Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wine Circle Tasting Wine #1 - Unoaked Chardonnay

Two grape varieties will be the focus of my first tasting party for The Girlfriend Factor's Wine Circle this week: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. I don't usually divulge the names of the wines beforehand but I'll use this new blog space to count down the five wines over the next few days.

The first two wines are 100% Chardonnay – the first is unoaked and the second is an oaked variety that's still balanced and fresh. Try this at home with friends as a fun way to flesh out your own white wine palates. It's one way to pinpoint the flavors, textures, aromas and characteristics of wines you like (or don't like) and why. Best of all, this simple exercise will help you become a better-informed wine consumer.

Wine #1: Four Vines Naked Chardonnay

Thumbs up for the screwcap on this pale straw-colored 2009 Chardonnay from northern Santa Barbara County. Winemaker Christian Tietje is a self-proclaimed hedonist, as the bold reds he and Susan Mahler produce at Four Vines Winery attest. With Naked, however, Tietje sets the fruit free.

After hand-sorting, the grapes were gently pressed as whole clusters and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine was given extended contact with the lees, or spent yeast, to produce a balanced richness. No malolactic fermentation occurred, a process winemakers use to convert sharper malic acids that give apples their acidic zing into softer, rounder lactic acids found in milk and milk products.

Four Vines Naked has clean aromas of fresh peach, pear and apple with a touch of lemon-lime citrusy freshness on the palate. The long lees contact helps give the wine a medium body and balanced acidity. Naked finishes clean and refreshing with a stony edge. Besides the winemaker's food pairing suggestion of oysters, Naked partners well with grilled fish, salads and light appetizers with citrus notes, vegetarian dishes, herbed pastas and lighter meats.

The 13.9% alcohol is pretty typical for this region, and hovers close to this taster's upper limit for Chardonnay. Catch it on sale for just under $10 at Cost Plus World Imports in La Quinta or find it at Costco.

If you like this style of Chardonnay, you may also enjoy unoaked California Chardonnays by St. Supéry, Mer Soleil Silver, Layer Cake Virgin Central Coast and Oregon Chardonnay from A to Z Wineworks.

Coming next: Wine #2 – Oaked Chardonnay.

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