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© 2000 by Randy Buckner
May 13, 2000

Monterey Musings:
This is a feature addition, exploring the Chardonnay of Monterey County. Special thanks goes to the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association for providing 25 of these wines.

Chardonnay accounts for over 20,000 acres of the 40,000 acres under development here. As a whole, Monterey is classified as a cool, region one climate, which adds to the flavor profile of the grapes. A forty-year track record has lead to a wine style that makes its own statement, with no apologies. If you are looking for a steely, flinty, lean format of Chardonnay that has subtle oak nuances, you would best use your time elsewhere. However, if you are looking for wines with butterscotch aromas and apple, pear, lime, tropical fruit, along with buttery, toasted oak flavors thrown in for good measure, give these wines a try.

1998 Baywood Cellars, Chardonnay, Monterey, $18, 3,200 cases. This was an off-bottle, very oxidized, thus no note.

1998 Boyer, Chardonnay, Monterey County, $16, 1,700 cases. Tropical fruit on the nose and palate, followed by generous vanilla and toasty oak flavors, finishing crisp and clean.

1997 Chateau Christina, Chardonnay, Monterey County, $28, 200 cases. Sure to be controversial, this wine has the dried tomato skin aromas and flavors occasionally seen with Santa Barbara Pinot Noirs. Unusual. Off-bottle?

1998 Chateau Julien, Chardonnay, Monterey County, $10, 12,000 cases. Very soft palate feel, a nose of poached pears and ripe apples, followed by very ripe apple flavors. Drink short term.

1998 Cloninger, Chardonnay, Monterey, $16, 2,000 cases. Pineapple and vanilla aromas intermingle with tasty tropical fruit flavors, finishing soft, with subtle oak nuances.

1998 Cobblestone, Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, $22.50, 500 cases. Pineapple and citrus aromas are also perceived on the palate, along with pear and vanilla, finishing brisk, with a slight hint of lees.

1998 Delicato Monterey, Chardonnay, San Bernabe Vineyard, Monterey, $40, 230 cases. Scents of lemon and banana, with big vanilla and spice taking the forefront, nuances of baked pears, finishing with creamy softness.

1996 Durney, Chardonnay, Carmel Valley, $20, 2,500 cases. Toasty oak and peach aromas lead to fruity, buttery flavors, hints of smoke, with a long, crisp finish.

1998 Hahn, Chardonnay, Monterey, $11, 30,000 cases. Butterscotch and light smoke scents intermingle with vanilla, and tropical fruit flavors.

1998 Jekel, Chardonnay, Gravelstone, Monterey, $11, 50,000 cases. This well-balanced wine has a butterscotch bouquet that is followed by apples, peaches, and mild oak spiciness. Good value.

1998 Jekel, Chardonnay, FOS Reserve, Monterey, $22, 1,322 cases. Well-balanced, with smoky vanilla aromas, apple, pear, pineapple and butterscotch flavors, finishing brisk, with lingering spicy notes.

1998 J. Lohr, Chardonnay, Riverstone, Monterey County, $14, 100,000 cases. Full-bodied, with butterscotch and vanilla aromas, generous oak and butter flavors, finishing with lime and peach nuances.

1997 Joullian, Chardonnay, Monterey, $15.50, 8,045 cases. Soft on the palate, 90% MLF (malolactic fermentation) without all of the buttery nuances, this tasty package has citrus and pear aromas and flavors, finishing with creamy oak notes. Drink over the next year or so.

1996 Joullian, Chardonnay, Reserve, Monterey, $20, 703 cases. Very soft mouthfeel, with scents of pear and lime. Apple and pear flavors predominate, with an elegant finish. Drink now with a light seafood dish.

1998 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Paradise Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, $17, 15,000 cases. Refined, with rich apple and lime notes in the forefront of creamy French oak. Good value for the style.

1998 Lockwood, Chardonnay, Estate, Monterey, $16, 44,467 cases. Light, smoky oak aromas, with abundant vanilla and oak spice tastes, finishing with pear notes.

1998 Maddalena, Chardonnay, Monterey, $10, 20,000 cases. A straightforward, soft, creamy wine with tropical fruit aromas and citrus flavors.

1997 Mer Soleil, Chardonnay, Monterey, $40, 13,000 cases. A well-balanced wine with a buttery spice nose, quite smooth on the palate, with sweet ripe apples, a lot of oak spice and a long, sweet finish.

1998 Mirassou, Chardonnay, Coastal Selection, Monterey County, $12, 12,982 cases. This winery deserves a second look for their value wines. Green apple and pineapple aromas, tropical fruit on the palate, a light hand on the oak, all balanced by crisp acidity. Tasty.

1998 Mirassou, Chardonnay, Harvest Reserve, $16, 8,489 cases. This good value wine has tropical fruit and citrus notes on the nose, followed by a creamy mouth feel, pineapple fruit, toasty oak spice finishing with brisk acidity.

1998 Mirassou, Chardonnay, Mission Vineyard, Monterey, $23.50, 1,011 cases. Rich lime and tropical fruit flavors, with butterscotch and vanilla nuances. Crisp finish that makes a great match for Fettuccine Alfredo.

1998 Mirassou, Chardonnay, San Vicente Vineyard, Monterey, $23.50, 1,019 cases. Apples and pineapples predominate, with a touch of vanilla and good balance. Match with Dungeness crab cakes.

1998 Mirassou, Chardonnay, Showcase Selection, Monterey County, $32, 1,775 cases. Apple and pineapple flavors on a framework of toasty oak accents and a creamy finish.

1998 Monterra, Chardonnay, San Bernabe Vineyard, Monterey, $15, 15,151 cases. Butterscotch and green apple aromas and flavors are highlighted on a background of moderate French and American oak tastes and a creamy finish. 0.5% RS (residual sugar).

1998 Mystic Cliff, Chardonnay, Winemaker's Select, Monterey, $18, 3,200 cases. A smoky oak nose is followed by generous spicy oak on the palate, with sweet pear on the finish.

1998 Paraiso Springs, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, $16, 5,065 cases. Tropical fruit and vanilla scents lead to butterscotch, pear, apple, citrus, and oak spice flavors. 100% MLF, 0.4% RS.

1998 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Coastal, Monterey County, $15, 500 cases. With ripe apple aromas, the wine opens eloquently on the palate, revealing tropical fruit, melon, well-integrated oak, and finishing with crisp acidity. Good value.

1997 Scheid, Chardonnay, Monterey, $18, 1,200 cases. Ripe apple and French oak aromas, a creamy mouth feel, and pear, apple and pineapple fruit are culminated with an oak spice finish.

1997 Smith & Hook, Chardonnay, Baroness Reserve, Monterey, $25, 907 cases. An interesting wine that has obvious papaya aromas and flavors, a creamy feel, finishing with light, smoky oak nuances.

1998 Ventana Vineyards, Gold Stripe, Monterey, $14, 7,300 cases. Butterscotch and vanilla flavors predominate, with pear nuances. 50% MLF, 0.3% RS.

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