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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we try some chardonnay from one of California's best growing regions.

Chardonnay is by far the most popular varietal produced in California. According to the Wine Institute, more than 26 percent of the 176 million cases of wine sold by California vineyards in 2007 were chardonnay. And when it comes to California chardonnay one of the regions that consistently ranks among the best is an area settled nearly 200 years ago by Russian trappers looking for furs.

Located about an hour north of San Francisco, the Russian River Valley carves a notch along the California coast that allows Pacific fog to roll deep into Sonoma County. The Russian River Valley appellation is home for more than 100 wineries. In the current issue of DRAFT magazine I wrote the Drinking Buddies column that takes a closer look at the 150 square mile area.

The Russian River Valley was not officially recognized as a distinct growing region until 1983. It has been expanded at least twice since then. According to the trade group Russian River Valley Winegrowers, 42 percent of the grapes grown in the region are chardonnay, with pinot noir the next most popular at 29 percent. Here are six of the wines tasted as part of the story were:

Balletto 2007 Russian River Chardonnay: You get a nice scent of vanilla and fruit in the nose. The immediate flavor offers an attractive firm level of ripe fruit, acidity and rounded edges.

Thomas George Estates 2007 Chardonnay: Nice tropical aroma, gives way to a wine that is buttery with hints of tart apple and lemon. Bright and attractive.

Hanna 2007 Proprietor Grown Chardonnay: Bright and inviting wine, with apple notes and a hint of pineapple. Good level of oak that is not overpowering.

Jordan 2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay: Fermented in a mix of new and used French oak, this wine combines the creamy texture and acid balance of a California classic. Good touches of pear and apple throughout.

La Crema 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay: Nice floral nose, good amounts of crisp fruit and tropical notes along with a slight touch of spice from the oak. A very nice food wine.

Martinelli 2006 Lolita Ranch Chardonnay: A nice crisp chardonnay that matches well with a variety of foods. Lemon zest, crisp apple and fresh pear. Hint of light oak for balance. Nicely put together.

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