Raise a Glass

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.


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.


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 ;).


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.

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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





Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Food & Drink, Nonfiction, Writing

36 responses to “Raise a Glass

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s daughter, Luanne. I live close to where the accident happened in North Carolina and I saw the news coverage. She was a beautiful girl…so sad.
    I’ll definitely lift a glass in Jordan’s memory.

  2. Heartfelt post. Wish you and your a joyous year ahead.

    • Thank you, Sally. I just watched a video her dad made of her and am in tears. And thank you so much for your wishes for the year ahead. I so hope so–and “back atcha”!!!

  3. I give this post a 95-100 for the laywoman’s descriptions such as “puckery” and “tasted like old carpet” and ” a rich flavor like when you let soup or sauce cook down.” If only I could find a bottle of Red Pony Ranch in Canada because I suspect you’re right on that one. If you were enjoying it too much to record it must have been a 105.

    How sad about your friend’s daughter. Pinot Grigio is one of my favourite white wine’s and I shall think of her when I have a glass.

    • It’s so sad. I feel my tongue freeze up when I try to talk about it. Thank you for #cheerstojordan!!
      I am going to retry Red Pony Ranch. I just wish that the store would take back my other bottle of Oak Ridge. I can’t bear the thought of opening it.

  4. Cheers to Jordan, Luanne. And to you.

  5. Sorry to hear of your friend’s passing, Luanne.
    Happy to raise a glass in her memory while giving you a hug for 2016.

  6. Dear Luanne, I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend’s daughter. A beautiful life, it appears, ended all too soon. A reminder to us all that life is short and we need to embrace it. Though I’m not a drinker (except on special occasions), I will see the New Year in with a glass of Pinot Grigio in memory of Jordan and in thanks for YOU!

    • A beautiful life ended too soon is so well put. About embracing life: that is exactly the message that Jordan’s mother wants to impart. Thank you so much for the #cheerstojordan, Elaine! I hope your 2016 is fruitful, joyful, and healthy!

  7. I am so sorry to hear about Jordan’s passing. Raising a glass in her memory. xo

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your friend’s daughter. Any death is sad, of course, but it’s so much more when it happens to someone so young and vibrant.

    Up to that point, I was chuckling at your wine review comments. I’m not a big Chardonnay fan. I think they often have a kind of grapefruity taste. I usually drink reds–good with chocolate! 🙂 But I will raise a glass of wine to Jordan.

    • Thank you, Merril. As moms, we so can imagine just the tip of this from every scare we have ever had about our kids. But what Jordan’s mom and stepdad and dad and brother are going through, it is truly hard to really comprehend.
      Jordan’s mom won’t mind if you drink red for Jordan. I’ve seen on the internet people drinking whiskey and cocktails, too. The main thing is to remember Jordan with a smile and a renewed determination to love life. #cheerstojordan

  9. Luanne, I just saw this post with your name on it while watching a PBS Newshour story on a neat-looking portable gluten tester (aired 12/28. $250 for the device plus little testing capsules. It is being made by
    6sensorlabs The story also discusses other similar technologies. I thought you should know about this story if you don’t already.

    Now I will dig into the wine!

  10. So sorry to hear about your friend’s daughter. I had poured myself a glass of Pinot to enjoy with your post, but now, I drink to Jordan. RIP, Jordan. And I hope that her family and friends will soon think of her with more smiles than tears.

  11. I’m sipping Silver Palm Cabernet bought at Whole Foods. (It’s capitalized too, for some reason…is it a place?) I will raise a glass to your friend’s daughter as well. Thanks for the reviews. I have to choose wines that are dry and I’m always looking for something new. I like to change it up…the cabs get old, but I’ve found some Shiraz is also good.

    • Susan, Jordan’s mom will be happy with the #cheerstojordan with Cabernet. It’s the spirit intended, so thank you very much!!!
      I’ve enjoyed the Shiraz I’ve had, I will say. Now I have to figure out what to do with that 2nd bottle of Oak Ridge. Nasty stuff.

  12. Methinks you are quite knowledgeable

  13. This is so very sad, Luanne. I will raise a glass of Pinot Grigio for Jordan xxxx

    I attended a funeral yesterday – it’s been a tough Christmas.

  14. What a surprise and sad ending your post turned out to be. Here’s to Jordan and to you and your loved ones a Happy New Year! 🙂

  15. I was late yo this but will think and hope for Jordans family to have good memories and their pain eased. Makes you hold your family members tighter and try to stay mote connected, too. Cheers to Jordan, your father and your old friend, cat. (Chester?) ♡ Sorry brain doesn’t keep names in it too well.
    Hope you have a very special New Year’s celebration, concentrating on happy memories of your dear cat and very wonderful father, Luanne. Hugs, Robin ♡ ♡

    • Thanks so much, Robin. The tragedy of Jordan’s passing is so difficult, but her family is so strong and so focused on remembering the good times. My old cat was Mac (Macavity) and he is very missed, as is my father whose birthday was the day after Christmas. Happy New Year to you, Robin xoxoxo.

  16. Since I drink wine with dinner most every night, I’ll give a toast to Jordan. My deepest sympathies to her family.
    Chardonnay is also a favorite of mine, but I’m not very good at describing what I like and don’t like. We’re enamored of Francis Coppola’s Chardonnay but some of that is sentimental since we first had it at his restaurant (Zoetrope) in San Francisco several years ago. I like Chardonnays because they seem more “substantial” than other whites, but then it often depends on the meal too. Cheers, Luanne!

  17. I live in wine country, and I know nothing about wine. It’s harder than it sounds. 🙂

  18. Pingback: Another Glass of Chardonnay (or Sake) | Writer Site

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