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Tag Archives: chardonnay

Wine of the week: Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2012

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Toad Hollow Chardonnay One of the most difficult things about buying cheap wine is consistency. Given the way the system works, where production costs often matter more than quality, a great $10 wine one vintage is no guarantee of a great $10 wine the next vintage. Right, Meridian?

Fortunately, the Toad Hollow Chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.9%) is usually immune from that process. It has its up and downs since it was first made 20 years ago, but those are more likely vintage differences than pencil pushers squeezing the bottom line. When the wine is right, and the 2012 is the best vintage in several years, un-oaked chardonnay don’t get much better than this, even for wines that cost $15 or $18. It’s even a value at the suggested retail price of $12. If you can find it at $10, which it often is with grocery store discount cards, buy a case.

Look for green apple fruit in the front, a little tropical something or other in the middle, and some stoniness in the back. This is a clean and refreshing wine, without the fake oak used to make so many other wines at this price. But it also has some body, so it’s not as crisp as a sauvignon blanc. Drink the Toad Hollow Chardonnay on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken, and the like. If I can find it for $10 in Dallas, it’s a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

Mini-reviews 61: McKinley Springs, Gordon Brothers, Fowles, Alamos

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wine mini-reviews 61Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

McKinley Springs Bombing Range Red 2010 ($15, sample, 13.8%): Ordinary Washington state red blend, made with more than half syrah, that has lots of cherry fruit that people of a certain age will buy for the World War II fighter plane label.

Gordon Brothers Chardonnay 2012 ($15, sample, 13.7%): Washington state chardonnay that tastes, believe it or not, exactly like the back label says it does — apricot, pear, and buttery vanilla. A little much for my taste, but there’s a demand for this style.

Fowles Sauvignon Blanc Are you Game? 2012 ($17, sample, 12.7%): Very nicely done white from Australia that is more California in style, with with lots of grassy aromas. The only quibble: Is it almost twice the wine of something like the Dry Creek fume blanc?

Alamos Chardonnay 2012 ($13, sample, 13.5%): Grocery store chardonnay from Argentina (some oak, some green apple, and not much else) with a suggested retail price that’s almost one-third more than a typical grocery store chardonnay. Which says pretty much everything you need to know about the wine.

Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Califa Chardonnay 2011

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Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Califa Chardonnay 2011One of the challenges with writing about California chardonnay, and especially the expensive kind, is that the Wine Curmudgeon is often in danger of wearing out his welcome. How often will visitors here read “over-oaked” and “too much alcohol” before they shake their heads, click the post closed, cancel their e-mail subscription, and hope someone tells me I need to get some help.

Fortunately, I was at a big-time tasting last week, and the Califa ($40, sample, 13.2%) was one of the highlights. It comes from the Edna Valley, which means winemaker Fintan du Fresne doesn’t have to deal with the expectations that winemakers do in Napa or Sonoma. That means he can take advantage of the region’s cooler temperatures (and it was very cool in 2011) to fashion a leaner, though still rich and elegant, white wine. Look for green apple and lime fruit, some amazing crispness, and just enough oak to let you know you’re drinking high-end chardonnay.

How nice was this wine? I preferred the Califa to Pine Ridge’s Dijon Clones chardonnay, also at the tasting, and there was nothing wrong with the Dijon Clones. The Califa wasn’t intent on impressing me with the first sip; rather, it’s as if it said, “Take your time. Drink a little more, and really get to know me.”

Highly recommended (though, sadly, with what appears to limited availability). This is a Mother’s Day gift for any mom who loves wine and wants to be reminded why California is one of the world’s great wine regions.

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