2008 Rio Vaca Chardonnay

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Rio Vaca ChardonnayPer the bottle “We grow world-class Chardonnay grapes on our Rio Vaca estate vineyard alongside the Vaca Mountains just twenty miles east of California’s most renowned wine growing region. Vaca Small Lot Reserve Chardonnay is barrel fermented in 100% French oak to enhance its ripe pineapple, guava and crisp citrus flavors and to impart a long, richly textured finish.”

What I Think:

Whereas the URL (vacawines.com which doesn’t resolve) that is on the bottle is of little help our friends at the TTB can tell us this comes courtesy of Constellation Brands. Some mention of Mondavi and some Ravenswood but nothing definitive there. That said I did find a Rio Vaca Vineyards brand page on the Constellation site that indicated this wine was meant to be priced around $15 retail and was made by Blake Kuhn which may sound familiar to fans of Toasted Head wines. The brand page claims these wines are “Estate-vineyard focused wines just 20 miles from Oakville and Stags Leap on the eastern side of the Vaca Mountains but just $15 instead of $50″. What say the juice? Glad you asked…

Nice pineapple and citrus notes on the nose. Makes me flash back to my younger days when I use to slice pineapple after pineapple before marinating them in Malibu rum and heading off to the Jimmy Buffet concert. And it doesn’t disappoint from there. Rich, full bodied and structured with crisp green apple flavors on the palate and (or but for me…) a toasty, buttery banana finish that lingers on nicely. I actually find this pleasant which make me guess most California Chardonnay lovers would really dig it for $6. If you are out there and have had this one I’d love to hear your thoughts. Otherwise I recommend you grab a bottle soon. I’m headed out to grab more tomorrow and this is all but a lock to appear in the next rendition of my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wines List!

Rating: Buy It (<- Almost unheard of for Chardonnay...)

Special shout-out to @ericsinsideout for the tip on this one!

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8 thoughts on “2008 Rio Vaca Chardonnay

  1. jason, Vaca Chardonny: has an alluring champagne color with a pale celery green tinge; I found bright bay leaf and floral aromas converging with flavors of lemon and smokey, dark chocolate—firm finish. Not easy to drink…12th bottle..PS I didn’t taste any of the pineapple which you did, but I wish I had

  2. Wow! Quite a difference in experiences/perceptions here. Doesn’t seem like something that would hinge on bottle variability either. Wonder what my next bottle is going to be like! Any new favorite value wines you’ve enjoyed as of late?

  3. Jason, new favorites of late which make me feel like I’m gaming the system: Excelsior 2010 Chardonnay from South Africa @ $6.99 (available from Wine Exchange in Orange); and Nugan Estates 2007 Vision Riverina Shiraz from Australia @$9.99 (available from Amazing Grapes in Rancho Santa Margarita). These fit into the same category for me as my favorites from Trader Joe’s from days gone by: the Wasabi Now & Zen and Rabbit Ridge. Can’t say I’ve bought much wine from Trader Joe’s these days, but I remain hopeful. Best.

  4. I’ve had (and enjoyed) the Excelsior but the Nugan Estates is new to me. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. FYI on the Rabbit Ridge the 2009 is in stores. I grabbed a bottle yesterday but have yet to try…

  5. Jason, I see you gave this a very positive review, but I have only seen it and the Cabernet for $6.99 at two different TJ’s. While I do realize it’s a relatively small price difference, do you still feel as strongly about it, for a dollar more per bottle?

  6. Well, not to be a naysayer, but I tried the Vaca Chardonnay the other night and was underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad, but nothing to write home about either. Light, and more citrus-y than oak-y, the wine could be confused with a Sauvignon Blanc. My bet is that it’s made in stainless steel tanks, not barrels.

  7. The wine it’s gone at TJs, however I found it good exactly as said with pineapple undertones, not too sweet for a Chadonnay and a good buttery finish.

  8. @Nipsey
    I feel Chardonnays express the makers signature on single varietal wines more than any other. Given the play of malolactic fermentation, no oak, what kind of oak, etc., Chardonnay’s range from un-oaked & little-to-no malolactic, to aggressively buttery & oaky provides the winemaker with a lot of freedom (whereas a red wine is nearly universal in 100% malolactic and at least a tad oak treatment).
    That said, the brightness of some ’08 reds I’ve sampled makes me wonder if some aren’t fidgeting with their red fermentation style.

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