In my view, oaked Chardonnays are perfect summer drink for around the pool or while relaxing on a patio later in the afternoon, not to forget mentioning that they make good transitory wines before switching to reds. This April 2015, the LCBO discounted number of interesting Chardonnays for their monthly ‘Limited Time Offer‘ (regular listings are part of this webpage) and so I took the opportunity to purchase and taste side-by-side 6 wines, of which four are on sale.
Coincidently, 3 of the wines were cool-climate Ontario Chards and 3 from warm California. Arranging them to start with the more aromatic, lighter bodied Ontarians to be followed by traditionally fuller and more oaky Californians was the obvious choice. As the vintages were 2012 & 2013, it however, wasn’t clear as to how to order them within their subgroups until each wine was opened and poured into a glass – I’ve ordered them from lighter to darker colored – indicators of body and oak.
The 2012 Malivoire Chardonnay, aged in French Oak for 6 months, has sweet, seductive aromas of honey melon, Golden Delicious apples, limestone, and vanilla on the nose and both yellow and green apple, vanilla and oak on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; BALANCED with fresh, yet round acidity and a medium to long finish. As the oak is subtle and not overpowering the fruit, this wine is food friendly and a great sipper; drink now and for the next 3-5 years (screw cap enclosure). My impression: NICE to BEAUTIFUL, 89-90 pts – recommended for its quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 89-90 pts. SAVE $2.00 | NOW $17.95 Vintages 573147
The 2013 Château des Charmes Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, aged in French Oak for 9 months, has appealing aromas of melon, pear, woody gooseberry and toasted vanilla on the nose and pear, subtle green apple, oak, vanilla and butter on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with round-mouthfeel acidity and a medium to long finish. This is a food friendly and sipping wine; drink now and for the next 3-5 years (cork enclosure). My impression: NICE, 88-89 pts – recommended for both – its quality and especially value – reviewed twice in the same week with more-or-less the same observations.
RECOMMENDED Score 89 pts. $13.95 LCBO 81653
The 2013 Strewn Chardonnay Barrel Aged has Icewine-like aromas of sweet apricot, honey, nuts and acacia on the nose and stewed pear, stewed gooseberry and intense oak + vanilla on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry/dry, fruity wine; OFF-BALANCE, slightly oxidized with checked acidity and a long, vanilla/oak dominated finish. Drink this wine with heavier, acid-forward foods; drink now (screw cap enclosure). My impression: NOTHING SPECIAL, 84 pts – long way off from the 2012 vintage that scored 88-89 pts – The 2012 Strewn Barrel Aged Chardonnay has appealing aromas of lime, pear, gooseberry and subtle linden, butter and oak. It is medium bodied, dry, fruity to integrated wine, with checked acidity and a medium to long, pleasing oaky, creamy finish. It is food friendly and a sipper; drink now to 2018. My impression: NICE, 88-89 pts – recommended for its quality and value. Tasted twice, Jan/14.
Score 84 pts. SAVE $1.00 | NOW $12.95 LCBO 522730
The 2013 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay has pleasing aromas of Bartlett pear, lees, gooseberry and wood on the nose and green/yellow apple, pear, subtle lees, vanilla and subtle oak on the palate. It is a medium bodied, dry, fruity wine; with good acidity and a medium to long, soapy finish (allow to open for 30+ min). This is a food friendly wine as well as sipping wine; drink now and for the next 3-5 years (composite cork enclosure). My impression: NICE, 88 pts – recommended mainly for its value.
RECOMMENDED Score 88 pts. SAVE $2.00 | NOW $14.95 LCBO 364265
The 2013 Toasted Head Chardonnay (that comes in crooked bottle) contains a touch of Viognier and is aged in American, Eastern European and French Oak barrels for 9 months. It has inviting aromas of luscious vanilla, oak, coconut, butter and yellow apple on the nose as well as the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry/dry, integrated wine; BALANCED with surprisingly fresh acidity and an extra-long, wood imparted finish. This is a sipper if one is a big, oaky chard lover and will go well with cheeses; drink now to 2025 (composite cork enclosure). My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 89-90 pts – recommended for quality and value, but note that this wine doesn’t have much notable fruit and is quite oak influenced.
RECOMMENDED Score 89-90 pts. SAVE $2.00 | NOW $15.95 Vintages 594341
The 2012 Sawbuck Chardonnay has over-ripe/bruised pear, apricot and peach notes together with steamy and woody aromas on both nose and palate. It is a medium bodied, dry, integrated wine; lacking acidity and with a medium, tongue-clogging finish. It has no aging potential (short and thin composite cork enclosure). My impression: DRINKABLE BUT WHY, 81 pts – NOT recommended.
Score 81 pts. $18.20 (I was charged $15.95) LCBO 366443
Perhaps I am wrong on this, but maybe I am not that far off thinking that majority of people who like Chardonnay, like it because it is oaked. I know number of people who just don’t like Chardonnay, regardless of whether it is oaked or not and instead they drink other whites. If this observation is correct, then the guideline or a benchmark (if you will) of what is a good Chardonnay is to have some notable, creamy, buttery oak at any level, and let the intensity be judged by the taster/consumer – this should not become a debate (Malolactic fermentation, or the extent of it, on the other hand should be – I will leave that one for another time).
As Ontario resides in what is considered cool climate, our Chardonnays are quite a bit more aromatic and with higher acidity than Californian ones, and usually the oak use is more restrained as winemakers do not want to overpower the fruit. …..I like both….. For me, I savor a glass or two of complex Ontario Chardonnay in the evening (any time of the year), when I want to be philosophical and write this blog, whereas I tend to enjoy full bodied, more-so oaked Californian Chardonnay in the summer afternoons surrounded by water and family/friends. In my mind (and my palate), there is a place for both.
The point of this exercise was to see if I can find some nice “summery” aka “more oaky” Chardonnays around or under the $15 mark. Pleasantly surprised, I did. All four of the recommended wines will be bought and tried again before the sale is over and a final decision on which to stock up on (most likely more than one) will be made then. To simply put it, on the cool side, both Malivoire and Château des Charmes Chardonnays will be tasted again side by side to determine how many of each to obtain. From the warmer basket, my choice is obvious – the Toasted Head, but I will still try the Dreaming Tree again as it is more subtle and the wine blossoms in the decanter.
Are you a Chardonnay fan? Consider attending the Cool Climate Chardonnay event – in my view the funnest event of the year (probably because it is right smack in the middle of the summer) .