Another in our "world of" series, this month we each brought to the table a bottle of Chardonnay representative of the region it was grown in. We last compared these in July 2012.
This was a very good showing for Chardonnay, with all bottles not only recieving points, but earning accolades for being well-made and enjoyable. Not that all were superlative, but we definitely had trouble picking favorites, and we all but gave up on trying to figure out what country each bottle came from.
Our winner was also the best value of the night at less than $20, showing plenty of verve and complexity.
First Place: Arbodela Chardonnay 2015 (Aconcagua Costa). Reminiscent of cut grass, vegetables, carton of cold milk, coconuts, and marshmallows on the nose. Andy thought of a "baby bottle that I didn't wash", while Ali said that it "smells like an active culture, like it's going to be bubbly." Plenty of acidity on the palate, but also balanced, offering flavors of key lime pie, lemoncicle, lemongrass, citrus, herbs, and wood shavings. Pretty. Long finish. Palate cleansing and refreshing. Ali, Kristin, and Andy P's favorite of the night, with a total of 26 points. Andy P's bottle. About $18.
Second Place: Ramey Chardonnay 2014 (Sonoma Coast). Tasters found complex scents of cheese, powdered chalk, styrofoam, white flowers, fresh ginger, Asian pear, dried herbs, marshmallows, and dust. Pretty. Great balance and excellent texture, supporting flavors of ginger and peach yogurt, finishing with some woodiness. Turns more fuity with food. Perhaps the best texture of the night. Ali felt that the oak stood out a little too much, saying that it was "almost like it's giving you a splinter." Some butter on the finish. David and Andy R's favorite, and received points from everyone, for a total of 18. Ali's bottle. About $40.
Third Place: Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Sainte Claire 2015. Peachy nose that Alis described as "peach in a can, not the can, a can ... canned peaches!" It was hard to find other scents, however, with a small and fleetiig mint note. David described this as "peach and some air." Had some of the lowest acidity of the night, exhibiting apple, peach, cider, eucalyptus, dark cherry, and vanilla flavors. Dark ground spices on the finish. Kind of a crowd-pleaser, this wouldn't offend anyone. Perhaps a fall weather white wine. Received 15 points. Andy's bottle. About $22.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2017 (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley). The nose reminded us of Juicy Fruit gum, guava, passionfruit, and papaya, but there was some minerality also. Ali noted that "I'm just smelling childhood", like "baseball cards" (Andy P.) and "Garbage Pail Kids." (Andy R.) A hint of butter. Fine minerality on the palate, plus more of that bubble gum note, then limes, peaches, and tropical fruits. Pineapple. A long flatness on the end, with nothing lifting it up, leaving us wanting. Andy P decided that "you have to move on from your childhood, that's what it's telling us." Received 12 points. David's bottle. About $35.
Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2014 (Marlborough). Scents of vacuum cleaner bag, dust, new tennis balls, wet sidewalk, wet dog, rubber, new Keds, pomegrante seeds, and burnt microwave popcorn. A little minty. A pleasing summer white, with plenty of acidity, reminiscent of lemon, cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt. A little asparagus on the mid-palate, finishing tart and juicy. Suzanne was reminded of "sitting outside on a hot day." Received 10 points. Kristin's bottle. About $25.
Robert Oatley Chardonnay 2014 (Margaret River). Rubber tire, autumn forest, wet leaves, almost rotten apple, orange rind, soy sauce, shitake mushrooms, and edamame scents. Something dark about this, like the umami flavor is sticking out. A little musty. Smells like it could be a red wine. Andy R noted that "there is something rotten about it, it's got bad things on its mind." Ali disliked it, calling it "weird", but we also noted a lot of flavors, such as red apple, peach, butter, vanilla, oak, watered down Smarties, eucalyptus, and salami. A lot of oak. Meaty. Andy P felt that "this is your father's Chardonnay." A bit tiring. Received 12 points. Suzanne's bottle. About $17.