Just what you didn’t expect from me (maybe): a wine review. While it’s not in time for Christmas and Hanukkah, surely you can’t drink champagne all New Year’s Eve! Mix it up with some Chardonnay, my favorite wine.
Hubby clipped coupons for Total Wine & More, a big box store around here, and we loaded up a cart with a variety of Chardonnays for me and a bottle each of vodka and port for him. Notice that Chardonnay is capitalized, but port is not. I have no idea what is correct, but that is how I view the world. And that is how you will find this review. Chardonnay from the viewpoint of Luanne who knows very little about wine.
Oops, I probably should have pretended to know a lot, so you would think I know what I am talking about. But when you read the language I use to describe the wines you will figure it out anyway.
When I go to a restaurant I never know what to order. That is only partly my own ignorance. It is also because most restaurants seem to carry some crappy wine they can mark up. Some will mix it up with a brand that “everyone” knows, such as Kendall Jackson. So when I go to a restaurant, I tend to order Kendall Jackson, not because I think it is a great Chardonnay, but because I know what I am getting and find it palatable. Note that I’m not talking about fine restaurants here, but the kind I frequent.
Standing in the aisles of Chardonnay at Total Wine it struck me that I really miss the wine store in Kalamazoo called Bacchus. They always had a big choice and it wasn’t a big box, equity company-owned store. It also struck me that there are a lot of Chardonnays I never hear about because they don’t sell them at most restaurants. I wondered if I could find something I like better than Kendall Jackson or La Crema, a brand I began to drink after a friend gave me a bottle for a gift.
If you wonder about the origins of Chardonnay, here is a brief history from Wine Access:
The best Chardonnays in the world continue to arrive from the region where the grape first emerged: the chalk, clay, and limestone vineyards of Burgundy and Chablis. While the origins of the grape were disputed for many years, with some speculating that the grape came all the way from the Middle East, DNA researchers at the University of California Davis proved in 1999 that Chardonnay actually developed, most likely, in eastern France, as a cross between a member of the “Pinot” family and an ancient, and nearly extinct variety called Gouais Blanc.
My results will follow a typical wine rating.
Luanne’s 100-Point Scale based on that used by Wine Access and other sites:
- 95-100 — Classic; a great wine
- 90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
- 80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
- 70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
- 60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
- 50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended
But don’t expect talk of pears and apples and oak and all that rot. I only use the word oak when I ask a server which is the most “oaky” of the less expensive chards. These are my impressions of the ones I chose.
This wine seemed flat, without much taste. But sour, definitely puckery. Kind of like sucking on over-sized California lemons. (You’ve probably heard that the larger the California-grown produce, the less flavor, and that’s a fact). I’d give this one a 70 to be kind.
A screwtop worried me at first, but I shouldn’t have been. I will buy this again. The taste was very focused. Maybe what I mean is a rich flavor like when you let soup or sauce cook down. No after taste. No harshness. This one gets a 94 from me. Maybe it would be higher if I could get over the screw top. (That said, I did drink a nice box wine on vacation).
I really disliked this one. It’s so bitter and tasted like old carpet. You know what I mean. When you find some older carpet remnant underneath old carpet you pull up. ICK. On the second night of this wine I noticed a sweet smell that quickly turned chemically. The wine seemed rotten to me. Let’s give this one a 50. Oh no, I just realized there is another bottle of this on my wine rack. I must have bought two because it was less expensive. Ugh.
RED PONY RANCH
Drank just enough of this one that I forgot to record my thoughts. I’ll give it a 90 because that must be a good sign!
This one tastes like a basic chard you might order from a mid-range restaurant. It’s a 75. Go for it if the price is right.
RUNNING WITH SCISSORS
I asked my daughter to also review this one. I was so infatuated with a name that sounded literary (like Augusten Burroughs’ memoir) that I wanted to make sure that I could give you a more objective viewpoint. Her view is that the wine the first night was light and oaky (yup, she said oaky), with an aftertaste of olives and a salty bite to it. OK, maybe she should be the one reviewing wine, not me.
What I thought about the wine was that the first sip has a pucker factor and a weak flavor, but then the taste develops and becomes richer. And it does have an olive taste to it. The second night gave me no pucker at all. There is a nutty undertaste to it, if that makes sense. I ended up thinking this was a 90-94, but I will need to try another bottle to make sure ;).
FIRE AND OAK
I bought this one at Whole Foods. What an interesting wine. This chard has a woody smell, almost like a firepit. The taste is “narrow,” meaning that there isn’t a wide range within the taste. There is no after taste and no pucker, although there is a slight bitterness. I really like this and give it a 95. Maybe Whole Foods is a better place to buy wine than Total Wine & More.
This one reminds me of Kendall-Jackson and La Crema, so if you like those, you will probably like this one. I particularly love this name because I have always been partial to St. Francis, with his love of animals and the poor. And also because Francis was my father’s middle name and a “family” name.
For the record, the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted was made by a Temecula (my home town area for almost 20 years) winery called Leoness. Temecula is the southern California wine region. Leoness has been sold out of Chardonnay for some time and when the new year is available will be sold directly to fine restaurants instead of at their winery :(.
Most of these Chardonnays I “sampled” don’t even show up on lists of the best Chardonnays. Oh well, I sure had fun sampling. And after this whirlwind of a year it felt very refreshing.
I want to dedicate this post
to a young woman who lost her life tragically and far far too soon. Jordan Schuman was a 22-year-old TV reporter in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina and grew up on Long Island, New York. She was in a fatal car accident two days before Christmas. She was vibrant and talented and her friends are remembering her with red lipstick and high heels. Her mother, a friend of mine, has asked us to raise a glass in Jordan’s memory and hopes to “blow up the internet” with people toasting to Jordan. Her favorite wine was Pinot Grigio. Please join me in a glass of Pinot Grigio for Jordan. #cheerstojordan