Wine of the Week
For the past few years, California chardonnay has been beat up hard. First, some marketing wiseacre probably a New Zealand sauvignon blanc-maker comes up with the Anything but Chardonnay Club and convinces thousands of would-be wine snobs that chardonnay is déclassé. Then California winemakers shoot themselves in the foot twice first, by starting to make overoaked, overfruited, oily wines suitable only as aperitifs on a cold night, then running the opposite direction to make unoaked wines that bear more resemblance to grapefruit juice than chardonnay.
Since 2002, my solution for the under-$10-house-wine category has been a Washington wine: Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay. But for some unknown reason, they have been hanging on to old vintages, and the consequent loss of youthful acidity and drastic increase in bottle variation mean I no longer recommend it.
The best sub-$10 chardonnay I've had for quite a while is the Bogle Chardonnay. It's a nice blend of different winemaking styles, partly barrel fermented and partly in stainless steel; partially malolactic fermentation and partially not; some ages in oak, some not. When winemaker Eric Aafedt finishes the blend, he's come up with a prize: just a hint of butterscotch aroma, palate-cleansing acidity, and wine that really tastes like the chardonnay grape. If you've only tasted the pre-2004 Bogle Chardonnay, try it again. Aafedt's bosses were so excited about his work on the 2004 chardonnay, they promoted him from assistant winemaker to winemaker.
Bogle Chardonnay is available at Whip In, Central Market, Whole Foods, and Grape Vine Market for around $10 but was recently on sale at World Market for $7.99.