I’ve been sampling California chardonnays in recent days with an eye, as always, toward well-balanced wines that are not infused too heavily with oak and that are not overbearing in style. Three are worth considering.
Freemark Abbey’s well-focused 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay is an excellent value at $22. It opens with a bit of citrus, which leads to notes of ripe melon, vanilla and butterscotch, with all the elements nicely integrated in a bright, refreshing style. With relatively modest alcohol of 14.1 percent, the wine was a perfect match with grey sole fillets roasted with Dijon mustard and a splash of vermouth.
Sbragia Family Vineyards’ 2007 Home Ranch Chardonnay from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County is nuanced and balanced, quite Burgundian in character with pear and pink grapefruit tastes and judicious use of oak that leaves a subtle vanilla note on the finish. An elegant and sophisticated chardonnay. Another excellent buy at $26.
For a slightly richer style, consider another Sonoma wine, Rochioli Vineyards’ 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. This highly enjoyable wine, with a suggested price of $50, shows pear, a considerable note of vanilla extract, some herbs and minerals and a touch of orange on the finish. All three of these wines were effortless to drink and matched well with foods, from fish to pan-seared pork chops to roast chicken. And remember, to enjoy their subtleties, don’t drink them too cold. (Wines received as press samples.)