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90 Buena Vista 2002, Carneros, Reserve Chardonnay:
Terroir, clone, yada-yada-yada, are all important, but this is the best Buena Vista Chardonnay in ages, so credit must go to winemaker Jeff Stewart. The texture is paramount - it's like getting a tongue massage - with the perfect balance of weight, texture and acid. The flavor doesn't point directly to any one fruit, but glances off white peach, citrus and pineapple. A leesy background adds to the complexity. The overall balance is superb - silky with a crisp edge. $22

89 Pine Ridge 2003, Carneros Napa Valley Dijon Clones, Chardonnay:
Most Chardonnays elicit a big yawn. This is not one of those. It's a ripe, California style of Chardonnay, and I could wish for lower alcohol, yet it's a complex wine with a velvety texture on the entry and a crisp acid edge through the finish. The ample pear-like fruit is backed by French oak (vanilla and sweet spices). The only problem I see is that it's so appealing you'll want to drink 3 or 4 glasses, and at 14.5% alcohol you're likely to get looped. $27

88 Dry Creek Vineyards 2004, Russian River Valley, Chardonnay:
The current batch of California Chardonnays seem to gain body and texture by excess alcohol. This one is different. The alcohol is a manageable 13.5%, yet the acid is crisp, the fruit leans toward pineapple and pear, and the texture is velvety smooth. Add excellent balance and length, and you'll find It's an credible value at $16.00. $16

83 St. Clement 2003, Carneros Napa Valley, Chardonnay:
Unbelievable 15.4% alcohol and it still gives the perception of sweetness on the palate! Full bodied canned pineapple character. This is a step down for St. Clement. $15
Older Chardonnay Wine Tastings Entries:
Feb-Mar 2001

93 William Hill 1999, Napa Valley
My East Coast friends chafe at California Chardonnays, which they see as fat, overoaked, and unbalanced. I wish to direct their attention to a fine producer that consistently equals or betters white Burgundies at their own game Jill Davis has put together a remarkable string of Chardonnays emphasizing subtlety and balance, incorporating citrus, pear and peach elements, with complex mineral notes, and restrained, well-integrated oak. More difficult to describe is the finesse – the perfect proportion and intensity from the nose through the finish. Don’t deny yourself one of life’s little pleasures.

92 St. Francis 1999, Sonoma County
What a surprise! This little gem is perfectly balanced and holds a level of complexity from the nose through the finish – apple, butter, marvelous mineral flavors, dry with light astringency through the finish. A

92 Clos du Bois 1999, Alexander Valley Sonoma County, Alexander Valley Reserve
Had a wine like this been made 20 years ago, it would have made headlines. And it’s still good enough in today’s heady market to be singled out as an outstanding California Chardonnay. Clos du Bois’ Reserve derives a lot of character from oak, but it’s skillfully woven into the fruit. Buttery, with pear and citrus fruit, a bit of toast and scintillating mineral overtones.

90 Kendall-Jackson 1997, California Select Late Harvest
With 13% residual sugar, this is the equivalent of a beerenauslese. Ginger, honey, apricot and vanilla all play across the tongue, with a velvety texture and an elusive earthy note in the finish. Pair with pound cake or fruit.

90 Antonin Rodet, Chateau de Rully 1998, Appellation Controlee Rully
It’s exceptional to find a white Burgundy of this quality at such an affordable price. The Chalonnaise was once a poor cousin to its immediately northern neighbors, but under the capable winemaking of Nadine Gubin, Chateau de Rully has taken a giant step forward in quality. The 1998 has a fresh, floral aroma. On the palate it’s light, lively and dry, with tart citrus and mineral character. A perfect wine for shellfish or chicken.

90 Salmon Harbor 1999, Washington
A seriously delicious, tropical fruity Chardonnay from Washington. Aromatic pineapple, vanilla and papaya, dry on the palate with silky smooth texture, crisp acidity, and a vibrant, fruity finish. Extraordinary value.

90 Clos du Bois 1999 Calcaire Vineyard Alexander Valley
Aromatic lemony nose, light and lemony on the palate with subdued use of oak and a mineral-lees background through the dry finish. Excellent balance and tart acidity make this an easy wine to match with fish, shellfish and poultry, but I after the tasting I enjoyed it with grilled steak.

89 Bonterra 1999, Mendocino County
Bright apple and vanilla nose, full-bodied and dry, silky, mineral overtones to rich appley fruit and a touch of butter on the palate. Good value.

89 Pine Ridge 1999, Napa Valley - Carneros, Dijon Clones
A dense, brash and complex wine, packed with flavor. Ripe though muted pineapple and grapefruit, dry with a hint of smoke, lots of clove, and some butterscotch.

