnay wine is really more dependent on both the maloactic fermentation process and its barrel rather than the grape itself.  I find this very interesting and feel that if I ever venture to make my own little barrel of wine, that perhaps I should start with Chardonnay!

What does La Crema Winery say about its Chardonnay?  “The 2009 vintage of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay opens with an intriguing interplay of lively citrus and subtle toasted oak, laced with just a kiss of butterscotch. The palate is round and nutty, with flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness, while well-balanced acidity creates a lovely vibrancy. Hints of vanilla and caramel add richness and texture to a long, fresh finish.”  (La Cream Winery)

Woot!  I feel like my Wino assessment was pretty close to the winemaker’s assessment! (Again, I write the Wino Assessment prior to my Wino research).  Of course, the winemaker has a much better and expansive selection of words, but I think “buttery” is close to “butterscotch” when speaking about wine flavors, and “soft fruit” is similar enough to “flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness.”.  Am I stretching too much??

Regions…

As previously stated, Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  In the North America, it immensely popular in California, but is also grown in New York, Washington State, and Oregon.  Canada also grows Chardonnay (Canadian wine?? Hmm… I smell a future blog post.)  In Europe it is most popular in France.  And in other regions of the world it can be found in Australia, New Zealand, and South America.  Basically, if you’re seeking out some Chardonnay vines, just go to any wine country region of the world and you’re likely to find it.

So La Crema, in this Wino’s book, is indeed a Divine Wine! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

[Source for all this fine Wine Knowing in this post unless otherwise stated: The Oxford Companion to Wine]