September 2004                              


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

Oh No! Summer’s almost over and back to school means back to basics. No more mid-week excursions or staying up late. No more summer camp, no more sunbathing, no more beaches. But there’s good news. No more wimpy summer wines. All summer I’ve been drinking light whites and anemic reds in an effort to beat the heat. As we settle into September, I find myself drawn toward the white grape that I’ve been sidestepping all summer long, the only white grape with a red wine personality, Chardonnay.

It’s the greatest white grape in the world. Why? Because it produces rich, high quality white wines year after year in more parts of the world than any other grape. It does not have one character profile, but at least three, ranging from crisp and minerally (1), to fruit-driven and buttery (2), to thick and oaky (3). But in all cases it is distinctly assertive and does not require food to be enjoyable. However, Chardonnay goes well with richer fish varieties, such as salmon, tuna, and rockfish, or lobster or crab or anything accompanied by a lemon-butter sauce. The three different styles are probably best represented by the famous white Burgundies of France, the Chardonnays of Sonoma and the Chardonnays of the Napa Valley, respectively. Since good white Burgundies and Napa Valley Chardonnays tend to be pricey, I will concentrate on those from Sonoma in the fruit-driven, buttery style, with a few other California and Washington state wines thrown in. This is also a timely choice as the two most readily available vintages, 2001 and 2002, were both outstanding for Chardonnay in Sonoma.

Below I have listed some of my favorites in order of preference with their average retail price alongside. Most of the Chardonnays listed fall within the second style profile, but styles 1 and 3 are also represented.
Please direct your comments and questions to me at

• Cinnabar - Central Coast ($22) 2
• Ferrari Carano – Alexander Valley ($22)* 2
• Frei Brothers – Russian River Valley Reserve ($14)* 2
• Chateau St. Jean – Sonoma County ($13)* 2
• Kunde – Sonoma Valley ($14)* 1
• Kendall-Jackson – Vintners Reserve ($12)* 2
• Columbia Crest – Grand Estates, Washington ($11)* 3
• Chateau St. Michelle – Columbia Valley, Washington ($11)* 2
• Dry Creek Vineyards – Sonoma County ($11) 1
• Geyser Peak – Sonoma County ($11)* 2
• Estancia – Monterey, Pinnacles ($11)* 2
• Meridian – St. Barbara County ($9)* 2
• Ravenswood – Vintner’s Blend ($10)* 2
• Bogle ($10) 3

* indicates available in Montgomery County
1 crisp, minerally style
2 fruity, buttery style
3 thick, oaky style