89 William Hill 1999, Napa Valley, Reserve
Dry, fresh peach ad sour apple, with underlying spice and vanilla, and a complex fruit, lees and mineral finish of good length.

89 Stags’ Leap Winery 1999, Napa Valley
Intense apple, pineapple and cardamom, buttery, well-balanced, dry and silky, with a long fruit and mineral finish.

88 Cosentino Winery 1997, Napa Valley "The Sculptor"
Butter and peaches nose, dry and leesy on the palate with a creamy texture and finish.

88 Niebaum-Coppola 1999, Diamond Series
Full-bodied and dry, creamy apple and pineapple fruit with toast and spice.

88 Fox Brook 1998 Ceago Vinegarden, Mendocino
A full-bodied, kick-ass, velvety smooth Chardonnay that’s intensely fruity. Ripe Golden Delicious apples and cinnamon.

88 Callaway Coastal 1999, California, Reserve
Bigger than Callaway’s previous versions, this California appellation Chardonnay is dry, full-bodied and buttery, with tart appley fruit, oak spice, vanilla and light toast.

88 Clos du Val 1999, Carneros Napa Valley
Nicely balanced and complex, this dry Chardonnay reverberates with apple and pineapple fruit, a jolt of vanilla and light spices through the pleasantly bitter finish.

87 Edna Valley Vineyard 1999 Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley San Luis Obispo
Round and toasty with vanilla, peach cobbler and ripe persimmon aromas and flavors. Tastes more like a Viognier than a Chardonnay, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

87 La Crema 1998, Sonoma Coast Cold Coast Vineyards
Round vanilla and clove nose, velvety on the mid-palate, crisp acidity on the finish.

85 St. Súpery 1999, Napa Valley
Heavier on the oak than previous vintages, the 1999 has pear-like fruit and lots of oak spice. It’s quite viscous and full-bodied. Powerful enough to stand up to full-flavored dishes usually reserved for red wines.

85 Hogue 1998, Columbia Valley, Semillon-Chardonnay
The fig-like tones of the Semillon dominate the nose, while the Chardonnay adds body and texture on the palate. Should be most at home with cream sauces, poultry, seafood and pasta.

85 Ste. Chapelle 1998, Idaho, Reserve
A bone dry Chardonnay with pear-like fruit and cloves in the nose, and an intensely yeasty, leesy character on the palate,

84 Glen Ellen 1998, California, Reserve
Full-bodied pear, butter and light spice. Packs a punch for a pittance.

84 Quail Creek 1999, California
Peach and, ripe Golden apple and lots of vanilla, medium body, ripe and almost sweet.

84 Coastal Ridge 1999, California
A slightly sweet Chardonnay, rich and full-bodied with strong vanilla character.

Dec-Jan 2001

95 Robert Mondavi 1998, Napa Valley, Reserve
A masterful wine that will quiet critics of California Chardonnay–restrained layers fresh, tart citrus and papaya, creamy texture, and mineral tones through the long finish.

92 Grgich Hills 1998, Napa Valley
Grgich Hills Chardonnays have evolved with the viticultural technology, and the maturation of Ivo Jeramaz into a Master Blender of specific vineyards and clones. The result is a spectacular 1998 that displays lovely tropical fruit, without being overblown or heavy. But the fruit is deep, layered and complex, showing pineapple, peaches, vanilla and a light, fresh, herbal character. Refreshingly light in body, with a velvety texture, and crisp acidity that makes it an easy match at the dinner table.

91 Acacia 1999, Carneros
Really, very hard to put down. You could sip, slurp, gulp or otherwise consume this wonderful beverage, and it delivers great depth and length of pear, vanilla, light toast and cinnamon/nutmeg spice that lingers for minutes. Good stuff! About the best Acacia has had to offer in the past decade.

91 Smith-Madrone 1998, Napa Valley
Pineapples and peaches, butter, vanilla, and cloves all play a part in this dry, silky smooth, hillside Chardonnay. Long, mouthwatering finish. Perfect for a dish like veal Parmigiana.

Dec-Jan 2001

90 Wyndham Estate 1999, South Eastern Australia Bin 222
Gorgeous Chardonnay with all of the elements in balance–dry peach and citrus fruit, subtle oak tones, silky texture, and a lingering candied ginger finish. Worth at least twice the price, this is an amazing value and a very fine wine.

