WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Jan 12, 2007 4:03 pm

Re-thinking Chardonnay

Frequent readers will know that I'm a card-carrying member of the unofficial "Anything But Chardonnay" club.

Frequent <i>careful</i> readers will also know that this is not entirely a truthful claim. In fact, I indulge in Chardonnay from time to time, and sometime I even enjoy it.

I love real Chablis, with its steely, stony minerality and usually un-oaked nature. I'm just about as fond of white Burgundies, which tend to be a bit more plush but still elegant, minerally and, by and large, judiciously oaked. And the truth be told, I'm not really all that averse to a well-made, balanced New World Chardonnay from California, Australia or other New World locations.

So why this "ABC" petulance? Frankly, I didn't leave New World Chardonnay so much as it left me. First, when the U.S. wine industry finally started to stop abusing the fabled name "chablis" as moniker for cheap white wine in jugs, a tsunami of varietally labeled but cheap, mass-market Chardonnay flooded in to replace it, turning the C-word into a synonym for "glass of white wine."

Then, as the '80s moved into the '90s and more people started getting serious about wine, the American and Australian wine industries in particular took a turn that seemed to satisfy a lot of people's tastes but not mine: The standard style for New World Chardonnay became soft, overtly oaky, slightly sweet (or even more than slightly so), and run through a process called malolactic fermentation that turns the tart, cleansing green-apple flavor of malic acid into the soft, creamy and more gentle acidity of lactic acid.

The sad result, all too often, was a wine that gave the sensory impression of guzzling a pineapple milkshake in a new house with freshly sanded oak floors.

The result was commercially successful, which tended to reinforce the behavior. I won't snob on those who like their Chardonnay like that, but to me, wine in this style is made for enjoying like a cocktail, a glass of white wine on its own. I'm committed to enjoying wine as it has always been intended, as a companion and complement to food; and with only a few exceptions (lobster, anyone?), fat, buttery Chardonnay is a difficult match at the dinner table.

A few exceptions have always stood out: Hanzell and the fabled Stony Hill in California, and recently tasted, splendid Chardonnays from Robert Young in the Alexander Valley and Walter Hansel in the Russian River Valley, for instance; Australia's high-end Roxburgh from Rosemount and some fine Chards from Yalumba and Grosset also come to mind.

But lately, it seems, still rather quietly and with a bit less notice than the blockbuster, butter-laden versions enjoy, we're starting to see more well-balanced, properly acidic, even elegant Chardonnay coming out of the New World, and not all of it at trophy-level prices. Today's featured tasting offers a case in point: From Robert Talbott Vineyards in Monterey County's cool Santa Lucia Highlands comes <B>Kali Hart Vineyard 2003 Monterey County Chardonnay</b>. Named after winery owners Robb and Cynthia Talbott's youngest daughter, Kalin Hart Talbott, this balanced and appealing wine shatters the fat and slap-happy stereotype of California Chardonnay.

If these trends continue, I may yet have to trash my "ABC" button.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/kali0110.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Kali Hart Vineyard 2003 Monterey County Chardonnay ($18.99)

This clear, light-gold wine breathes good tropical-fruit aromas, fresh pineapple and ripe dates, carrying over over on the palate with a bright and juicy flavor, medium-bodied with a sturdy 14.2% alcohol, well structured with fresh-fruit acidity. Balanced and appealing, no excess of sweet or butter flavors; a fine New World Chardonnay. (Jan. 10, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> Poultry or fish make sense, preferably in a dish with full, bold flavors to match the wine. It was excellent with an Italian-style dinner of fresh red drum roasted with garlic and plenty of olive oil on a base of fennel, onions and potatoes.

<B>VALUE:</B> No complaints about its worth in the upper teens. Shop with care, though, as the 2003 retails around the country at a startling range of prices, from as low as $12 to a startling $24. If my retailer charged more than $20 for it, I might want to have a serious conversation with management. (The current 2005 release carries a winery suggested retail price of $15 and shows up at some vendors on Wine-Searcher.com for as low as $9 or so.)

