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Cool-weather chardonnays are a hit


     My, how we love chardonnay. It made up 26 percent of all the wine we drank in 2007, far ahead of cabernet sauvignon at 15 percent. It's the equivalent of bellying up to the bar and asking for a glass of chardonnay more than 3 billion times.
     In part it's because chardonnay can be anything we want. Grow it in cool weather, ferment it in stainless steel tanks and it's crisp, with intense fruit flavors.
     Grow it in warmer climes, make it in oak barrels and it takes on flavors of toast, butter, pineapple jam, even caramel.
Gone is the 1990s practice of giving chardonnay too much oak barrel aging, turning out wines that smelled like a sawmill. Winemakers have gone subtle with the oak these days and in some cases, as with Round Hill, done without it altogether.
     Today, California growers like to plant chardonnay in the state's cooler areas, often getting all of their grapes from a single vineyard to make wines with singular flavors.
     Patz & Hall gets the grapes for its Dutton Ranch chardonnay from one in vineyard Sonoma's cool Russian River Valley. So does Hayman Hill, for its reserve chardonnay. Pine Ridge winery gets chardonnay from Napa Valley's cool Carneros region, which gets morning fog from nearby San Pablo Bay.
    Imported chardonnays follow similar trends. New Zealand's Craggy Range gets grapes from that country's cool Hawke's Bay region. Its single vineyard Gimblett Gravels Vineyard chardonnay is from Hawke's Bay.
 Overall, it's better chardonnay than we were drinking 10 years ago.

   ø‚2007 Oakville
Ranch Chardonnay,
Napa Valley: aromas and
flavors of mangoes and
apricots, hint of minerals,
big and rich; $40.
  ø‚2008 Round Hill
Oak Free Chardonnay,
Calif.: aromas and flavors of green pears,
nicely crisp, intense fruit; $12.
   ø‚2007 Craggy
Range Les Beaux Calloux Chardonnay,
Gimblett Gravels Vineyard,
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand: aromas
of vanilla and toast, flavors of orange
and apricots, very rich; $50.

   ø‚2007 Pine Ridge Dijon Clones
Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa
Valley: aromas and flavors
of ripe peaches; crisp and
lively; $25.
   ø‚2007 Hayman Hill
Reserve Chardonnay,
Russian River Valley: ripe
peach and mango aromas
and flavors, hint of minerals; $15.
   ø‚2007 Patz & Hall
Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, Russian River
Valley, Sonoma: aromas of
peaches, flavors of ripe
golden delicious apples,
hint of minerality; $39.
   ø‚2008 Craggy Range Kidnappers
Vineyard' Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay,
New Zealand: minerally, steely and
lean, with intense lemon-
lime flavors; $20.
   ø‚2007 William Hill
Chardonnay, Napa Valley: floral
aroma,  golden apple flavors,
crisp; $22.
   ø‚2007 Toasted
Head Chardonnay, California:
ripe pear and apple
aromas and flavors, very
rich; $12.
   ø‚2008 Blackstone
Chardonnay, Monterey
County: aromas and flavors of
mangoes, peaches;
soft and sweet; $8.
   ø‚2008 St. Supery
Oak Free Chardonnay,
Napa: green apple aromas
and flavors; light and
crisp; $20.
   ø‚2007 Benziger
Family Winery Chardonnay,
Carneros: floral
aromas, ripe apricot flavors,
rich and dry; $18.
   ø‚2007 St. Francis
Chardonnay, Sonoma
County: ripe lemon-lime
aromas and flavors; crisp
and dry; $15.


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