90 Gloria Ferrer 1998, Carneros
All the bells and whistles that went into making this Chardonnay take a backseat to the fresh, vibrant fruit that calls to mind lemon zest, apple and pineapple. Zesty acidity and a wisp of vanilla round out the taste sensations. Quintessential shellfish wine.

90 Geyser Peak Winery 1999, Sonoma County
An extraordinarily elegant, creamy textured, well-balanced Chardonnay with seamless integration of oak and fruit (mild pear, papaya and a hint of butter), and pleasant acidity that carries the finish. A perfect aperitif, it may also be paired with mild flavored dishes. Excellent value.

90 Columbia Crest 1998, Columbia Valley
A medium bodied Chardonnay with a butterscotch nose, and flavors of pear, butter, vanilla and light spice that linger on the palate. A good foil for Dover sole or grilled swordfish.

90 Martin Ray 1999 Mariage Russian River Valley
A voluptuous Russian River Valley Chardonnay that impresses with its peach and pineapple aroma, velvety texture, and vanilla and spice accents on the palate. Beautifully balanced, it would require rich foods like coquille St. Jacques.. Or serve as an aperitif.

89 Callaway Coastal 1999, California
Forced to look beyond Temecula for grapes, Callaway has reinvented itself with Callaway "Coastal" [see Letter from the Editor, Oct/Nov’00]. Peach, papaya and lime–bright and vibrant, with a citrusy finish. Excellent value.

89 Wyndham 1999, Hunter Valley, Oak Cask
A delicious Chardonnay, really tasty. Lots of appley fruit, light cinnamon and vanilla, silky texture and a long dry finish. A good

89 Meridian Vineyards 1999, Santa Barbara County
A full-bodied, velvety smooth, dry, tropical fruit style Chardonnay. Papaya and guava fruit combine with crisp acidity and a light smoky background on the mid-palate, leading to a mineral and fruit finish. Consistently a good value and the epitome of the California style.

89 Kenwood 1999, Sonoma County
Exquisitely balanced, buttery, with bright Bartlett pear fruit, a touch of citrus, subtle spice and silky smooth texture. It’s a round, elegant wine – all of a piece. As good as many wines that are twice the price, the Kenwood Chardonnay is an excellent value.

88 Geyser Peak Winery 1999, Russian River Valley
Angular and spicy, with bright apple and pear fruit laced with butter and cinnamon. Brash by itself, it’s enhanced by pairing with flavorful foods.

88 Villa Mt. Eden 1998 Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Velvety with smoky overtones, buttery, with a persistent spicy layer and an apple pie/cinnamon finish.

88 Beringer 1999, California Founders’ Estate
Honeysuckle and smoke aromas, soft, fat and buttery on the palate with light butterscotch and Rome apple fruit. Surprisingly for such a "fat" wine, this one has a vibrant finish that lingers for a least a minute. Serve well-chilled with butter sauced pasta.

88 Bernardus 1998, Monterey County
There are few wines more distinctive than Monterey County Chardonnays. This one is medium-bodied and buttery, with light oak spice, tropical fruit (papaya and pineapple) character, and good length. Best of all is the sexy, seductive, silky smooth texture that makes you want to come back for more. Lovely.

Oct-Nov 2000

95 Groth 1998, Napa Valley
White Burgundy move over, this is one great Chardonnay. Aromatic, bright appley fruit with a citrus edge, smokey notes and mineral undertones. Refined, balanced, complex. The best ever Chardonnay from Groth, and that says a bunch.

92 Thomas Fogarty 1997, Santa Cruz Mountains, Estate Reserve
Winemaker Michael Martella has coaxed as much as possible from his mountain grapes, to create an intense, multi-faceted wine. Sour apple, butter, toast and cloves, with a creamy texture and lingering finish. Crisp acidity helps balance all of the elements and keeps it from being heavy handed.

91 Kendall-Jackson 1998 Paradise Vineyard Arroyo Seco
When we unveiled the wines I was surprised to see that this was a Kendall-Jackson, as it’s drier and leaner than the usual KJ. Made from a single vineyard in Monterey County, it displays lemony fruit on the nose, while on the palate it has complex mineral character over dry citrusy fruit, and a long minerally finish. The oak is entirely subordinate. Interesting, well-balanced and a good value, it can serve as an aperitif, or pair particularly well with shellfish.

90 Beringer 1998, Napa Valley, Private Reserve
Intense fruit reminiscent of grilled pineapple with cinnamon, crisp acidity, yet silky smooth on the palate, and an uplifting fresh fruit finish that lingers for minutes. Serve chilled.

