Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format

 

STORE HOURS

CURRENT HOURS:
Mon-Sat 9am-6pm



The Tasting Room has
Reopened!
Please be Double-Vaxxed+!


Closed Sundays

Prices Posted on our site are
subject to change without notice.
We are seeing our trade partners
increasing prices at a fast & furious rate.
(They're Fast and we're Furious.)

SICILIAN CATARRATTO

NEW VINTAGE OF SONOMA CHARDONNAY

PORTUGUESE $11 RED

SANGIOVESE DI ROMAGNA,
Not Tuscany

NEBBIOLO LANGHE
BARGAIN

SALUMI-WORTHY
FIZZY RED LAMBRUSCO

AROMATIC PIEMONTESE RED: RUCHÈ

CRU BARBARESCO FROM A NEWISH WINERY--Sale Priced

NEW, SINGLE VINEYARD
SANCERRE

BEST BUYS
Good Wines for $5-$15

CAPOVILLA
OUTSTANDING GRAPPA

CABERNET VALUE

SURPRISINGLY GOOD TEN BUCK MERLOT

BIGFOOT CABERNET

A FIESTA OF A TEMPRANILLO

OBSCURE ITALIAN RED

CIÙ CIÙ
PECORINO

ELEVEN BUCK
AMADOR ZIN

STELLAR NEW ARTISAN RIOJA

CASTELÃO BARGAIN

COLORFUL ZIN

PROSECCO FOR ADULTS

BILLIONAIRE'S WINES UNDER $30!

BARGAIN WHITE BORDEAUX

TOP OF THE LINE
CREMANT

RESERVE QUALITY RIOJA

BARBERA OF NOTE

PIEMONTE'S GRAND VIN BIANCO?

GREAT GRUNER VELTLINER

FLOWERY, CURIOUS RED

OLD PATCH RED
ZIN BLEND

MONCUIT'S GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE

HONEYED MUSCAT

Napa Valley Grape Info
2002

2010

Amazing FRENCH CIDERS

FIZZY LAMBRUSCO

 

 

HOME PAGE

AMERICAN WINES

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

RHONE WANNABEES

ZINFANDELS

SAUVIGNON BLANCS

MERLOTS

OREGON WINES

CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS

CALIFORNIA CABERNETS

RIESLING & GEWURZ

WASHINGTON STATE

CANADIAN WINES

Adventuresome  Wines

ROSÉS !!

FRENCH WINES
ALSACE
BEAUJOLAIS
RED BORDEAUX
WHITE BORDEAUX
RED BURGUNDY
WHITE BURGUNDY
RHÔNE VALLEY
THE FRENCH ALPS
SOUTH OF FRANCE

LOIRE


CHAMPAGNE

 

ITALIAN WINES
PIEMONTE

VALLE D'AOSTA

NORTHERN ITALY

CENTRAL ITALIA

TUSCANY

SOUTHERN ITALIA

SARDINIA

SICILIA


SPANISH WINES
Spanish Sherry
& Other Delights


PORTUGUESE WINES

SWISS WINES

GERMAN WINES

AUSTRIAN WINES

ARGENTINA

CHILE

AUSTRALIA

NEW ZEALAND

SOUTH AFRICA

OBSCURE WINES

DESSERT WINES

CHAMPAGNES

HALF-BOTTLES

SPIRITS

CIDERS

BEER
Even Real "Bud"!

OTHER STUFF

WINE TASTING

WHAT'S OPEN


UPCOMING TASTINGS

TASTING RESULTS
  
NEWSLETTER

SHIPPING INFO

ETC.

 

TASTING REPORTS

HOW TO ORGANIZE A BLIND-TASTING

BLIND TASTING ARCHIVE

MY 2013 EURO WINE ADVENTURE BOOK

CHATEAU MONTELENA "DREAM TASTING"
January 2018

CHATEAU MONTELENA
VERTICAL


ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2007

ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2008

SCHRAMSBERG vs THE FAMOUS FRENCH

German Wine "Master Class" Tasting

UNIQUE VERTICAL TASTING OF VOLLRADS RIESLINGS
1945-2015


S & M FOR WINETASTING GEEKS

TEAR-WAH
TASTING

2020 COVID
SF INTL WINE
COMPETITION

2019 SF
INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2018 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2017 SF
INTERNATIONAL
WINE 
COMPETITION

2016 SF
INTERNATIONAL
WINE COMPETITON

2015 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2014 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2013 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2012 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2011 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2010 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2009 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2008 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
Periodically Amazing

2007 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
The Nose Knows!

