#newwinethisweek Week 31 – California Chardonnay #NWTW on tour!


I’m writing this at the Windmill motel in Buellton (yes the one from Sideways) and tucking into a glass of superb Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat (posts about both to come soon!) so it just has to be California Chardonnay all the way this week… well what else can I write about??

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that California recovered from Prohibition and got itself back on the world wine atlas; it is reported there were less that 130 wineries in operation when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. It took a while for the Californians to rebuild from almost scratch but in 1976, at the Judgement of Paris, everything would change forever. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 beat off competition from Beaune, Puligny, Meursault and the Grand Cru Batard-Montrachet to take first place in the battle of white wines and the world started to take notice again. If you haven’t seen the film Bottle Shock then do yourself a favour and click on this link!

In the 1990’s California Chardonnay took a beating with it’s over-oaked tropical fruit-bombs bringing ABC – Anything But Chardonnay – into our lexicon; hell, even then Prime Minister John Major jumped on that bandwagon! But these days the wines can be simply stunning and I implore you to give them a go! I know the Americans amongst you already know this but seriously guys, spend a couple more quid and give the REAL USA a go… forget Gallo and Blossom Hill and try some wine that may well blow your mind!


Dark Horse Chardonnay 2011 (Tesco £8.99)

Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2012 (Tesco £12.99)

Sand Point Chardonnay 2010 (M&S £10.99)

First Press Chardonnay 2011 (Waitrose £16.99)


Or if you want to do it properly… Get yourself a bottle of Au Bon Climat!

Au Bon Climat Los Alomos Chardonnay 2011 (The Wine Society £20.00)

Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay 2011 (Roberson £22.95)


I’ll be drinking plenty this side of the pond, make sure you pick up a bottle and tell us what you think… Happy holidays!







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Posted on August 4, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Welcome to the land of corrupted English. Enjoy your time in sunny CA!

  2. I need to be able to leave two scores this week; one for the (still) typical California butter bomb Chardonnays (1, of course) and another for the “New California” types featuring less extract, oak and butter!

    • I’m looking forward to finding out for myself… Just checked in at our Napa digs… Here we go!

    • Those butter bombs are very hard to find nowadays… And a lot of new California Chardonnays are lifeless…

      • I think a lot of new Cali chards have great prediction and tension – have you tried Sandhi?

      • I think autocorrect played a role in your reply : ). No, I didn’t have a chance to try Sandhi. I’m sure not all new Chardonnays are the same – I’m talking based on my tasting experiences at the various trade shows. I’m also not missing over-oaked Chardonnays, which are sweet and almost bitter. However, a lot of proudly unoaked Chardonnays taste to me more like Pinot Grigio…

      • Obviously too much Vermeil Cab last night! I know exactly what you mean though – just hoping to find the good stuff this week! (I also tasted some dreadful SB yesterday – like licking a park bench!)

      • And I hope to read about your good findings 🙂

  3. Bring it on sunshine! Hope you do plenty of research to make up for me! 🙂

  4. I would also recommend Sea Smoke Chardonnay alongside with Au Bon Climat.

  5. Reblogged this on Please Bring Me My Wine and commented:
    Here’s to Ant’s holiday, have a great one mate!

  6. Ant!!! With that bottle of ABC in my wine rack I’m going to have to pop it this weekend – thank you for giving me the excuse to do so! Plus, I love the film Bottle Shock – although supposedly Stephen Spurrier hates it and says that it bears little reality to what actually happened!

  7. Fair play to the 2 Geeks for keeping #newwinethisweek going while they’re both off gallivanting in sunnier climes. The smell of a nice tropical Chardonnay will be a welcome relief for me after 2 weeks of nothing but nappies and Aptamil!

    After reading Ant’s write up of the Au Bon Climat visit, the green eyed monster kicked in so I had to get a bottle of the good stuff for myself. I happened to be around Earl’s Court for work this week so no better excuse to pop into Roberson Wine.