88 Beringer 1998, Napa Valley Sbragia- Limited Release Estate Bottled
The Sbragia designation is always made in a bigger, more powerful and riper style than Beringer’s regular Chardonnay. Big, oaky, smokey, with loads of pear-like fruit and cloves, this is not a wine for the faint of heart. Pair with full-flavored dishes more traditionally suited to red wines, and spicy fare. Very well-made for the style.

86 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1998, Napa Valley, Reserve
Butterscotch, vanilla, nutmeg and muted apple fruit on the nose and palate, bone dry and slightly astringent in the finish.

86 M. Trinchero 1998, Founder’s Estate, Napa Valley
M. Trinchero is Sutter Home Winery’s top-of-the-line label. This is a full-bodied, velvety textured Chardonnay with dry, appley fruit, toast and spice.

85 Chateau Ste. Michelle 1998 Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley
A velvety Chardonnay with dry lemony fruit and fully integrated oak spice. Big and angular, it’s best saved for full-flavored dishes.

84 Chateau Ste. Michelle 1998 Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard, Columbia Valley
Red delicious apples, a little butter, silky texture, and a touch of oak spice on the warm finish.

84 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1998 Beckstoffer Ranch, Napa Valley
Lean and dry with muted apple character on the palate, light oak spice and an astringent finish.

83 Rutherford Ranch 1998, Napa Valley
A full-bodied, apple and citrus Chardonnay with a creamy texture and warm finish. Simple, but well-made and an easy match for a host of fish and poultry and pasta dishes.

82 Hawk Crest 1998, California Vineyard Selection
Medium bodied with a silky texture and a crisp acid edge, tart and citrusy, with a warm finish.

Aug-Sept 2000

95 Robert Mondavi Winery 1998, Napa Valley, unfiltered
Here’s a majestic Chardonnay that shows how an accomplished, mature winemaker can do more with less–less oak, less sweetness, less alcohol. Unlike big, oaky, alcoholic monsters this complex and refined wine is entirely in balance, displaying tart citrusy fruit and complex yet subtle oak, mineral and spice. The finish is long and satisfying.

Aug-Sept 2000

93 Kendall-Jackson 1998 Camelot Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Velvety, minerally, ripe apple, peach, honey and leather, with a pleasant bitter edge, and a long minerally finish. The Single Vineyard Series is evidence of a change in KJ’s philosophy–The winemakers have taken a step back here, to let the vineyards speak for themselves. This is exciting winemaking. ,

93 Chateau St. Jean 1998, Sonoma County
The ‘98 Chardonnays have been nothing short of a revelation, and Chateau St. Jean is among the best. Aromas of peach and citrus zest, lead to a palate that displays ripe tropical fruit (guava, pineapple), as well as butter, smoke, and a touch of mineral and spice. Best of all, for all the bells and whistles, it’s a nicely balanced wine, and a good value to boot.

92 Mirassou 1998, Monterey County
The best Chardonnay Mirassou has ever made, it has marvelously complex tropical fruit (pineapple, guava, apple) with fully integrated oak, a touch of spice, a silky texture and a long finish. Great balance and structure for pairing with a wide range of foods. Excellent value.

90 Mirassou 1998, Monterey County, Harvest Reserve Showcase Selection
Tart melange of apricot and tropical fruit and spice, silky texture, long finish. Pair with fish, poultry, enchiladas.

89 Mirassou 1998, Monterey County Coastal Selection
The nose comes at you in waves–pear, toast, nicely balanced spice– following through to the palate with tart acidity, some honey notes and a pleasant sour finish.

89 Clos du Bois 1999, Sonoma County
Pear on the nose, combining with pineapple and a layer of sweet spices on the palate. Persistent spicy finish. Stands up to flavorful poultry, pork and veal dishes. A good foil for marinara sauce.

88 Robert Mondavi Coastal 1998, Central Coast
Light floral and melon character, smoothon the mid-palate, crisp and minerally on the finish. This is a Chardonnay that reminds of a good Italian white like Verdicchio. Interesting and a good value. Pair with roasted chicken or pasta.

87 Walnut Crest 1999, Rapel Valley Chile
Velvety texture, dry, with round melon and pineapple flavors, and a touch of spice on the lingering finish. Easy match for poultry, pasta with cream sauces, and fish. An outstanding bargain.

June-July 2000

94 Buena Vista 1998, Carneros
This may be Buena Vista’s finest Chardonnay in a decade. It’s a dry wine with a pineapple nose and a spicy-mineral character coupled with tropical and citrus fruit on the silky palate. It maintains a high level of intensity from the nose through the long complex finish. Altogether a remarkable wine and an astounding value. Pair with poultry or delicate fish like sole.

