Three years seems like a lifetime in many ways. Three years ago Nena and I were engaged, not married like we are now. Jackson wasn't even a consideration. We were renting a house instead of paying a mortgage.
And, three years ago, I also threw the idea of Wine Blogging Wednesday out into the blogosphere. The food blogs had Is My Blog Burning, so I figured the wine geeks among us might enjoy a similar virtual, international event.
Three years later, we're going strong and seemingly growing stronger with every vintage.
Thank you to each and every person who has ever taken part. It's just so much fun to see what wines everyone finds for each theme. Sometimes we see the old standbys, but I love seeing the unique stuff...even if I can't get my hands on it.
This month, I asked participants to Get Naked. I've met a few of you guys in person, so trust me, nude wine drinking is not something I'm interested in doing with you, haha. Rather, I wanted to 'force' you to drink a chardonnay not made (marred?) with oak.
Before I moved to Long Island, I had never tasted or even heard of steel-fermented chardonnay. I thought that drinking chardonnay meant tasting overwhelming flavors of butter, vanilla and oak. I didn't like those wines...mainly because I had only experience cheaply made chardonnay.
But, moving to Long Island and discovering the region's young wine industry, I saw the light. Long, relatively cool growing seasons help the chardonnay grape retain it's natural acidity...and those chardonnay grapes lend themselves well to the "no oak" treatment. So that is why I picked this theme. I hope you all found these wines unique, interesting and maybe--just maybe--you've come back to chardonnay the way I have.
It's no shock that I usually pick New York wines for WBW when possible. And I did again this time around. But, I also tried a California chardonnay that has "Oak Free" right on the label. So, without further adieu, let's get to the wines:
First up is the local wine, Raphael's 2006 Grand Cru Chardonnay ($15). Winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich calls it Grand Cru because he doesn't want the first thing people to see to be the word chardonnay. Members of the Anything But Chardonnay club are one of the big target audiences here.
Rich thinks that Long Island chardonnay fruit shines most brightly when fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks, so thats what he did with this new white. The nose is somewhat austere, but offers fruity pear and melon aromas with a wonderful smell of the sea in the background. That almost-salty minerality carries through and drives the palate with the pear and melon character taking a step back. Medium bodied with substantial--but balanced--natural acidity, this would make a great house wine this summer. One doesn't expect much of a finish on these wines, but it lingers here longer than expected.
Looking to California, Nena and I also tried Humanitas' 2006 "No Oak" Chardonnay ($16). I've written about Humanitas in the past, and if you haven't heard about what owner and winemaker Judd Wallenbrock is doing, check it out. Basically, Judd makes these wines in his garage and the proceeds to go charity. With a model like that, I'd support them even if the wines were only mediocre, but they aren't. I've really enjoyed some of Judd's wines over the past couple of years. But how would this un-oaked chardonnay fare?
Well, to be fair, it was bottled very recently and he only sent me some because of this little bit of WBW fun, so I think this wine would show a bit better in a month or two, but even still, it is a fine example of why I love unoaked chardonnay so much. The nose, still a little tight from bottle shock, offers up some lemon, some apple and a faint hint of pineapple. On the palate, the body is medium, and there is loads of apple flavor with just subtle tropical notes. I'd like to see a little more acidity here, but that might just be because I'm so used to the racy local renditions. All in all, this is a nice wine, though I do prefer the Raphael bottling.
So there you have it...two naked chardonnays from two coasts. Quite different, but both nice summer wines. Don't over-think unoaked chardonnay--it's a waste of time. Just enjoy it.
Cheers everyone. Thanks for keeping WBW alive for so long and I'll have the roundup ready in a few days I hope!