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Buckle up, because we're diving into the world of CA Chard!

CorkRules | Apr 05, 2024

California Chardonnay: it's a name synonymous with sunshine, buttery richness, and maybe even a splash of white wine envy (looking at you, Bridget Jones). But how did this grape, originally hailing from France, become a Californian icon? Buckle up, because we're diving into the world of CA Chard, from its unexpected origins to the reasons it continues to reign supreme on wine lists.

California Chardonnay's rise to fame is a fascinating tale involving a few key ingredients: a chance upset, ideal growing conditions, and evolving winemaking styles.

The Judgement of Paris (1976): This blind tasting, where Californian Chardonnays triumphed over prestigious French Burgundies, sent shockwaves through the wine world. It proved that California could compete with, and even surpass, established wine regions. This win put Californian Chardonnay on the map and sparked international interest.

Sunshine State Advantage: California's sunny climate proved ideal for Chardonnay grapes. The warm days and cool nights allowed the grapes to develop ripe fruit flavors while retaining refreshing acidity, a key factor in a well-balanced wine. This happy marriage of climate and grape variety made California Chardonnays a crowd-pleaser.

From Buttery to Bold (and Beyond): Early California Chardonnays often leaned heavily on oak aging, resulting in a rich, buttery style. While popular initially, this style eventually faced a backlash. Winemakers began exploring different techniques, like using less oak or stainless steel tanks, to showcase the grape's natural fruit flavors and create a wider range of Chardonnay expressions. Today, you can find California Chardonnays in a spectrum of styles, from unoaked and crisp to rich and barrel-aged.

This combination of a pivotal tasting, ideal growing conditions, and a willingness to experiment with winemaking styles all contributed to California Chardonnay's rise to superstardom.

Here are three California bottles won't disappoint.

1. Anthill Farms - Chardonnay Russian River Valley Peugh Vineyard 2021: - $49.99

  • Winery: Three passionate friends with grit (and maybe a little dirt under their fingernails) started Anthill Farms. They learned the ropes at prestigious wineries before chasing their dream.
  • Flavor Profile: Imagine a crisp walk through a summer orchard, with juicy pear, tangerine, and hints of honeysuckle. The subtle oak adds a touch of vanilla bean for a luxurious finish.
  • Food Pairing: This wine craves seafood. Think grilled lobster with lemon butter or creamy Dungeness crab cakes.

2. Beringer - Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve 2022: - $35.99

  • Winery: Beringer boasts a rich history dating back to the 1870s. They're Napa Valley royalty, known for crafting bold, yet balanced wines.
  • Flavor Profile: This Chardonnay is all sunshine and smiles. Expect notes of pineapple, mango, and a hint of minerality. The oak influence is present but adds a touch of spice and toasty brioche, not overwhelming sweetness.
  • Food Pairing: Beringer's Private Reserve is a versatile crowd-pleaser. Enjoy it with roasted chicken with creamy herb stuffing, or go lighter with goat cheese salad and grilled peaches.

3. Pride - Chardonnay 2017 - $46.99

(Note: Due to the vintage being 2017, this wine might be challenging to find)

  • Winery: shrouded in a bit of mystery, Pride focuses on small-production, high-quality Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Flavor Profile: With some bottle age, this Chardonnay is likely to be evolving into something truly special. Expect richer flavors of stone fruit, honey, and a touch of butterscotch. Look for hints of spice and toast from oak aging.
  • Food Pairing: This Chardonnay can stand up to heartier dishes. Think creamy mushroom risotto, roasted pork tenderloin with caramelized onions, or even a decadent cheese board.


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