CA All The Way For #ChardonnayDay and #NationalWineDay!

While today May 25 is “National Wine Day,”  the Thursday before Memorial Day is “Chardonnay Day.”

Which is also today May 25!

With this double whammy in mind, and since last weekend we focused on Chardonnay from Chablis in Burgundy France, we decided to go for classic California interpretations for Chardonnay Day with two from Napa, one from Monterey, and a fourth from Lodi.

And because last year we made paella to pair with albarino and we LOVED how it went with The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay, we chose to make paella with fresh seafood from the Santa Barbara Channel as well as oysters from Baja, and mussels too! We also decided to make our paella in the instant pot instead of over the stove or bbq, because it allows us to spend more time writing and less time cooking, but honestly, we much preferred the over the stove recipe rather than this one 


2014 – Cantara Cellars – Ruth’s Vineyard Chardonnay – Lodi – 13.8% alcohol – $26

A nice wine at this price point, in color it’s a pretty golden yellow  with a nose of fresh delicious apple and pineapple. On the palate, it is simple and straight forward with lemony citrus and tropical fruit with primarily pineapple. This Chardonnay is from a vineyard in Lodi that is owned and tended by winemaker Mike Brown’s family and the vineyard is named after his mom. The wine is unbaked, with no ML and sur lies.  , tropical, tastes like it has some versitlilty, style is sir leas , no ML

A versatile wine is easy going and familiar; it doesn’t demand a lot from you. It goes great with roast chicken, or fish and it was wonderful with the paella: the saffron and rich flavors tamed the fruitiness of this wine and brought out a nice mineral finish.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration. Thank you!

2015 – Scott Family Estate – Chardonnay – Dijon Clone – Arroyo Seco, Monterey – 14.7% alcohol SRP $28 

Estate grown and bottled, this is an excellent California style Chardonnay with just the right amount of oak (50% barrel fermentation and eight months in American oak) — and it tastes like it costs much more which could be the benefit of a lesser known region like Arroyo Seco. This sub-appellation of the Monterey AVA enjoys a cool climate that extends the growing season two to four weeks longer than Napa Valley which “allow greater fruit ripening and brighter acidity. The Estate’s vineyards, inland from Big Sur, have deep, gravelly soils, ideal for premium Chardonnay cultivation. This unique combination of soil and climate produces relatively small berries with intense, concentrated flavors” says the winery website.

John liked this best of all the wines we tried, and Sue and I liked it too because it is well rounded and very enjoyable.

The classy label depicts the influence of sun and sea; in color, a deeper golden yellow with a nose of butterscotch, like the butterscotch of a ponderosa pine. On the palate, I found more butterscotch, like pineapple dipped in butterscotch, with good acidity and nice minerals. More butterscotch on the finish with an opulent mouthfeel, this wine is very pleasant and easy to drink, and would pair well with a rotisserie duck or pig or stir fried rice with a little pineapple and pork. While the wine went well with certain bites of our paella, it didn’t work consistently. It also didn’t work with the salad of butter lettuce and arugula with tomato, and a fresh garlic basil vinaigrette, but it was scrumptious with the oyster: the pairing brought out the fruit of the wine and beautiful sea qualities.

While this wine had a difficult time getting along with the salad, it liked the rich flavors of the paella, and by far had the most beautiful mouthfeel and finish of all our wines this evening.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration along with Rutherford Ranch Merlot. Thank you!

2016 – Flora Springs – Napa Valley family Estate – Family Select – Chardonnay – 14% alcohol – $36

Sue and I liked both like this wine from the family owned and sustainably grown Flora Springs. I love the label on this wine with the classical font and pose with blue and gold colors.

In color, this wine is also a pretty golden yellow. Sue found the nose on this one the most complex, and I found it elegant and delicate with fruit and floral notes. While fruit forward, it’s fresh and balanced with tropical fruit and yellow delicious apple, and pear.

It paired the best with all of the food from d’Affinois cheese to the paella and our arugula salad. The salty seafood brought out the fruit in the wine, which also in turn mellowed the saltiness and the sea. Because it went with the strong sharp flavors that predominated in the salad, we were impressed with its versatility and how it shined with the meal.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration. Thank you!

Read more about Flora Springs –it’s a ghost winery! 

2015 – Jon Nathaniel – Lavender Hill Vineyard – Chardonnay – Carneros – Napa Valley – 14.4% alcohol – $50

Overall this was the most subtle and elegant wine of the evening–and the most expensive which is reflected in the super heavy, super high quality bottle of heavy duty glass and a very large punt… as well as what is in the glass which is very labor intensive as you’ll read below!

In color, very pretty golden yellow that catches and embraces the light. On the nose, lemon curd and minerals which reminds us of a lemon meringue pie with a buttery crust or maybe even key lime with a butter and graham cracker crust. After eating our salad which had pine nuts, we detected pine nuts in the nose too.  The palate has bright apples, citrus, and minerals, which are more subtle than in the other wines with balanced acidity.

This wine loves a creamy mild cheese, not a cheese with a bite, and it went nicely with the salad; avocado on the salad would have increased the mouthfeel of this wine. When we pair this wine with the rich, intoxicating flavors of the paella, it responded by getting more lively and exciting.

Carneros is in the southernmost part of the Napa Valley and the vines benefit from cool bay breezes and fog, wide spacing, and a hilly location that offers low yields and high concentration. A very intense wine making process also contributes to the cost of this wine including hand sorting in the vineyard and at the winery, and stirring the lees every two weeks over an eight month aging period to suspend the lees and release essential oils to add richness and viscosity. Whole cluster pressing separates the juice from the skins, and also contributes to a density and complexity in flavor. While most of the juice was fermented in small French oak barrels to integrate the oak, 30% was fermented and aged in concrete vessels; the surface of the concrete has microscopic pockets of oxygen which preserve aromatics and broaden mouthfeel.  The wine also underwent partial malolactic fermentation to further balance bright fruit with a richness on the palate.

Jon Nathaniel is the “child” of Flora Springs Winery — it is a project of father John Komes with son Nat Komes — with the “O” standing in for grandfather Otto Komes. As such, this would be a thoughtful wine for Father’s Day gifts and gatherings.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration. Thank you!

Now Sue and I are off to taste more California Chardonnay from Santa Barbara and Ventura county vintners! Follow Art Predator on Twitter to see where we go and what we taste!




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