My friend Anna just celebrated her [mumble mumble mumble] birthday. To honor her extra special day, I brought over three bottles of unoaked Chardonnay for celebration sampling.
As you may (or may not) remember from my last post about unwooded wines, there is a relatively new movement to age Chardonnay in steel. This trend is being seen mostly in New World wines (such as those from California and New Zealand), where the Chardonnay grapes produce a delicious wine without oak barrels and malo-lactic acid fermentation. This is in contrast to the Old World wines (like those from Burgundy), where the slightly less robust fruit needs some extra help to tone down unpalatable acidity.
After researching my article, I settled upon three wines to try: 2007 Toad Hollow Francine's Selection Unoaked Chardonnay (Mendocino, California), 2007 Morgan Metallico Un-oaked Chardonnay (from Monterey, California) and 2008 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay (from New Zealand, and one of the first mass-market unwooded Chardonnay producers). The Toad Hollow had received rave reviews in its price range on a number of wine sites. The Morgan was a recommendation from my favorite wine shop (The Wine House).
We started with Kim Crawford, since this was one of the first, most popular of the original unwooded Chardonnay producers. On the nose, this gleaming buttery yellow wine was bright with grapefruit and lemon. It had a full mouth feel, with hints of grapefruit, lemon and lees on the tongue. It was slightly more acidic than I prefer. Other party guests described it as “silvery” and “flat.”
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Next I poured the the Toad Hollow. It had a lovely pale yellow color, with a nose of melon and an alcohol kick from several inches away. It was strongly grapefruit on the tongue – with a similar citrus-type acid, as well. I found it strong, a little sweet, with a short finish but full mouth feel. Other party guests described it as “bitter”, “metallic”, “very empty” and “watered down.”
This tasting was clearly not as inspiring as I had hoped it would be…
However, the Morgan changed everything. With its lovely yellow color in the glass; a nose of sweet fruits and honey and a smooth, creamy mouth feel – packed with apricots and grapefruit – this was the winner by a landslide. All the guests topped off their glasses with the Morgan, mumbling about how yummy it is. Unlike the other two we tried, this one had almost no bite; it was just pure, fruity deliciousness. This also proved that an unwooded Chard can be excellent.
From the Morgan website:
The 2007 Metallico is composed primarily of fruit from the Arroyo Seco appellation, and also includes fruit from the winery's Double L Vineyard, and its neighbor, the Lucia Highlands Vineyard, in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The backbone of the wine is the Chardonnay Musque clone, chosen for its aromatic complexity and clear expression of Chardonnay fruit.
Although 2007 saw the typically cool, windy growing period of the Santa Lucia Highlands, this vintage retains a more intense flavor due to unusually high stress on the vines from a dry winter preceding a cold, wet spring.
Vinification & Aging
Metallico is cold-tank fermented to retain the essential bright fruit that cool climate Chardonnay offers. Whole cluster pressing produces a clean, high-quality must. The wine does not go through malo-lactic fermentation, so it retains all of its natural crispness.
Aromas & Flavors
Pale yellow in the glass, the wine showcases aromas of apple, nectarine, ripe pear, & honeydew melon on the nose. The aromas resound on the palate, and the wine is soft and round with a crispness that keeps the finish fresh and inviting for matching seafood and other light fare.
It was a great night for wine – and for birthdays. Many happy returns, Anna!