2009 Landing Place Chardonnay

2009 Landing Place ChardonnayPrice: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Landing Place Cellars “Lively apple and lemon aromas and flavors, medium bodied, crisp and creamy with a hint of oak.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) This wine, a Rodney Strong offering, starts soft with lemon edges. Medium bodied with spiced, oak overtones which give way to green apple flavors on a medium/short, creamy finish. Simple, balanced and straightforward. While not overly impressive this certainly delivers beyond its $3 price tag…

Rating: 12th Bottle <- A guilt free bottle worth keeping around the house...

Wine Geek Notes: Winemaker = Greg Morthole

2009 Heron Hill Unoaked Chardonnay Ingle Vineyard

2009 Heron Hill Vineyards Chardonnay Unoaked Ingle VineyardPrice: $19.99 @ Heron Hill Winery*

What They Said:

Per Heron Hill Winery “Sustainably farmed, grapes were selected from the Ingle Vineyard plots named “Carl & Vern’s Blocks”. These plots are cooler and have a mineral laden, rocky soil. Pure and firmly structured with aromas of crushed granite, lemongrass, citrus and green apple. It has balance and finesse finishing with lingering essences of fresh fruit.”

What I Think:

(12%) Wow did this one surprise. I’m not much of a Chard fan so the “unoaked” certainly left me a glimmer of hope but this wine really stood out. Bright lemon with green apple and a fresh stony mineral driven crispness. Nice pureness and clarity throughout. Certainly simpler but somewhat reminiscent of Chablis. Given its lightness this one is would serve well as an aperitif. $20 via the winery but appears to be available for $16 or so retail which makes it a more compelling choice.

Wine Geek Notes: 87 pts Wine Enthusiast

Rating: Good but… (just a tad too pricey given my wine budget)

*This wine was received as a press sample.

2010 Honey Bunch Cellars Chardonnay

This one is loosely affiliated with Grove Street Winery or at least it was licensed under there permit. Here nor there I’ve had this as well as their current red offering and both seem like solid, workman type like wines which given the price is not a bad thing. Expect to see this as my token, crowd-pleaser Chardonnay near the tail end of my next Trader Joe’s Wines Top 10 Wine List (which I intend to publish this Thursday)…

2010 Honey Bunch Cellars ChardonnayPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “We’ve taken to calling this refreshing, layered Chardonnay summer in a glass. Taking the sweetest advantage of California fruit this captivating California Chard offers hints of sunny lemon and subtle spice, followed by a smooth vanilla-cream finish and lingering undertones of sweet honey. You can’t help yourself!”

What I Think:

(12.5%) North Coast always suckers me in. That said I am not a Chard fan but this one almost does it for me which means at $6 this might be worth checking out. Subdued honey, floral nose. When chilled the palate is crisp with a pronounced vanilla creaminess. As it warms spicy, floral notes emerges first followed by toasted oak. From there baked apple takes center stage followed by a bit of citrus on a crisp finish. Simple and pleasant.

Rating: 12th Bottle

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!

2007 Napa Station Chardonnay

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Napa Station ChardonnayPer Napa Station “Sourced from four exceptional vineyards in the cool southern region of Napa Valley, this Chardonnay was aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks and small French oak barrels. The wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation to add richness without overpowering the fruit. The wine exhibits aromas of ripe peach, pear and citrus, with crisp green apple and hints of tropical fruit on the palate. The finish is long and clean with fresh acidity.”

What I Think:

On initial glance this may seem like another Bronco Wine Co. label but it isn’t. Instead it is the inaugural release of a new winery that garnered an 87 point rating from Robert Parker saying “Readers looking for Excellent Values should check out Napa Station. Their delicious 2007 Chardonnay exhibits plenty of fresh citrus interwoven with hints of white peaches and apples in its natural, lively, pure personality. Medium-bodied and zesty, its ideal for drinking over the next 1-2 years.” – (December 2009)

Now the suggested retail on this one is $18 and the best price online is the $11 BevMo offers this one for. Given that I was keen to see what this one had to offer for the five spot it will cost you to pick up a bottle at Trader Joe’s. Before we jump in my typical disclaimer; I’m not a huge Chardonnay fan (despite tasting 25 bottles last year) so you may want to take the below with a grain of salt…

(13.5%) Lightly oaked on a floral nose showing faint white apricots. The palate starts pure and focused before turning toasty with slightly sweet green apple flavors. This is full bodied wine with a crisp acidity on the backbone. The finish is big & creamy while not being over the top oaky. Overall this wine is (for me) slightly refreshing. Given that those that prefer their Chardonnay dripping in butter (like the Overlake Chardonnay) may want to pass but I’m guessing this will please plenty of palates. For $5 give it a try and let me know if you agree with Parker’s take.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 Overlake Chardonnay

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Overlake ChardonnayPer the bottle “Classic Chardonnay in style. Toasty oak and vanilla lead to green apple and lemon drop aromas. A mix of fig, melon and mineral accented by ample acidity. Displays a creamy moderately buttered finish.”

