In March, the tasting panel of centralcoastwinepress.com met for the second time, and sampled six chardonnays in a blind tasting.

Since nearly four months have passed since I posted about our debut tasting (malbec, viewable at centralcoastwinepress.com, Feb. 8, 2012), the panel, again, includes Michelle Lee and Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding; Katie Baillargeon and Marcel Rivera-Baillargeon, professor, UCSB creative writing program, and online marketing specialist, respectively; Mark Cargasacchi, winemaker/owner, Jalama Wines and Joseph Blair Wines; Laura Sanchez, wine journalist for several local and national publications; and myself.

On March 24, we gathered around a table laden with cheeses, crackers and other edibles designed to enhance the traditional flavors of chardonnay — green apple, pear, honeydew, citrus, vanilla, honey and oak.

Chardonnay is considered by experts to be one of the more difficult wines to pair with food, in part because of the length of time it traditionally ages in — and is seasoned by — oak.

Chardonnays produced with little or no oak are more crisp and frankly, more balanced and elegant. Just my opinion.

The hosts shared only that wines number one and two were from the same region, and that two others were different vintages from the same producer.

Our comments:

Wine One: “Oak; petrol; some butter; really nice balance between acidity and butter/fat; elegant; excellent finish; and racy.” After a repeat taste, one panelist found a hint of sulphur and “earthiness.”

Wine Two: “Stainless; lovely ride; spice; light; elegant; lovely finish; and flows nicely with food.” One of the hosts noted that both wines one and two “were not meant to be consumed for many years,” which turned out to be a salient point.

Wine Three: “Yellow; more butter; full mouthfeel; lemon chiffon but no butter; dessert-like; and Cougar Juice.” Used in the context of our group, that descriptor is negative; however, I must emphasize that a majority of consumers prefer “Cougar Juice”-style chardonnays. (Translation: Full, voluptuous, buttery).

Wine Four: “Less butter; more structure; elegant; more stainless than oak, or a half-and-half split; and more butter on nose.”

Before we got to wine number five, our hosts divulged the identity of the final two, which, under the circumstances, was fine.

Wine Five: While described as “lighter and elegant,” this wine, a 2010 Longoria Wines Cuvee Diana, got overshadowed by Wine Six, which the hosts unveiled as a 1995 Longoria Wines Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Ynez Valley at the time, since it pre-dates the Sta. Rita Hills’ AVA).

The hosts had received the bottle as a gift from winemaker Rick Longoria.

While the 1995 chardonnay displayed light caramel in color, the panel agreed that “time was in its favor, and the palate bright.” One taster described the 17-year-old wine as “Betty White in a glass when she was on “Golden Girls” … she just keeps giving.”

Identities for remaining four chardonnays:

One: 2008 Melville Winery Clone 76, stainless steel

Two: 2009 Clos Pepe Estate, stainless steel, and the most popular among the panelists

Three: 2010 Riverbench

Four: 2009 Talley Vineyard Estate

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