2006 SF INTERNATIONAL  WINE COMPETITION.
SPIT HAPPENS

2005 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION.

2004 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING

The 2003 SF WINE COMPETITION

2002 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING 

A Vertical Tasting of Nalle Zinfandels

 

 

ETC.

RANTINGS & RAVINGS

WINE ROADS of EUROPE

Food/Wine/Friends
A Photo Gallery

MASTER OF WINE ESSAY TOPICS

Old Bottles: A TASTE OF HISTORY

Bob's Venetian Diary

Bob's Paris Notes Updated Spring 2007

Wine Writer's Confession

NEW "CULT" WINERY

Some Restaurant Reviews

HOW TO SELL WINE.
Info For Brokers and
Wine Distributors.

HOW TO HOLD A TRADE TASTING

$100,000 WORTH OF WINE MARKETING ADVICE:  FREE!
Mainly for Foreign Vintners

MOLDY CORKS

Study Reveals Experts Taste More Than What's In the Glass!

OKANAGAN VALLEY WINE TOUR-2010

BRIAN'S 2005 SUMMER VACATION WITH UNCLE

Gerald's Tour de France 2006

GERALD'S TOUR DE FRANCE 2008

A TOUR OF PORTUGAL-2009

HOW TO SPEAK BETTER ITALIAN

PEDRONCELLI
90th ANNIVERSARY

PONZI'S 40th
ANNIVERSARY

VINITALY

ROOSEVELT'S 2005 CHILI COOK-OFF

ROOSEVELT'S 2007 CHILI COOK-OFF

Grape Goddess

Ross Bruce Birthday

ALESSIA DALL'U

FRANCESCA & CAROLA
CALLIGARO


CCIV

FAQs

BURLINGAME

Links

CHARDONNAY


Tasting Chardonnay


Chardonnay vineyards in Sonoma.

The word "Chardonnay" has become synonymous with "white wine" here in California.  People seem to buy virtually anything labeled "Chardonnay", whether the wines actually taste like Chardonnay or not.

In fact, I often wonder whether the average bear can identify the character of Chardonnay.  This is because many wines produced in California are subjected to so much oak, either in the form of real barrel aging or some sort of oak "flavoring" (new staves being introduced into a barrel or tank or oak chips or sawdust being added  --  the laws don't require a winery to disclose this on the label) that an unwooded Chardonnay doesn't "taste" like Chardonnay to Yogi or Boo-Boo.  Similarly, I have noticed that many tasters describe other white wines as being "Chardonnay-like" when these are dominated by wood. 

The Chardonnay grape was not treated like royalty until a few years ago.  Old-timers such as Inglenook, Christian Brothers, Beaulieu Vineyards and Charles Krug made simple dry white wines of Chardonnay grapes.  The Wente Brothers winery was thought to be at the vanguard of Chardonnay production, making a fresh, non-oaked dry white wine. In those days, Chardonnay was thought to be a relative of Pinot Noir and was routinely called "Pinot Chardonnay."  It is, as it turns out, not related, so it's now called "just" Chardonnay.

 



The first really important work in marrying oak with Chardonnay in the traditional style of France's Burgundian winemakers started with the Hanzell winery in Sonoma.  This was back in 1957, when James Zellerbach imported French oak barrels for the aging and maturation of his Hanzell wines.  Wonder of wonders!  Oak!!!

It's taken many years for winemakers to learn how to use oak in making wine.  Some of them use oak as a crutch, propping up weak, thin wines and overloading them with wood.   Others employ a combination of wood and residual sugar to give character to wines which are malnourished, wimpy wines.  Many of these are quite popular, even "scoring" highly with those who claim expertise in judging wine.   McDonald's hamburgers are quite popular, too, but few would say those are the best examples of beef on the planet.

We enjoy a nicely oaked Chardonnay---don't get me wrong.  I have been accused of liking the most woody tasting wines.  I cite Napa Valley eno-scribe Bob Thompson who once wrote something like  "My parents marveled that, as a boy, I ate the fruit and not the tree."  He was poking fun at those who prefer Chardonnays with so much wood that determining if the beverage was actually made from grapes is impossible. 