What I Think:

I reviewed the Overlake Sauvignon Blanc offering a few days back and as mentioned then I had grabbed the Chardonnay as well. The first think that struck me about this one, as mentioned by JB, was the quality of the bottle itself. This wine came across as more expensive than the price tag based on the sheer weight when holding it in your hand. Could it deliver in the glass?

Straight buttered popcorn on the nose. This is a full bodied wine with the vanilla barrel flavors heavily present throughout. Some acidity emerges late in the mid palate and allows some green apple and lemon notes to sneak through though they are quickly muted. The finish is very creamy and buttery (can’t believe they used “moderately” above) though lingers nicely. Guessing many would enjoy this (my wife loves it!) as it seems I’ve had many similar offerings for three times the price. Still though this wine seems well made I am looking for a lot more fruit and acidity than can be found here. If you are a fan of a big buttery Chardonnay this may be right up your alley. Feel free to give it a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 Winnefred Chardonnay

2009 Winnefred ChardonnayPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “Winnefred is 100% Chardonnay aged in 82% French oak and 18% sur-lie (on lees), giving it added complexity and creaminess. It’s a citrus-forward wine with pear, lemon and a hint of fennel. Winnefred, like Winnefred, makes an excellent dinner companion. Try it with chicken or whatever suits your fancy.”

What I Think:

As mentioned recently I can identify the new offerings of the Central Coast Wine Services team before picking them up. This one was a no doubter with a fanciful label and story (Winnefred is a competitive pizza eating champion) to boot. Given their track record I had to give it a try despite my disposition to Chardonnay as a varietal. Would I live to regret it?

In a word no, there was nothing to regret. Literally nothing. This was one of the most flavorless wines I’ve had. The nose was muted with a bit of pear and peach coming through. The palate was oily with thin lemon flavors leading to a short toasty finish with cinnamon spice. It isn’t that this wine was undrinkable it was just soulless. If you have to have a Chardonnay in this price range I’d stick to the Santa Barbara Landing. How about you? What is your favorite value Chardonnay?

Rating: Skip It

2007 Sonoma Vineyards Chardonnay

2007 Sonoma Vineyards ChardonnayPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Our Sonoma Vineyards chardonnay is unoaked, forward and fresh, brimming with juicy ripe fruit like tropical pineapple and wild mountain pears. N o need for a lemon squeeze, you’ll discover plenty of citrus and maybe even apricot as you sip through the rich, lovely layers. Experience Sonoma County first hand with every sip of our 2007 Chardonnay.”

What I Think:

A Rodney Strong label in disguise this is a rare Chardonnay that resonates with me in both style and price ($6). Crisp on entry, it holds through the mid-palate. From there white (pear) fruits briefly appear before being overtaken by a very nice lemon, citrus component which delivers a tart, refreshing finish. Beautifully balanced, no oak, no butter and you can taste fruit! This may be my new favorite Chard, my wife will be thrilled…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Spiral Wines Chardonnay

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Spiral Wines ChardonnayPer Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide “Affable, quaffable – this is a Chardonnay that balances acidity, body and flavors gracefully. Having aged for 8 months in French & American Oak, it has a round mouthfeel that spirals in complexity serving to highlight the fruit driven character of the wine. It delivers floral aromas and flavors of crisp green apple, fresh cut peaches… a touch of honey. Elegantly framed by hints of spice, vanilla and toasted oak – it serves well with a holiday meal.”

What I Think:

I covered what I knew about the Spiral Wines label earlier. As mentioned there, this one seems to be a sourced concoction. Are you interested in my take? I find this one full of nectarines but lacking a crispness and/or acid to balance this one out. Fruity and flabby in my opinion though perhaps I should try another bottle before passing judgment. That said the VINTJS is much better for the $ in my humble opinion. What do you think?

Rating: Skip It

2008 VINTJS Chardonnay

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 VINTJS ChardonnayPer Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “VINTJS Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay is a bright, crisp Chardonnay fermented in French oak casks. A touch of rich, vivid tropical fruit makes this wine a good partner to pasta with cream sauce or young cheeses like our Baby Swiss.”

What I Think:

I mentioned in my post about the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer that the new VINTJS offerings weren’t on my shopping list until I realized they were made by Bob Lindquist of Au Bon Climat and Qupe. So that solved the first problem. The second? Drumroll… It’s the grape. Many times over I have precluded my Chardonnay posts by reminding everyone that I am not a fan of the varietal. Once again I feel compelled to do so but won’t go deeper, if interested in more you can find the latest on my story here. When I open this one I immediately think that is the typical $20 California Chardonnay that everyone knows and loves, except for me apparently. Big oak jumps out on the nose. Once it blows off some nice apple and nectarine notes intermingle themselves. On the palate you are greeted with forward fruit, “bright” from the description above rings true. The mid-palate becomes creamy and this lasts through the end where it is met with a touch of acidity that adds crispness and creates a lasting finish that lingers on and on. Many people pay big $$ for this flavor profile. Gary Vee calls it “buttered popcorn Chard”. If that sounds like it is up your alley grab a bottle or two, guessing this could be a winner for you. As for me, my hunt for a Chard I agree with continues. That said, I’m looking forward to trying the Syrah.

Rating: 12th Bottle