All my wine blogs, All wine reviews, Burgundy, Chardonnay, France, Uncategorized, White wines

Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse 2011

Years back, Louis Latour’s wines were my very first introduction to the Burgundy region. No, I am not talking about the so-called-Burgundy jug wines  (I still don’t understand how such a prominent wine region allows using its name in California), but the real stuff. The real, extraordinary Chardonnay that grows in French Burgundy.Latour Pouilly Fuisse21

I was lucky to be introduced to this region by one of the best producers in Burgundy. Starting from “low end” but superb Chardonnay Ardèche or Grand Ardèche, from Corton hillside to the Mâconnais, this tasting included Pouilly Fuisse as well as their most special Grand Crus.

Never before in my life, had I a chance to taste Pouligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, or wines of Marsault, all Premier Crus, side by side. This tasting forever engraved the taste of superb Burgundy wines in me.

It was a privilege to represent wines of Louis Latour’s family at the company, I worked for. Latour remained a family owned business since 1797 (they are a member of the Henokiens Society, which unites independent firms with an age of at least 200 years). The most recent, the seventh Louis Latour,  manages a domaine of 50 hectares of Grand and Premier Crus.

Pretty soon I realized that although these wines were exceptional, they were almost unsaleable on the mainstream market. I certainly didn’t have customers for the high end Crus (they are quite pricey) but it was hard to sell even the most inexpensive of the portfolio. Could it be that retailers couldn’t even pronounce the names correctly? That certainly stopped me from showing it a lot, because I didn’t want to look like a fool, selling something I can’t even pronounce right. Although everybody appreciated the taste, regular retailers rather grabbed another Californian Chardonnay. After all, the Chardonnay variety  is the most selling wine in the United States. wine-retailers

And how about the mainstream wine drinker? Coming to the store, looking for something new to try – unless you had a great wine guy in the store, nobody would even put these wines in the consumers hands. It didn’t say Chardonnay on its label. Yet, I had a handful of clients who were not afraid to do some extra work, and took these wines in their wine stores.  They didn’t mind to introduce them to their wine customers. And they sold! Because they are so extraordinary.

Louis Latour Chardonnay Ardèche or Grand Ardèche sold around $10 a bottle. Yet it tasted as Chardonnays twice or more the price of Californian wines. Actually, there is no comparison. Burgundy is such a unique region. It could serve as a teaching tool for someone who is still rolling eyes when wine geeks start to talk about regions and terroirs. For those who believe that Chardonnay is Chardonnay and that’s the end of story -it just taste the same.

No, it doesn’t. Although not many regular wine drinkers would get the chance to taste these wines, as I did, side by side, incl. the most prominent Crus, I wish every Chardonnay lover had the chance. It was an eye opening experience for me. I never looked at Chardonnay the same since. Even the few kilometers between the small vineyards made a huge difference in the soil, sun exposure – and therefore the wine tasted completely different. It was fascinating.

As I said at the beginning, it has been a few years back. And, I don’t sell wine for living anymore (regrettably). Yet, wIMG_3263hen I recently noticed Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse in the store, and it was reasonably priced, it brought back the memories of that day, of that tasting. Of course I grabbed the bottle. In sunny Florida, I am always in the mood for some crisp white wine.

We had opened it the other night, when I prepared just simple asparagus fritata and some salad for dinner.  It was one of those lovely evenings, sitting outside, feeling the gentle breeze in our hair, surrounded by palm trees, slowly moving in the wind. I sniffed the familiar aroma and took the first sip.

Boy, that wine was superb!!! The delicate citrus flavors, clean and fresh, covered my entire mouth, every taste bud was awoken.  My husband (which until recently hated dry wines) was charmed the same way. The great crisp acidity of Pouilly Fuisse made my mouth watering for more, as soon as I swallowed, and was left with a long, impressive finish. It was a perfect match for that dinner, and most importantly, for that warm evening.

IMG_3259CWe usually have a glass of wine with a dinner and finish the bottle the next day. Not this time. I can’t stop drinking it. “I am finishing this one,” I proclaimed decisively and pour myself a generous second glass.

My father used to joke: “you don’t pour your own glass, let someone else pour it for you, so you don’t look like an alcoholic.”

Oh well, I missed that one. Love you, dad!