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> It won't fade overnight, but I'm still not prepared to advise serious cellaring for New World Chardonnays: Drink up over the next year or two.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Kali Hart Chardonnay is produced and bottled by Robert Talbott Vineyards,
http://www.talbottvineyards.com

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Research Kali Hart Chardonnay on Wine-Searcher.com:
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Kali%2bHart%2bChardonnay/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Kali%2bHart%2bChardonnay/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]

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Bravo!

Postby Joana P » Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:07 pm

You are always a good writer but this is one of your best! When will you write us a book?
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Re: Bravo!

Postby Bob Henrick » Sat Jan 13, 2007 12:07 am

Joana P wrote:You are always a good writer but this is one of your best! When will you write us a book?


Joana, now stop that! His head is already so big he has to go to the big and fat hat shop! :)
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Re: Bravo!

Postby James Roscoe » Sat Jan 13, 2007 12:12 am

Bob Henrick wrote:
Joana P wrote:You are always a good writer but this is one of your best! When will you write us a book?


Joana, now stop that! His head is already so big he has to go to the big and fat hat shop! :)


Bob, that's just plain mean! :evil: You know how sensitive Robin is about his sz. 9 1/2 head! When he goes out to get a ten gallon hat they have to give him the twenty gallon size! :lol:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Paul Winalski » Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:27 am

Robin,

There are still wineries that never left the reasonable bounds of chardonnay flavors/acidity, etc. I'm thinking most notably of Chateau Montelena. It's still in the ample California crowd, versus Burgundy chardonnay, but it hasn't been subjected to preposterous silicone injections. You can stil drink Montelena chardonnay with food, or even on its own.

I also liked Matanzas Creek, before they got sold.

Now, granted, this is twice or more the price of the Kali Hart. And more of the voluptuous sort. Based on your review, I'm going to keep an eye out for the Kali Hart.

Thanks for the pointer.

-Paul W.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:35 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Robin,

There are still wineries that never left the reasonable bounds of chardonnay flavors/acidity, etc.


True, and the examples you cite are worthy. I did make that point, though, with references to Hanzell, Stony Hill, and a few others.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Paul Winalski » Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:42 am

Robin Garr wrote:
Paul Winalski wrote:Robin,

There are still wineries that never left the reasonable bounds of chardonnay flavors/acidity, etc.


True, and the examples you cite are worthy. I did make that point, though, with references to Hanzell, Stony Hill, and a few others.


Yes--them, too!!!!

Unfortunately, your main point about (chardonay == insipid white wine these days) [pardon my C code] is right on target. Would it were not so. Chardonnay can be so brilliant when it's handled correctly.

-Paul W.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Bill Hooper » Sat Jan 13, 2007 2:32 am

Robin, like you I rarely dive into Chardonnay. I desire other white grapes far more. I do however, buckle for Burgundy. The best Chardonnay I had last year was Vincent Girardin Batard-Montrachet '99 followed closely by Fevre Chablis Les Clos '02 and Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet '99. I love them, but most of my disposable income is tied up in German/Alsatian/Austrian Riesling. Maybe a new years resolution is in order.


Prost!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Paul Winalski » Sat Jan 13, 2007 3:19 am

[quote="Bill Hooper"]Robin, like you I rarely dive into Chardonnay. I desire other white grapes far more. I do however, buckle for Burgundy. The best Chardonnay I had last year was Vincent Girardin Batard-Montrachet '99 followed closely by Fevre Chablis Les Clos '02 and Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet '99. I love them, but most of my disposable income is tied up in German/Alsatian/Austrian Riesling. Maybe a new years resolution is in order./quote]

Agreed, regarding white Burgundy vs. other chardonnays. My most memorable chadonnay recently was 1993 Le Montrachet from Gouzotte d'Or, tasted a month or two ago. I considered this pretty old as chardonnay goes, but it was all that one would expect from Le Montrachet--alive, and strong, and noble, and complex. Anyone in the ABCC (anything but chardonnay club) should try this wine, and then you'll understand why chardonnay has such a high reputation as a varietal wine. This wine is an absolute classic.

