Paleo-Avant Chard

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We live in a bipolar world of Chardonnay.

For most people the grape was once synonymous with a style of wine that tasted like butter and tropical fruits. In recent decades a backlash came and it is now firmly entrenched. It turns out Chardonnay can also be clean and crisp. So now Chardonnay can mean entirely different things to different people. Yet we are stuck with one brand. And modifiers don’t seem to help: oaky Chardonnay; buttery Chardonnay; French style Chardonnay. When it comes to good Chardonnay, these clunky formulations are usually misleading and counterproductive.

I’ll have a Chardonnay.

I’ll have something that is not Chardonnay.

Unfortunately the schism is driving intelligent consumers out of the category, and this is having the predictable effect of improving Chardonnay’s value. Supply and demand seem to have an exaggerated effect on wine markets.

Pair all of this with 1) the grape’s relatively good expression in various wine growing regions of California, and 2) a modern wave of new winemakers who work small and who understand, and this might be the best time in a generation to be drinking wine made from this grape.

Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay is a natural wine.

Short Name: Chardonnay
Full Name: 2013 Chardonnay, Sonoma County
Producer: Lioco
Geography: Sonoma County, California
$12 glass, $36 bottle
Varieties: Chardonnay
Description: Salted lemons and ripe pears and apples. Silky texture, substantial bouquet and overall elegance.
Comparables: Really no need to compare this to anything other than “Chardonnay.” The terms “White Burgundy” and even “French Chardonnay” might be mentioned, but technically they don’t really mean anything stylistically. Compare Domaine de Bongran, Cordier or Roally in the Macon – unctuous and exotic – to Meursault – chiseled and timbered – to Petit Chablis – sour and mineral, and how does that make a useful antithesis to anything? But yeah, if someone wants to be lazy and describe this as “French style,” ok. Especially if French style means commitment to natural fruit virtues and winemaking humility. Of course it IS a California Chardonnay, and California deserves the credit. We can only hope more winemakers emulate the approach.
Pairings: As a stand-alone drink, with charred octopus, fried chicken, and anything with avocado.

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