All wine reviews, Burgundy, Chardonnay, France, White wines

Les Charmes – simply charming Chardonnay

My friend Debbie recently told me: “I can’t drink Chardonnay anymore, I am so sick and tired of the big, buttery flavors, they are just too rich!”

I knew that she loved the Chardonnay grape, and there was no reason to abandon it. I went on mission to find new wines for her that she would enjoy. To show her that not all the Chardonnay wines are created equal, and not all of them taste the same.

Browsing the local wine shop, I was seeking for crisp, clean Chardonnay made by my favorite Peter Lehmann in Barossa, Australia, but they didn’t have it. So my other choice was to introduce Debbie to white Burgundy. Most wine drinkers know that white wines from French Burgundy are always  100% Chardonnay, but Les Charmes, from Mâcon – Lugny made it easier just in case you didn’t, and stated the grape clearly on the label.

I always found it  interesting that many American wine drinkers, I met during my career, were mostly interested in “what’s in it, what percentage of blend, which grape”, while most European wine drinkers cared to know where the wine came from. I am sure the different approach comes from a long tradition of typical wine regions in the so called Old world. The “terroire”, Village, region or the Château (Bodega or Tenuta, whatever applies) are their guarantee of the quality of the wine. If one likes the reds of Tuscany, they wouldn’t expect to find many Pinot Noirs or let’s say Malbecs there.

Burgundy to me is the most fascinating wine region. For relatively small region (about 30 thousand hectares planted with vineyards) Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d’origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir driven of the French wine regions. Small vineyards could often produce Chardonnay grapes with completely different taste profile than let’s say their neighbor, just half a mile down the road.

Vineyard in Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France (Wikipedia, author = Stefan Bauer)

Some of the Grand Cru wines from Burgundy are out of this world, but could be also quite pricey. Les Charmes Chardonnay that happens to be a single vineyard wine, cost me $12 and my friend loved it! She said that in order to remember the name of this wine she is going to call it charming. I agree, charming it is.

Tasting notes:    
This very elegant, stainless steel fermented wine, offers a beautiful fruity aromas. On the palate it opens into bright and clean flavors of cantaloupe, with notes of white peach and citrus.

Great balance of fruit and acidity makes this pretty Chardonnay crisp and refreshing. Lovely, long finish. For its more than reasonable price, this wine is definitely a great value! Even if you happen to be a fan of bigger, oaky, buttery styles of Chardonnay, or – just like my friend Debbie, you look for something different, this wine is worth to try.

California, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands

Talbott Logan Chardonnay 2008

Winemaker: Dan Karlsen
Grape: 100% estate-grown Chardonnay
Region: Santa Lucia Higlands, California

Best Talbott Chardonnay in a number of years” – 92 points Robert Parker

Robert Talbott, a wine maker who is also involved in fashion business, makes spectacular wines in Santa Lucia Highlands. His signature estate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are named by his children, or by his antique “Diamond T” truck that Rob once restored. Robert Talbott was always a man of many talents and high work ethic. When hearing his life story, one is amazed how much he achieved aside of helping with his parents family business. His high work ethics and many different talents combined with a love of adventure, made him capable of almost anything.

When the family traveled for business to Europe, young Robert began to be very interested in wine and its making. In 1981 he planted the first grapes on his Diamond T vineyard and a year later launched Talbott vineyards with his father. Soon after he started to design a winery, the family later built in Carmel valley. I had the pleasure of tasting the scale of his wines for quite a few years, vintage after vintage so I can testify that Talbott’s wines are among the highly respected California wines on my list!

Chardonnay Kali-hart and Pinot Noir, Diamont T Chardonnay or Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay as well as several different cuvées, created in Talbott vineyards – they are all serious wines with highest attention to quality. Talbott Logan Chardonnay is named after Robb’s son.

Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is located in the northern part of the Santa Lucia Highlands . This is a vineyard considered one of the “grand cru” in California. Grapes for this Chardonnay came from several selected sections of Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, and includes grapes from 16- to 35-year-old Wente clone vines, as well as selections from more youthful Dijon clone vines.

After the harvest at the peak of ripeness the whole clusters were pressed in the winery. 70% was fermented in French oak barrels and the rest in stainless steel tanks. Wine then aged “sur lie” for 8 months which gave it that extra complexity, and rested in bottles for an additional 6 months prior to release.