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Re: Bravo!

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Jan 13, 2007 10:27 am

Joana P wrote:You are always a good writer but this is one of your best! When will you write us a book?

Actually, it wouldn't be that difficult for Robin to write a book. For all intents and purposes, he has. All he has to do is go through all his 30-Second Wine Advisors and Food letters, throw in his reports from trips to France, Italy, Australia, MOCOOL, NiagaraCOOL, etc. and organize them into something of a coherant format. Title: "Loving Wine". I'd buy a copy.
8)
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Re: Bravo!

Postby James Roscoe » Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:31 pm

Let's not forget the best example of Chardonnay on the East Coast (actually it's the best American Chard I've tasted in a while). yes, I'm speaking of the Hart Cellars Un-oaked Chardonnay! Unfortunatey it's a limited production winery. If you ever get the chance to try it, you to will be a convert. Go Howie!
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Re: Bravo!

Postby OW Holmes » Sat Jan 13, 2007 2:27 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Let's not forget the best example of Chardonnay on the East Coast (actually it's the best American Chard I've tasted in a while). yes, I'm speaking of the Hart Cellars Un-oaked Chardonnay! !


Ditto.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby James G. Lester » Sat Jan 13, 2007 3:05 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:Robin, like you I rarely dive into Chardonnay. I desire other white grapes far more. I do however, buckle for Burgundy. The best Chardonnay I had last year was Vincent Girardin Batard-Montrachet '99 followed closely by Fevre Chablis Les Clos '02 and Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet '99. I love them, but most of my disposable income is tied up in German/Alsatian/Austrian Riesling. Maybe a new years resolution is in order.


Prost!
Bill


Bill,

Glad to hear you are on to Riesling! Austrians are tremendous wines by any white wine standard.

My rule for excellent Chardonnay is always terrior. Think North! What most are describing on this thread are Chards from too warm places. The grape loses its acidity and the fruit character gets syrupy and brown tasting in warm climates with too much sun. In a cool climate, it retains its naturally high acidity and the fruit flavors run from crisp apple to spiced pear where barrel fermentation is used. Malolactic is a necessity in the North to tame the somewhat savage acidity in many cases. But to go through ML in a warm climate is to make a bad situation worse. For New World Chards, try Oregon, Michigan, and New York. In California, stay coastal (Monterey) and north (Mendicino) for a more acidic fresh style.

There are also some lovely Chardonnays from Ontario. We like Malivoire and Kacaba from the Niagara escarpment. They are much more like Burgundy than anything from CA.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby ClarkDGigHbr » Sat Jan 13, 2007 5:15 pm

My brain just doesn't allow me to enjoy Chardonnay anymore.

Think back to that first time you overindulged in an alcoholic beverage to the point it made you sick and badly hungover. What happened the next time that alcoholic beverage came before you? Chances are your brain signalled strong messages to steer clear of it. I know this happened with me, and that bad message was implanted for years. A simple smell of that beverage is all it takes to generate the mental alarms.

Although I've never consumed enough Chardonnay at any one time to get physically sick, I've had enough of it over the years to implant the mental image of bad wine choice in my head. Fortunately, there are so many wonderful white wine alternatives out there, I don't miss Chardonnay at all.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby James Roscoe » Sat Jan 13, 2007 5:24 pm

Clark, you need to try Howie's un-oaked chardonnay. It gives you a new light on the entire chardonnay experience.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby ClarkDGigHbr » Sat Jan 13, 2007 7:16 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Clark, you need to try Howie's un-oaked chardonnay. It gives you a new light on the entire chardonnay experience.


