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April 09, 2010


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I agree completely. Too often trends dictate what people drink and thats a shame. Great post Jim!

Thanks for the contribution, Jim. I know it's been a long time coming and has been in your head for some time.

When we're talking classic Burgundy/Chablis, only a fool would say chardonnay has no place. That's just silly.

My biggest problem with chardonnay (and I'm talking largely NY here because I drink so many of these wines) is that many are made in a middling style that isn't committed to either the minerally, fresh (let's call it Chablis-style for sake of argument)or the rich, but balanced (let's call it Burgundian for sake of argument).

To often they are somewhere in the middle -- maybe oakier, but thin....and in the end, many local chards are very very similar. There's little that is distinct or special about them even among the local options, let alone in the larger market.

One example I often use (and your two chardonnays would probably fit this as well) are two of the chardonnays made at Channing Daughters -- the all-steel Scuttlehole and the wild ferment, funky complex L'Enfant Sauvage.

With these two wines, Chris Tracy (the winemaker) has committed to these two varying styles and goes after them with gusto. They ARE distinctive and I happen to enjoy both quite a bit.

I guess this is a long way of me saying that I'm not anti-chardonnay (which I've been accused of)...I'm just anti-ubiquitous chardonnay -- from ANY region.

There is obviously a lot of chardonnay planted in New York, because it's adaptable and can grow in a wide array of climates and in different soils. I just wish that more wineries did more interesting things with it.

Your response is well received here Lenn. In the case of Chardonnay, the wine producers too often are trying too hard to create what they perceive is the ideal consumer's wine. They bend the grape to fit into a preconceived ideal based on economics and fashion.

I think you see a more successful Chardonnay produced when the winery knows what it wants to be before they think of the consumer, or trends, or fashions.

When terroir, natural and limited intervention-ist winemaking is allowed to thrive, the wine is just better for it. There's more than enough consumers for THAT type of wine. No matter what its made of.

My point all along is that great Chardonnay is greater than just about anything else (with the possible exception of great Riesling.)

Jim -

Stirring, provocative stuff. Outstanding. In particular, the section on Chablis was gorgeously composed and astutely accurate. I will never forget my first experience with Chablis. It was in a blind tasting, and I was thrilled with the wine - though my assumptions were a multiverse away from Chardonnay. That was the moment when I realized my general disinterest with Chardonnay was threatening to cause me to miss the best.

But I think you touched on an important point - perhaps the most important with Chardonnay. The very best is so, so far superior to the everyday stuff that it is hardly recognizable as related. So yes, you are right to point out that some engage in Chardonnay bigotry, but I won't deny my own general - and continuing! - disinterest with Chardonnay. I'd like to think my disinterest is commensurate with a disinterested winemaker, carelessly cranking out Chardonnay because it's simply expected.

I do not thrill to most Chardonnays. I don't expect that to change. But to Chablis and its ilk, I will always warm to the opportunity. Cheers on a tremendous post.

When the world "discovers" high quality NY wine, Chardonnay will be near the top of the list of varieties that excel in this state. I love NY Chardonnay!

Nice job of writing Jim and I happen to agree with you. Chardonnay has been the victim of the same malaise that beset Merlot - the California winemaking philosophy.

I also agree with your assessment of Chablis - it is some of the most wonderful and interesting white wine in the world. Long Island has made great strides in identifying the correct style for local Chard - eschewing excess oak and letting the fruit shine through - but we can continue to improve with this grape. Longer hang time, better clones, warmer fermentation and indigenous yeast need to be explored further. Also I'm convinced the older our vines get the more complex our wines will become. Like Merlot, it grows really well in our climate and will continue to make some of the region's best wines for many years to come. I know PBW will be one of the producers leading the way.

I think that's a great point. New York isn't California, and I don't think Finger Lakes fruit handles excess oak or malo like Kendall Jackson Chardonnay can. IMHO, some of the best Chardonnay in the Finger Lakes are often not the more expensive "reserve" bottlings.

Prejean makes a very nice Chardonnay that can be had for $8 and so does Standing Stone. Plus, they are around 12% alcohol. Talk about food-friendly!!

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