There are so many styles of chardonnay being made today—both locally and the world over—that the old ABC club (Anything But Chardonnay) has far fewer members than it once did when the dominant domestic style was all oak and butter and even a little residual sugar.
You can still find those wines and if you like them, enjoy! The more you drink the fewer bottles that will be around for me.
There was a time when most of the Long Island chardonnay I was tasting tried to mimic that style. They were made with a lot of new oak and full malolactic fermentation (a process that changes sharper malic acid into rounder lactic acid—think green apples versus milk). The problem was that, in most cases, the fruit never quite stood up to all that winemaking. For many years I wouldn’t even bother tasting local chardonnay. Seriously.
But as is true of most styles over the past five to ten years, new oak is being used way more judiciously, if at all, with chardonnay. You can find unoaked chardonnay many places today and while those can be thirst-quenching and delicious, even this new-oak-complainer will admit that most of the best local does see at least a short time in at least some new oak.
Truth be told, Wolffer Estate winemaker Roman Roth‘s premium chardonnay “Perle” is the rare barrel-fermented example that I like just about every vintage—and this 2017 is no exception. It spent eight months on the lees and is made from Dijon clone chardonnay planted in 1993 and 1994.
Aromas of fresh-cut pear and almond cookie are accented by high-toned florals and a faint yeasty lees note.
The palate is broad, with nice fruit concentration, but also focused. Ripe, juicy pear flavors are joined by notes of vanilla and almond paste. The oak footprint is deftly integrated here and a nice bit of fresh acidity keeps everything tight and in line. This is a classic.
You can enjoy this wine now, of course, but don’t serve it too cold. That will deaden some of the fruit and nuance. You can also age this wine for at least 5-10 years. I’ve tasted even older examples and they develop quite well.
Read more: Winemaker Roman Roth Looks to the Future