91 Rodney Strong 1998, Chalk Hill Sonoma County
Dry pear and subtle oak tones, butter and citrus notes, complex and persistent. Very long and well-structured. N/A

90 Robert Mondavi Coastal 1998, Monterey County
Shockingly good. Robert Mondavi Coastal is supposedly Mondavi’s second tier. Yet this debut Chardonnay from Monterey County is a seductive wine, aromatic and balanced, full-bodied and spicy, with ripe pineapple, apple, vanilla and sweet spices. A perfect aperitif. Unbelievable–a .

89 Viña Tarapaca 1999 Maipo Valley, [Chile]
Okay–it’s true that if your guests knew how much you paid for this Chardonnay they’d laugh politely and probably talk behind your back. So if they ask, just tell them it’s priceless–a rich, velvety wine with nuances of green apple and honey. Fresh and beautifully balanced. Excellent value.

89 Venezia 1996 Regusci Vineyard, Napa Valley
Rich vanilla, toast, pineapple and apple on the nose. Velvety texture, tropical fruit finish. Very elegant.

89 Beaulieu Vineyard 1998, Carneros, Reserve
Think poached Bosc pear with a hint of butterscotch, and some mineral-spice notes on the finish. A full-bodied wine with creamy texture, it’s a big California-style Chardonnay with ripe fruit and a lot of power.

89 Owen’s Estate of South Australia 1998
Legendary winemaker Jeff Merrill has made an elegant Chardonnay here, with vanilla and peach aromas and flavors, silky texture, full body and a lingering finish. A perfect accompaniment to chicken, pork or rabbit.

89 Mayacamas 1997, Napa Valley
Tart green apple, round vanilla, bright green cilantro overtones, crisp finish.

88 Chateau Potelle 1997, Central Coast
Napa Valley’s Chateau Potelle has taken a step forward with their first Central Coast Chardonnay. Beautifully round and aromatic, it has a lush nose of tropical fruit (pineapple and guava), while on the palate it’s lean and crisp with citrus rind and mineral notes. My only complaint is a touch of bitterness in the finish. Good value.

88 MacRostie 1998, Carneros
Like a Fuji apple drizzled with lime juice and just a hint of oak. Very refined.

87 Jacques de Coninck (Beaucanon) 1997, Napa Valley, estate bottled
Low pitched aroma and lean, tart, green apple flavor, crisp structure, and best of all a long minerally finish. Best paired with something like Dover sole in lemon-butter sauce.

87 Carramar 1999, New South Wales Australia
Full-flavored but not heavy, this bargain priced Chardonnay easily keeps pace with wines twice the price. Peach and vanilla flavors, silky texture with a pleasant acid edge, it will appeal to both novice and connoisseur alike. Bridges the gulf between aperitif and food wine, pairing with poultry, fish or Alfredo sauced pasta.

87 Chateau St. Jean 1997 Alexander Valley Robert Young Vineyard
Pear, vanilla and smoke are melded into a dry, slightly astringent Chardonnay well-suited to accompany white sauces. N/A

86 Fetzer Vineyards 1999, California Sundial
Rich apple, pineapple and vanilla flavors, full-bodied and lightly spicy in the finish. Serve with roasted chicken.

86 Dry Creek Vineyard 1998, Sonoma County Barrel Fermented
Lean citrusy fruit reminiscent of grapefruit with a background of honey on the nose. On the palate mineral and spice notes dominate the fruit. Good length and value.

86 Salmon Harbor 1998, Napa Valley Reserve
Pear and pineapple fruit with a touch of smoke. Crisp and lean, this is a good wine to pair with fish or prosciutto.

86 Clos du Val 1998, Carneros, Single Vineyard
Citrus and vanilla are combined into a seamless whole from the nose through the finish. Add some mineral notes and a wisp of smoke on the mid-palate and there you have it. Deceptively simple, beautifully structured.

85 Rivefort de France 1998, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
You could have fooled me–this is a good wine, but its fig and mineral overtones suggested Semillon instead of Chardonnay. None-the-less, this is a crisp, well-balanced wine with some character and length for just

84 Balbi Vineyard 1997, Mendoza, Argentina, Chardonnay-Semillon
A blend of 56% Chardonnay and 44% Semillon, this is an interesting wine with dominant lime and kiwi tones, crisp acidity and silky texture. A good wine for poultry or seafood at a bargain price.

84 Hogue 1998, Columbia Valley Washington
Light green apple, dry, clean and refreshing.

83 Vichon Mediterranean 1997, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Tart citrus fruit, clean citrus aroma, a tart warm limey finish. Good fish wine.

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