Chardonnay is by far the most planted wine grape in California, according to the Agriculture Department, with more than 95,000 acres in 2012. The varietal has long symbolized the polarized feelings of wine drinkers toward California, says New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov. Many people loved the over-the-top exoticism of those wines. But a significant number hated them as well, which gave rise to the ABC method of ordering white wine: anything but chardonnay.
There’s been a shift in chardonnay perceptions, though. The stereotype of an almost sweet oak-rimmed butter bomb with its cornucopia of tropical fruit flavors has given way (or at least made room) for something much finer, leaner and more energetic. Asimov finds that more Santa Barbara chardonnays seem to have been produced with the aim of finesse and subtlety.
He was pleasantly surprised at a tasting of 20 Santa Barbara chardonnays from recent vintages. The favorites, according to Asimov, “had a sense of energy, thrust and vibrancy.” The best value was a Sandhi Santa Barbara Country 2011 for $23, which was described as “pure, lively and energetic, with lean texture and fresh flavors.”
Read the full article on Santa Barbara chardonnay here, for more on California wines visit California Wine Central.