Top 10 California Chards & Chard Dishes - Printable Version

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- Randy Caparoso - 05-05-1999

Okay folks. Maybe you can give me a hand. I'm writing a wine column that will include two lists -- one for the Top 10 California Chardonnays today (pure quality, regardless of quality), and one for the Top 10 dishes that you like for California Chard.

I may or less have my list together, but I can be swayed here and there (since I'm not an everyday Chard drinker). But please -- no sentimental, futuristic, or super-obscure favorites. I want a brutal listing involving only those with decent commercial availability. Thanks!

- Randy Caparoso - 05-05-1999

Whoops. I meant to say "pure quality, regardless of price."

- Bucko - 05-05-1999

Realizing that I am sick to death of hearing about Beringer PR and Kistler and anything with Helen Turley's name attached, here are a couple that I tried recently:

1997 St. Clement Chardonnay, Abbott's Vineyard, $20, 3,700 cases produced. This full-bodied Chardonnay has crisp acids and lovely apple/tropical fruit to balance the medium degree of oak present. A nice wine to match with shrimp jambalaya.

1997 Hogue Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Columbia Valley, $14, 3,911 cases produced. This well-priced wine is rich, with peach and pear fruit, moderate vanilla oak flavors, and a soft mouthfeel. Only 12% of the wine went through MLF, making this a nice, crisp food wine that will pair well with a cream-based seafood dish such as lobster thermidor.

Joseph Swan remains one of my favorite Chards - ages gracefully - I'm drinking a 93 as I type. I used to like Dehlinger but they have falen in with the oak bomb crowd.

- Jerry D Mead - 05-06-1999

Ferrari-Carano...regular, Reserve, or TreMonte




Beringer "Sbragia"

Chalone Estate

- Thomas - 05-06-1999

Falconer produces consistently fine Chardonnay as does Peter McCoy.

- hncjc - 05-06-1999

Based on my visit to California last summer, I would include Martinelli.

- Randy Caparoso - 05-08-1999

Thanks, guys! I noticed, though, that your minds are puttering out after naming four or five? Is it the brain cells (heck, Bucko, you threw in a Washingtonian!), or the fact (like me) that you really don't drink a lot of California Chardonnay.

I do keep on top of the best and latest, however, since I'm a restaurateur who's supposed to be cutting-edge.

But I've gone ahead and written my story. I named my ten favorite Chardonnay dishes; but not my "Top 10" Chards, since

1. I realized that the Top 10 (in my book) are really quite rare on the market. I don't like to frustrate readers.

2. I also realized that the best Chardonnays -- which, like the best Zins, are invariably big -- really aren't that great outside the context of food. But when they're consumed with the right dish... wow!

Anyhow, my list is quite contemporary. So here's how I see 'em, in order of how I would personally place 'em:

1. Au Bon Climat "Nuits-Blanches"
2. Ramey Wine Cellars "Hyde Vineyard"
3. Chalk Hill "Estate Vineyard Selection"
4. Landmark "Overlook"
5. Neyers "Thieriot Vineyard"
6. Murphy-Goode "J&K Reserve"
7. De Loach "OFS"
8. Kistler "Dutton Ranch"
9. Beringer "Private Reserve"
10. Robert Mondavi "Reserve"

Most of these are quite big and richly oaked, of course; but whether you like it or not, they have the richest, most harmonious and supple textures, balancing buoyancy and intensity.

As for my Top 10 California Chardonnay dishes, I've found that any of the following would make the wines that much more enjoyable. Listed along with their primary sources and inspirations:

1. Roasted Chicken with Tarragon (Julia Child)
2. Veal Osso Buco in Dill Chardonnay Jus (Harvey Steiman)
3. Wild Mushrooms in Fennel Butter Sauce (John Ash)
4. Sweetbreads Sauteed in Butter (Julia Child)
5. Seared Opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper) in Sea Urchin Chardonnay Butter Sauce (Roy Yamaguchi)
6. Roasted Poblanos with Spicy Carnitas & Mexican Mint Marigold (Jacqueline Lau of Roy's Waikoloa)
7. Truffled White Sausage with Pistachios & Court-Bouillon (Richard Olney)
8. Seared Salmon in Corn Broth with Leeks & Chanterelles (Wildwood's Corey Schreiber)
9. Grilled White Fish with Roasted Sweet Pepper, Tropical Fruit & Cilantro Salsa (David Rosengarten & Joshua Wesson)
10. Chilled Cream of Mushroom Soup (Dick Arrowood)

Try 'em. You can't go wrong!

- RickBin389 - 05-15-1999

here are few of my currnet faves..
in no particular order-
1) Paul hobbs - Kunde Vineyard
2) Steele - lolonis
3) Pahlmeyer - unfiltered
3) Beringer - Sbraggia
4) Stonestreet - Upper Barn Block
5) Matanzas Creek - Sonomma
6) Kistler - Dutton Ranch
7) Patz & Hall- Napa
8) Bernardus - Monterey
9) Chalk Hill - Chalk Hill
10) Au Bon Climat -Nuits - Blanches
11) Mt. Eden - Santa Cruz
12) Newton - unfilterd
13) Byron - Reserve
14) Durney
15) Robert Modavi - Reserve

These represent a short list of memorable tasting experiences over the years, very consistent ( except Hobbs, first bottlings trickled into the market last January or so,).

- Randy Caparoso - 05-19-1999

Thanks for the list, Rick. I've been out of town. But yours looks pretty solid to me. I'm especially curious about the Hobbs. I've tried one, but perhaps the circumstances weren't the best since I wasn't dumbstruck. Which means I just have to seek it out and do it again.

Things like Stonestreet, Steele and Newton, however, are just not to my taste -- a little lean for me. But I have to agree on the Byron "Reserve" -- highly underrated.
Neither one of us, however, mentioned Ferrari-Carano; which obviously makes great stuff. My only reservation is that the fruit in Ferrari-Carano Alexander Valley cuvees (much better than the Ferrari-Carano Carneros Reserves) tends to be almost too luscious; but well balanced nonetheless. I guess my point is that if we're going to mention things like Pahlmeyer, Patz & Hall and Matanzas Creek, Ferrari-Carano probably deserves to be mentioned because their wines have been as consistently great. In fact, I think they're distinctly better than Bernardus and Durney; and certainly more interesting and more consistently generous than Stonestreet. Then again, that's what makes the world go round -- variety of tastes and opinions!