I'll bet it is wonderful. Truth is I have a couple bottles of Premier Cru Chablis in my wine storage. So, when I want to drink some unoaked Chardonnay, I have those to fall back on. It does not happen very often, however. I'm just in that anti-Chardonnay rut right now, and I have a very nice variety of enjoyable white wines chilled and ready for consumption.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby James G. Lester » Sat Jan 13, 2007 7:20 pm

James,

Pardon my ignorance, but tell me about Howie's Chardonnay, where it is grown, and where to get it. We like unoaked Chards too even though ours is barrel fermented.

Also, I see you hail from the DC area. My wife's brother and family live in Woodbridge, VA and we visit them twice a year. It would be fun to meet you next trip. We have customers in that area and do tastings when we come down.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003 Monterey Chard)

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Jan 13, 2007 8:15 pm

James is referring to the '05 vintage. I'm just a home winemaker who gives a lot of my wine away. I bought the Chardonnay juice from a press house in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, about 20 miles from my home. I really can't take much credit for all this praise. The grapes were grown in a good year, in a good place. I just fermented it and bottled it. The best wines are like that. When the grapes are out of whack and you have to jump through hoops to make something palllatable the wines suffer. I also did an oaked version, which I like just as much, but most people prefer the un-oaked. I have 10 gallons of '06 Chardonnay (along with about 70 more gallons of other varieties) in the works, some of which will probably end up as bubbly.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003

Postby Bob Henrick » Sat Jan 13, 2007 8:51 pm

Howie, please do NOT hide your light under a bushel. I have had several of your wines, and couldn't fault one of them. I have not had the unoaked chardonnay (other than a taste of it at Mo'Cool). But, I know one thing and that is, that the decisions the winemaker makes affects the wine in it's overall. And for this, even if it was just the fact that you left it alone, that was a decision you made and that is why the wine is getting all the praise it is getting. If you can save one bottle of each (the unoaked, and the oaked) for Mo'Cool, I will be honored to taste them with you.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Jan 13, 2007 8:58 pm

Bob Henrick wrote:....If you can save one bottle of each (the unoaked, and the oaked) for Mo'Cool, I will be honored to taste them with you.

I wll save some of each of the '05 and bring it to this year's MOCOOL along with a few other items of interest.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003

Postby James G. Lester » Sun Jan 14, 2007 11:52 am

Howie,

Thanks for the clarification. For some reason, I thought the guys were talking about a commercial wine. I have been very impressed with the potential for wine quality in that region of North America, but also in the Great Lakes area in General. I think the "Third Coast" (including Ontario) will be the next new "hot" wine region in N. America.

I too would like to taste your wines. I got my start as a basement winemaker too. I agree that it is easy to make a good wine from excellent fruit in an excellent vintage. What separates the men from the boys or the women from the girls is the skill and ability to make excellent wine year in and year out in spite of the weather. That is why I believe the French are still the best winemakers in the world.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003

Postby James Roscoe » Sun Jan 14, 2007 1:38 pm

Jim, I'm sorry if we misled you. It was entirely unintentional. I'm glad Howie spoke up. As Bob said, nothing Howie puts his hands to is bad. All five bottles I had were outstanding in quality. He is a born winemaker. Go to MoCool and meet. I am sure you will enjoy speaking with him in person. Better yet come to Howie's little soirie known as NiagraCool in June. It's smaller, and further from your home, but it has a reputation for fun.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003

Postby James G. Lester » Sun Jan 14, 2007 2:59 pm

Thanks for the invite, James! We might just do that as we love the Niagara area and have toured the wineries twice now.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Re-thinking Chardonnay (Kali Hart 2003

Postby Howie Hart » Sun Jan 14, 2007 3:11 pm

I am currently planning NiagaraCOOL '07 for the weekend of June 23-24. Saturday will be a day-trip to the Finger Lakes, probably organized by Ed Draves. Sunday will be a local picnic. More details will be posted as the time draws near. I am plannig on going to MOCOOL again this year also, so James and James, I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to share some of my wines with you. 8)
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