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Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

France-California Chardonnay "Shootout"
One of the most interesting ways to learn about wine is to compare and contrast two or more similar-only-different items, paying attention to the ways in which they are alike, how they differ, which (if either) you prefer, and why.

If you're feeling flush or have friends in to share, there's no better way to do this than by opening several bottles side by side -- perhaps in a "blind" setting in which their identity is withheld until after the verdict is in. But this approach can still be fun if you simply open "competing" wines on successive nights, taking care to jot down detailed notes so you can reasonably compare the second to the first before the memory fades.

This doesn't have to be a blood competition, but I think it adds enjoyment to the game to treat it as a "shootout," with just one winner left standing at the end.

Here's my report on such a vinous duel, featuring a California-vs.-France match between young, mid-price Chardonnays:

Rully Joseph Drouhin 1996 Rully ($14.99)
Clear straw color. Apples and yeasty bread-dough aromas with a perfumed minty note. Full, ripe apple fruit on the palate, crisp and tart, rich but not fat, as there's plenty of fresh acidity for structure. Well-balanced, "fruit-driven" Chardonnay. U.S. importer: Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., NYC. (Jan. 10, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: A decent match with white ossobuco.

Sanford Sanford 1996 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay ($17.99)
Clear pale gold. Forward pineapple and tropical fruit aromas over a persistent ground bass of new oak. Full, bright and fresh on the palate, fruit and oak flavors consistent with the nose; high alcohol adds body and warmth. Fruit to match the oak and a flavor that's neither flabby nor sweet places it among the better California Chardonnays, but it lacks the balance and elegance of even such a low-end White Burgundy as Rully. (Jan. 11, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Went well with veal chops pan-grilled with Portabello mushrooms.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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