Apr 21, 2012

California Chardonnay - Results

On Tuesday April 17, 2012, California Chardonnays took center stage at the latest tasting hosted by the Toronto Vintners Club.  All in attendance that night were treated with the opportunity to taste some truly remarkable wines made by expert Californian winemakers.  All the wines tasted were deliberately crafted to distance themselves from the typical oaky and tropical fruit filled California Chardonnays of old and tried to return to their Burgundian roots with a more crisp style with lots of mineral and steely overtones.

Our speaker for the evening was Steve Elphick.  Steve has been a professional photographer for the past 36 years with a focus on wine and beer.  He is the sole photographer for the Wine Atlas of Canada and has had his work published and exhibited in museums and art galleries all over the world.  He has also professionally judged wine since 1988 including judging Chardonnay at the California State fair for the past 12 years.  He is also the past VP of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada.

According to Steve, there is one main reason why these wines don't taste like the typical California Chardonnay.  Like Burgundy Chardonnays, all of the wines that we tasted  follow the french model and do not add any yeast during fermentation, only wild yeast from the air is used to start the process.  This results in the wines having a "plushness" and a big rich mouth-feel.  It is also interesting to note that all but one of these wines have undergone malolactic fermentation and this one wine is considered by many to be the best non-malo wine in America. (keep reading to find out which one it is). 


After the tasting was finished and all the rankings were compiled, the groups favourite wine on the night turned out to be the only non-malo wine being tasted tonight, the  2009 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay.  Steve ranked this tied for fourth and praised it for it's open acidity.  Steves favourite wine of the night was the 2008 Signorello Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay, the group had this ranked as their 5th favourite. 



Name of Wine (in order poured) Group Ranking Guest Ranking
A -
2008 Evening Land La Source Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $79
8 7
B -
2009 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay $49
3 4.5
C -
2009 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay $59.95
1 4.5
D -
2009 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay $79.95
2 3
E -
2008 Signorello Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay $51.95
5 1
F -
2009 Kistler Les Noisetiers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay $64.95
6 2
G -
2009 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay $72.95
4 6
H -
2008 Arrowood Vineyards Réserve
Spéciale Chardonnay $49.95
7 8