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Although many varietals would pleasantly support an Easter dinner, I thought it would be instructive to choose one varietal, Chardonnay, and offer a stylistic comparison. There are many ways to render a varietal; light to heavy and delicate to bombastic. Here is a line-up of Chards that will provide balancing accompaniment to most menus, especially if the meal is being served midday, with temperatures in the eighties.
The following week we go to France for a visit to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Ventoux, Loire and Bandol. Paul Chatterton will be here representing import company Maisons Marques & Domaines.
2006 Pavilion Chardonnay, Napa
The wines for Pavilion are crafted by Brian Mox and Larry Levin, both who are among the most experienced winemakers in the Napa Valley. Their resumes include a who’s who of Napa giants. This wine was barrel aged in French oak and shows aromas of pear, vanilla, and toasty oak with hints of white peach. Ripe fruit flavors of pear, caramel apple and melon lead to a long soft lingering finish. The balance of this lush medium bodied wine makes it a pleasure to savor on its own or enjoy with a wide variety of foods.
2006 Tormaresca Chardonnay, Puglia, Italy
The vineyard for this wine lies near the Adriatic Sea off of Italy’s heel. The name itself refers to the towers that line the coast. The grapes are fermented in barriques, after inoculation with a special yeast, and then allowed to proceed with the malolactic fermentation. After ageing for about 3 more months in barrique, the wine is moved to Inox tanks at a controlled temperature, where it goes through the fining process until ready for bottling. The fruit element is towards the exotic end of the spectrum, but with good minerality and bracing acid. Citrus, pear and pineapple notes round out the experience.
2006 Edna Valley Chardonnay, Paragon, San Luis Obispo Co.
Edna Valley uses the processes of barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and aging in new oak barrels to achieve the desired balance. The wine has smoky aromas of vanillin oak and sweet spice balanced by white peach, pineapple and citrus notes. On the palate, full, round flavors of white peach and citrus are accompanied by a subtle minerality on the long finish. Serves well with creamy pastas, baked sea bass, seared scallops, roast chicken with lemon and herbs and, yes, roasted pork as well.
2006 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Sonoma
The fruit for this blend is sourced from three vineyards. The lion’s share came from their Sonoma Coast vineyards with their Los Carneros Vineyard on the home ranch providing much of the rest. A small lot of grapes come from Knight’s Valley, the warmest Sonoma County appellation, to complement the cool area grapes. After cold fermentation and settlement, the wine bypasses oak contact and proceeds directly to bottle. Pears and grapefruits are the dominant characteristics of this flavorful and medium-bodied Chardonnay. Serve with grilled salmon or roasted chicken.
2004 Steele Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Barbara
In 1991, Jed Steele made the decision to produce his own label and is now entering his fifth decade as part of the California wine business. Bien Nacido is a well-known vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. The wines are typical of Santa Barbara with lots of tropical fruit aromas and flavors. The wine received a 92-point rating from Wine Enthusiast Magazine: “Plenty of richness here, mangoes, pineapple custard, Key lime pie, not to mention smoky, caramelly, butterscotchy oak, but there’s also a streamlined, sleek minerality that leaves a lip-smacking steely feeling behind. Part of that is acidity. Really fine wine.”
2005 Byron Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
The wine was 100% barrel fermented with 100% malolactic fermentation. Additional layers of complexity were achieved through sur lie aging and weekly hand stirring of the barrels known as batonage. This wine combines vibrant fruit character with a rich texture and a silky finish. Aromas of orange blossom, pear and hazelnut are accented by hints of mineral and toasty oak. On the palate, the wine is well balanced with traces of peach, mandarin orange and toasty spice with a long, lingering finish.