Tasting notes:
Light yellow color with green notes and beautiful aroma of tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and lemon grass. Generous medium – full body structure, full of lovely fruity flavors like mango, peach and citrus. Hints of vanilla and toast, but this wine is crisp and nicely balanced with acidity and minerality. Rich and long finish makes you to reach for a second glass.

Excellent Chardonnay, which shouldn’t be surprising, coming from Talbott’s house!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 18.00

Ideal food pairing:
antipasto, Thanksgiving leftover turkey miniburgers, Tilapia loin with a spicy sweet potato hash, Pan seared scallops with creamy corn, Chicken and shrimp skewers and many more

California, Chardonnay, White wines

Acacia Chardonnay Carneros 2007

Winemaker: Matthew Glynn
Grape: Chardonnay
Region: Carneros, California

See other wines from this producer:
A by Acacia Pinot Noir
Acacia Pinot Noir Carneros

Although I always enjoyed Pinot Noir from this winery above all, the other Burgundy varietal, Chardonnay is also very important part of their portfolio. Maybe it’s this winemaker’s background (he gained his experience in numerous wineries in California, New Zealand but most importantly in Burgundy, France where he learned the traditional techniques of Grand Cru and Premium Cru wines) or the great potential of Acacia vineyards.
Whatever it is, Matthew’s focus on traditional Burgundy varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir definitely pays off. Acacia today produces several levels of Chardonnay (in all price ranch) expressing different character of this interesting grape. Acacia Vineyard 2009 Cuvee 304, Chardonnay Carneros Sangiacomo Vineyard 08, Chardonnay Russian River Valley 08, Chardonnay Carneros Winery Lake Vineyard 08 and Acacia Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros Marsh 08.
I will be interested to taste some of these single vineyard wines. Carneros, known as one of the best regions for Chardonnay (right there with Sonoma and Russian River) offers a distinguish character to this variety, very similar to Burgundy. So, just like in Burgundy, you can grow grapes on separate lots, close together, yet every lot will have its own unique characteristic. That’s what I find so excited about wine.
The grapes for this Chardonnay were sourced from a few Acacia vineyards on windy Carneros slopes. Grapes were briefly soaked to extract more flavors, than pressed and fermented in oak barrels. Instead of synthetic yeast, Acacia used a natural yeast, founded on the grape skins to preserve the natural flavor of their fruit. About 70% of wine underwent malolactic fermentation.
Tasting notes:
Rich and lovely aroma of fresh cantaloupe, peach and spicy vanilla. This Chardonnay is velvety and creamy on the palate, with multiple layers of flavors from sweet fruit to citrus, nicely balanced with acidity. Opulent, yet elegant with a generous finish. A great effort for a reasonable price.

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 16.99

Ideal food pairing:

California, Chardonnay, Great wines under $10, White wines

Fetzer Chardonnay 2008

Fetzer-Chardonnay-2009-lWinemaker: Charlie Gilmore, Dennis Martin
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Region: Mendocino County, California

What started as a family winery in 1968, is today a successful business under the patronage of Brown-Forman Corporation. Fetzer winery never stopped to grow and innovate, especially towards sustainable practices in the vineyard.

The result of their effort is tasted in the bottle. Their fruit is impressive, with rich flavors, fresh and clean. The quality that usually belongs to much more expensive wines. Fetzer Chardonnay is the only wine I would purchase in magnum. When you open it, it’s still fresh the next day. And that’s definitely not the case with most of the wines in this price range.

This wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and oak. Small lots undergo malolactic fermentation.

Tasting notes:
Light golden color, nice and fresh aroma of tropical fruit and apples. On the palate medium body, nicely balanced Chardonnay. Lovely layers of tropical and citrus flavors with hints of vanilla and cloves from the oak. This wine has a body but it isn’t too oaky. Acidity makes it fresh and crisp. Excellent value under $ 9 price tag!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Sustainable growed
Retail price: around $ 9.00

Ideal food pairing:
Seafood salad, Delicate Cod with Quinoa Pilaf, My happy Tilapia, Fish and rice pilaf, Shrimp Scampi and many more….