The Chardonnay grape finds its home in France's Burgundy region, though it also is cultivated in Champagne.  In Burgundy's Cote d'Or, the major appellations of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault account for the top wines, but other villages turn out good wines, too.  The best Cote d'Or producers barrel ferment the juice, using, at least, a percentage of new oak cooperage.  The wines are often aged on the spent yeast and this sediment is stirred in barrel, contributing a toasty, smoky element to the wines.  As the juice tends to be rather high in acidity, most winemakers induce a secondary fermentation (called a malolactic fermentation).  This reduces the acidity and makes the wine rounder, creamier and somewhat buttery in character. 

California vintners make a full range of Chardonnays.  At the low end you'll find wines from the "hotter-than-hell" Central Valley where tonnage is high and the intensity of character is low.  On the higher end, you'll find wines from cooler, coastal climes, from low-yielding vineyards which can be sublime.  Some wineries make light, crisp, "simple" Chardonnay, while others attempt to emulate the top wines of Burgundy.  

Some winemakers liken Chardonnay to a blank canvas. The character of the Chardonnay grape is dependant upon its origins, clonal selection, soil type, exposure, etc.  The "seasonings" bestowed upon it during its maturation (oak, secondary fermentation, etc.) further determine the character of the wine.  Some old clones of Chardonnay display a mildly appley note.  Newer ones seem to have a more tropically-fruity quality.   

Diversity and individuality are what make winetasting fun and challenging.  Don't fall into a rut!   Be adventuresome and experiment with Chardonnays from different regions and unknown producers. 

 

 

Current BEST BUYS


 

 

 

 BUEHLER 2018 CHARDONNAY  SALE   $14.99

The Buehler family has been making Chardonnay from Sonoma since the early 1990s.  They don't make a wine that's terribly fancy, they'll tell you. 
Yet the fruit comes from good vineyards and yet they leave the wine on the spent yeast following its fermentation.  
They do lees-stirring to add a measure of complexity and there's a secondary, malolactic fermentation to soften the edges of the wine.
Add in a modest amount of French oak aging and you've got a rather nice wine.

On top of that, factor in a modest price tag...It's $20 at the cellar door.

 




 

 




 

 


PEDRONCELLI WINERY

We've long been fans of Pedroncelli's single vineyard bottling from the Frank Johnson vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley.   This vineyard is actually along the border of Dry Creek and Russian River appellations.

The Pedroncelli's have usually made a terrific wine from this fruit and each vintage is seems to improve.  

The 2019 is delicious.  The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation and it's creamy and mildly toasty...lots of ripe apple notes with a touch of a spice note.  Dry, of course.

Post-Script:  We stopped by the Pedroncelli winery in February of 2017...having visited a number of other wineries on our little tour, we had tasted a bunch of Chardonnays, all of them priced between $40 and $75.  Ridge Estate Chardonnay, at $50, was the best of the tour, but Pedroncelli's Frank Johnson bottling was a winner, doubly so given its modest price tag.

Currently in stock:  2019 PEDRONCELLI Dry Creek Valley "Frank Johnson Vineyard" CHARDONNAY  Sold Out...they did not make this in 2020...dang!


 

 


 

 

 

 


FRITZ UNDERGROUND CELLAR
The late Jay Fritz was in the shipping business, once upon a time, and he started a little winemaking enterprise in the late 1970s.

They began with much fanfare and made some really good wines back in the early days.  Over the years they had some challenges and changes in winemakers which didn't "help."

The past few years we've seen them get their sea legs back and a number of their wines are quite impressive and they have attractive price tags.  Jay's son Clay has been running the show for some years now and they seem to produce consistently good wines.

We've long had a stack of cases of Fritz Chardonnay in the shop...they get fruit from some growers in nearby Russian River Valley (Fritz is in the Dry Creek Valley...too warm, typically, for Chardonnay).  The fermentation starts in stainless steel, we're told, and then it's racked into French oak...a fair bit of new wood but they moderate the oak by not leaving it in those new barrels for too long.  Then it goes into older, more neutral wood.  

They do a partial malolactic fermentation to soften the acid and round out the wine, adding a bit of complexity.


We're able to offer the wine at a really nice price, too...
 
Currently in stock:  2019 FRITZ Russian River Valley CHARDONNAY  (winery price $35) Sale $20.99

 

 

OKAY...NOT FROM CALIFORNIA, BUT GOOD CHARDONNAYS:

LAMBLIN & FILS

We've long had this little French white Burgundy stacked by the case in our shop.  It comes from the Lamblin family in France's Chablis region and, as you might expect, it's styled along the lines of a crisp, mildly flinty white wine.  

