While the trend in California chardonnays is towards more tropically flavored wines, featuring dominant pineapple/mango/guava/citrus notes, the big trophy chardonnays still reign supreme. Think Kistler, Far Niente, Newton Unfiltered, Grgich Hills, Rombauer, Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch.
On the other end of the spectrum are the “new chardonnays” of Central and Southern California. Many chardonnays, especially from the Paso Robles area seem more tropical every year. Surprisingly, these wines are exhibiting more of this tropicality than the leaner-styled chardonnays from Australia and New Zealand. It seems, through my tastings, that this flavor profile is a hallmark of the lower-and mid-priced tier, while in the upper-price tier, the traditional apple/pear/fig/honeyed notes tend to predominate. If you’re seeking that tropical stylee, Clos LaChance Santa Cruz Mt. 2006 Chardonnay delivers under $20. In the more traditional Burgundian-style, the wines from Tolosa in San Luis Obispo/Edna Valley are a steal. They offer both a non-oaked and an oaked version, a daytime & a nighttime option, if you will. I’ve found, generally, that these more “tropically”-flavored chardonnays (as well as the non-oaked versions) are best enjoyed in sunny situations. Save the oaky/fall-fruit-flavored chards for darker pursuits.