Chardonnay re-evaluated

Remember back in the day, not so very long ago, when many wine lovers would yell, “Anything but Chardonnay”?

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Come to think of it, one of those wine lovers was me.

Every now and then, when I ran across a Chardonnay that I really liked – a crisp, minerally Chablis or rich, complex, White Burgundy, maybe, or a creamy but balanced California bottling – I could come close to apologizing for my perfidy in celebrating the despised grape.

But we had reasons. Good reasons, I tellya! Back in the ’90s and into the ’00s, Chardonnay went through a rough patch. Its problem, I think, was that Chardonnay became a trend. About the time that most of us figured out that domestic “chablis” was a scam, the nation’s attention shifted to Chardonnay.

An ocean of inexpensive Chardonnay filled the gap, and much of it was a lot like the wine equivalent of winter tomatoes: Industrially produced from grapes grown for volume, not quality, and the result was “chab-liss” with a fancier name and a somewhat elevated price tag.

At the other end of the price range, many expensive Chardonnay producers got into a battle to see who could make the boldest, biggest, fruitiest and oakiest wine of them all, bombastic bottlings that may have pleased the popular critics but that drove most of the rest of us to say, well, “Anything but Chardonnay!”

A glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay.

A glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay.

To be realistic, though, there was always some good Chardonnay around, and it seems that in recent years the overall quality of the brand has been improving. Here’s how WineLovers Discussion Group Moderator David M. Bueker put it in our invitation to this month’s Wine Focus: Chardonnay:

“Chardonnay is seeing a revival in California of all places, where a new wave of producers is making bright, focused and site-evocative wine that warms a wine enthusiast’s heart. Producers such as Ceritas, Rhys, and Arnot-Roberts make some of the new benchmarks. The wines are largely available via mailing list, and often run a pretty penny, but they are not the only ones reviving Chardonnay’s reputation. Au Bon Climat is making a fine Chardonnay, and doing it for around twenty bucks.”

Ready to try it? We’ll be sampling and talking about Chardonnay all month in Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discussion Group. You’re warmly welcome to join in. To participate in the conversation, simply click to September Wine Focus: Chardonnay. There’s no need to wait for an invitation; feel free to join any conversation you can see, or start a new one. If you aren’t a forum member yet, the easiest way to join is to click “Social Login” at the top of any page, which will use your Facebook identity to register you. If you’re not on Facebook but would like to join the forum, Email me at, and we’ll work it out.

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Today’s Tasting Reports

Domaine de Mauperthuis 2014 Bourgogne Chardonnay Les Truffières ($14.99)

Domaine de Mauperthuis

Transparent pale gold color. Attractive if a bit simple, typical Chardonnay scent of green apples. Fresh and tart in flavor, green apple and bright, steely acidity. It continues clean, brisk and dry, adding a bit of nuance, subtle notes of “stony” minerality appearing as it crosses the palate. Not a highly complex wine, but it’s appealing and a good match with food. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio. (Sept. 1, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: A fine match with a summer salad of fresh garden tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, scallions and slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano in a light vinaigrette. Of course it would be fine with Chardonnay’s usual companions, poultry or pork, rich shellfish, saltwater fish and aromatic cheeses.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s perfectly good now, but in the first-rate 2014 vintage, even a modest generic Bourgogne Chardonnay like this might fare well with another year or two in a good cellar.

This food-friendly, balanced Chardonnay is a good value at my $15 local price.

Domaine de Mauperthuis has a small website in French at this location. There’s not much detail here, but you might enjoy a quick visit to meet wine makers Laurent and Marie Noelle and see a few pictures of their property.

Unfortunately, there’s only a limited selection of vendors for Domaine de Mauperthuis 2014 Bourgogne Chardonnay Les Truffières on

However, you can browse a wide selection of Bourgogne Chardonnay sorted by value or price by using this link. Click the “best value.” “cheapest,” and other tabs to sort the results to your liking.


Sonoma-Cutrer 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($25)


Tasted in a restaurant setting with a variety of dishes (see below), this simple but appealing Chardonnay served well. The surprise is that while it does offer a touch of oak, a decided whiff of aromatic tropical fruit, a creamy mouthfeel and doesn’t go strong on acidity, it relies on balance and reasonable restraint to sail safely through these rocky waters and avoid the shoals that used to make so many of us say “Anything but Chardonnay.” (Aug. 31, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: We enjoyed it in a restaurant with a variety of creative bistro fare. It went well with heirloom tomato and baby beets salads; an avocado-slathered tartine on baguette topped with a poached farm egg and lots of spicy arugula; and a fancy charred-asparagus course with chanterelle mushrooms, arugula blossoms and roasted jalapeño salsa verde.

WHEN TO DRINK: I don’t see this one as meant for the long haul. It’s drinking nicely now, simple but pleasant, good fruit and sufficient acidity. The 2014 is already in the marketplace, so I’d look for recent vintages and enjoy them in due course rather than stash them in the cellar.

We paid $15 for a generously poured glass at Louisville’s Butchertown Grocery restaurant. shows a $25 average U.S. retail price, but you can find it as low as $11 at many vendors, so shop around if you can.

Here’s the winery fact sheet on the 2014 vintage of this Chardonnay.

Compare prices and browse through many vendors for Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay on


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