You won't find any sweetness here and it's not an oak aged wine, either.

Nothing fancy but for a really solid weeknight Chardonnay, this is the house favorite of many people in our neighborhood.


Currently in stock:  LAMBLIN 2020 BOURGOGNE BLANC  Sale $15.99  (last bottles)

 

 

DOMAINE TALMARD

A few years ago we stopped in to see the Talmard winery as we were visiting Beaujolais and Macon.  Monsieur Talmard was blown away to have someone come 6000 miles to say hello, see the place and have a sip of Macon.  Most of his visitors come from within a 25 kilometer radius and they carry away bottles and cases of wine.

"Why did you come visit?" he asked.

I explained that we've been selling his lovely little Chardonnay for several decades and as I was traveling through the region on my way to several other wine regions, I simply had to visit this font of Macon.  Well, we were also hanging out with friends from the Macon region and dining together.  
 
"But there's nothing to see." he said.  "It's just some tanks, some bottles and a non-descript winery building."
 
 
We told him we'd sold hundreds of cases of Talmard Macon and I just wanted to say "thanks" for making a good wine and offering it for a modest price.

Every year we taste Talmard Macon-Chardonnay and it's routinely a delight.  Nothing fancy, mind you, but it's solid, easy-to-drink Chardonnay.  And affordable.  Talmard is not getting rich making this wine and neither are we, as we sale-tag it in hopes people will want to discover other French whites.
 
 

Currently in stock:  TALMARD 2020 MACON-CHARDONNAY  $15.99

 


That may be the only oak barrel in the cellar...and it's used as a table, not for aging wine.

 



 


Comtesse Marion is $13.99 and comes from the south of France...no oak, but it's beautifully aromatic and appley...easy drinking and we've been seeing numerous case purchases by customers who've enjoyed a bottle or two to start...

It's from the Domaine Preignes le Vieux, some 31 southwest of Montpellier and some 9 miles east of Béziers, well off the beaten path.

The fortress pictured above was built in the early 1200s.

The property was acquired by the Vic family in the early 1900s.
They have about 270 hectares of land, much of which is planted with vineyards.

These days the place is run by Aurélie Vic and her husband Jérôme.  She's the winemaker, having studied enology years after getting her degree in chemistry (and doing clinical research in another field).

The Chardonnay grape can produce a rather neutral, bland wine if it's not properly farmed.  Chances of finding a good, non-oaked Chardonnay from the Languedoc, where vineyards are often pushed for high yields are pretty small.

But this Comtesse Marion wine is remarkable as it displays the classic apple-like fruit of Chardonnay with a pear-like tone, too.

 

Currently in stock: 2020 COMTESSE MARION CHARDONNAY  $13.99

   

.  




.

 

TEXTBOOK

The Textbook label was created by our friends Jon & Susan Pey.  Jon worked for a national importer of wines and his Pop spent a lot of time in Paris.  Susan worked for a small restaurant group here in the Bay Area as a wine scout.  

One thing led to another and after many years of working for other enterprises, they launched their own brands.  

Jon carried on in Susan's stead as she passed away unexpectedly some years ago.

They had a vineyard in Marin County and made some darned good Riesling and Pinot Noir.  But working as a one-man-band took some wind out of Jon's sails, so he has changed course and sold his Textbook brand to some wine investment company which owns a number of other brands including MacRostie and Markham in California and Argyle in Oregon.

We're not sure how much Jon is involved these days, but he is still mentioned prominently on the winery website.

The winemaker is Abigail Horstman who has been affiliated with Carlisle, Rombauer, Robert Mondavi and Markham.

The 2021 Chardonnay is styled to be a crowd-pleaser:  Barrel fermentation and a high percentage of a malolactic fermentation...ten months in French oak with one-third of the barrels being brand new.  The acidity level is modest so we find this to be on the softer end f the spectrum.  The fruit is sourced from the southern part of the Napa Valley...Oak Knoll predominantly.

Another feature of this wine is its price.  We have it sale-tagged at just $19.99, while the winery price is $27.

 

 

 

 





 

WE TYPICALLY OFFER A FEW CHARDONNAYS FOR SAMPLING IN OUR TASTING ROOM!

Wine Tasting Daily.

MORE "Heavy-Hitter" CHARDONNAYS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)

Wine Tasting Today

TO INQUIRE ABOUT A WINE:  gerald@weimax.com
 
Copyright © 1999    WEIMAX   November 26,  2022