Finding an enjoyable Chardonnay from among the lower priced, frequently discounted mass market brands has been some what elusive. I’m sure there are lots of them, but we’ve, apparently, happened to pick the wrong ones. Some we’ve tried have been dominated by an overbearing oak presence, like they were produced by a sawmill instead of a winery. More likely, they never experienced the inside of an oak barrel, and were infused with either chemical oak imitation, or literally had wood chips soaking in them for a time. Some other low buck chards have tasted sour, some thin and weak. The frequency of unacceptable Chardonnays has led us to, when white seems right, to go with a Pinot Grigio instead.
We happened to be in a local outlet of one of the nationwide pseudo-Italian restaurant chains (no, not that one, the other one) during their happy hour. Their generic, private label house wines were $3 a glass, so Wife ordered their Chardonnay. (I had a Sam Adams-also $3.) She enjoyed their chard enough to have another. Their wines, labeled with the name of the restaurant, are probably made by one of the California wine factories that crank out product for whoever’s payin’, is probably shipped in a tanker truck, and probably costs pennies per glass. Probably. But it was good, and it sparked some encouragement that we could find a Cheapskate Chardonnay that didn’t taste like someone ran a piece of lumber through a juicer.
For some time now, trying the wines from Redwood Creek has been on my to do list. I happened to notice one day, while perusing the cheaper, domestic fat bottle section of The Store that Redwood Creek was associated with Frei Brothers, which is a respected Sonoma winery that makes stuff off my chart-kind of like Glen Ellen and Concannon. So, when the retailing gods decided it was sale price time for Redwood Creek, I would check ’em out. They do a Zin, a Pinot Noir, a Cab, and a Chardonnay. (and some others The Store doesn’t carry) Turns out they’re on sale right now for $9.99 per 1.5 liter. Completely coincidental to my curiosity about the brand, but spurred by her nice glass(es) of cheap chard at the restaurant, The Wife brought home a bottle of the Redwood Creek Chardonnay. We had half of it last night, the other half tonight. And it was just right! Very lightly oaked-nearly unnoticeabley, light, refreshing, citrus and pear. Some “good” California Chardonnays-meaning more expensive-have a distinctly buttery taste and a fuller, richer mouth feel. For some, that is their pursuit in an ideal Chardonnay. Some would call it the California style versus the lighter, unoaked French style. Of course, it’s purely subjective, but we much prefer the clean, light style to the movie-popcorn-in-a-glass persuasion. And that’s what this is. This a Chardonnay we’ll buy again, finally!