I know that there are many out there who will think that I am crazy when I say this…but I am not a big fan of Chardonnay. In my defense, most of my experience with this varietal is the overly oaked, rich Chardonnay that California made so popular. Too heavy and too buttery for my tastes but I know plenty of people who will drink nothing else. Believe me, I have tried different regions, different countries but to no avail. This regal grape that is so beloved confounds me. The un-oaked Chards from France tickled my taste buds but I have rarely had one that made me stand up and WOW! Australian Chardonnay has good structure with peach and nectarine nuances, but still nothing that stood out. South African, Italy-I’ve tried them all in an effort to find a white grape that I love as much as Sauvignon Blanc. I know that certain foods would pair better with Chardonnay and therefore my quest continues.
So it makes me beg the question, is there a good in-between for someone like me?
In my research, I have found a real world solution to my Chardonnay dilemma and a dreamer’s solution. One I have tasted and the other…well, few can get their hands on it.
In reality, there are a ton of great Chardonnays on the market but I found one that a finicky palate like mine can enjoy. Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill Chardonnay has sophistication with a hint of butter cream and vanilla from oak but yet is crisply acidic. This wine is well balanced with tropical fruit, pear and mineral elegance. The best part is that you get all the flavor of a 90-point rated wine on Wine Enthusiast for only $20 a bottle.
Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill Chardonnay’s easy availability is another reason this wine is so great. But there is something about a wine that no one can get. A wine that is so exclusive that even when accepted to their mailing list, you still may have to wait 3 or more years before being invited to buy a bottle. No, these aren’t $200 bottles of wine, but a mere $65-70 a bottle. Aubert Wines in California is not about mass production. They average around 4000 cases a year and the Aubert label is not available in wine shops and very rarely in restaurants (one in California and one in NYC that I found). Although after some research I did manage to find an online wine store that sold their Chardonnay but at an inflated price of $150 and must have been obtained through questionable means. Although Aubert Wines produces four different Chardonnays: Ritchie, Lauren, Rueling and Quarry, the Ritchie is the one that intrigues me to no end. Tasting notes from both the winemaker and those lucky enough to have had it say that it is full-bodied but not excessive. Ritchie’s complex flavors range from lush fruit to a steel minerality. That sounds like it could be just what I have been looking for.
After all my research, I put myself on the mailing list and can only hope that in 3 years time I will be invited to buy a bottle or two. Until then, I will gladly drink my Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay with a smile.