    A lot of people who buy decent wine in London will know of Roberson. It’s ran by a load of knowledgeable, enthusiastic winos and their tasting events are real special-I just wish they ran more of them, been a bit thin on the ground this year! They’ve won California Specialist of the Year the last 2 years running at the International Wine Challenge awards so no better place to pick up an ABC (that’s Au Bon Climat, not the derogatory wine acronym!)

    So I bought the Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay 2011 for £22.95. The label alone is reason enough to try it. The pyramid shaped artwork looks like a hippy version of a Dan Brown masonic symbol-very weird but very eye-catching.

    The label quote; “Hey dude, make a wine on the wild side” is slightly misleading as this is one seriously refined bottle of grape juice, with the rich buttery textures that could be straight out of a top Meursault.

    There’s a slight bit of yellow citrus on the nose but its mainly warm pineapple notes and a touch of coconut milk. The rich, buttery swirl of flavours are a joy to behold on the palate and there’s even a delayed element of breadyness than comes through (I refuse to write brioche!)

    This wine is truly special and opens up in the glass like no other white I’ve tasted. By the end of the bottle the length and depth has intensified no end. This has got to be my new favourite Chardonnay!

    My highest white #newwinethisweek score this year-9/10 (try getting a similar Meursault for 23 quid!)

  8. The wines of California have been an absolute revelation to me this past week or so, perhaps the Chardonnay mostly so. i have not come across and butter-bombs, if there has been tropical fruit it has been restrained and balanced. The new California Chards are tense and racy, crisp and bright, with beautifully judged acidity. They don’t need food but can be paired with almost anything; they are so versatile.

    Here’s a few of the notes I have made:

    Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay Reserve 2012, Carneros ($55)
    The 2012 was released to the public on the day we visited the winery and the staff in the Reserve room enjoyed their first taste of the new vintage in our company! This is a pure and precise Chardaonnay with a ton of fruit, mainly crisp golden delicious apple and lemon. There is a hint of spice and the creaminess of lemon cud on the finish but this is clean, crunchy and very classy. 9/10

    Heitz Wine Cellars Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley ($25)
    Very fresh and bright nose of apples, a touch of rich peach and just a hit of a buttery note – the wine doesn’t go through malo so the flavours and texture all comes from the aging is used aged oak and the time it spends on the lees. The palate is crisp and clean with fresh apples, that bit of peachy ripeness and a tense minerality. This was another bottle only released this week, given 12 months or so it will be very satisfying. 9/10

    Beringer Luminus Chardonay 2012, Napa Valley ($35)
    Very crisp and fresh with bright citrus with a real acidic bite. This is a very modern Californian take on Chardonnay and has real tension and nerve – like a fine Chablis. There is a deliciously buttery finish (the wine goes through 35% malolactic fermentation). 9/10

    Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley ($44)
    After the Luminus I was expecting this one to be a real butter-bomb… but wait… the attack is all peaches and apples with just a gentle hint of buttered toast and just a delightful nuance of toasted nut. This is really enjoyable, fresh and beautifully balanced. 9/10


    Kistler Stone Flat Vineyard Chardonnay 2011
    Very little on the nose at first… after a good old sniff I get some apple, some peach and just a hint of spicy new oak. The palate is incredible; Rich peach and juicy nectarine and a phenomenal citrus blast, then comes the savoury undertones; hints of smoky spice and toasted nut. The layers of fruit and the length on the wine are ridiculous – my mouth is still watering 2 minutes after sipping. the balance, the finesse and restrained power of this wine is out of this world. I have never tasted a better Chardonnay. 10/10

    It’s been emotional!

  9. I’m going for a perfect 10 for Wind Gap James Berry Chardonnay. My fave American Chardonnay, maybe my all around favorite. I’d give a score of zero for many American Chardonnays, but if you let me pick one, I’ll bring a winner. The Au Bon Climat is also very good, as well as Calera and Lioco.

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