Keeping an open mind (and open taste buds)

One of the things about working on a wine project that focuses on the actual land and people who grow the wine is that – as part of the U.S. team for this – I’ll be checking out a lot more American wines than ever before.  That’ll be a return to my first wine experiences where I “got” it – driving around the gorgeous Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, soaking in the sun and the wines.

It was on a couple of those trips through Sonoma wine country that I began to understand how different wines could be, even if made from the same grape; and I began to develop my own particular tastes.  For example, disliking Zinfandel and Chardonnay.  My thoughts on Zin perhaps later (it’s an amazing grape, pushed to high-alcohol over-intensity too often), but it’s no surprise that the butter-slathered-on-an-oak-slab over-alcoholic-paint-thinner trend of Chardonnays that was popular just 5-odd years ago turned me off.

Over the years, I’ve given Chardonnay the benefit of the doubt – particularly when it’s not an American Chardonnay, or when the Americans have eased up on the butter and oak (and alcohol).  Still, if given the choice in US wines, I would always grab a Sauvignon Blanc, or even a Viognier, first.

Which is exactly what I did for PariSoMa’s co-hopping event.  I ordered a case of Kalinda Sauvingon Blanc.  Kalinda is K&L Wines’ “white label” – they pick up extra grapes from high-end growers who need to reduce their inventory, in return for not mentioning who they are….  Not only do you and I get a deal, these are single-source grapes, which follows the basic premise of Mapovino.

Except that K&L messed up the order, and I ended up with a case of Anderson Valley Chardonnay, which in my mind immediately rhymed with dismay.

Turns out, though, that  (I’m guessing) the cooler weather and vinifictation of this chardonnay took it miles in another direction.  It’s a great white that can be drunk cool, not cold in order to temper the alcohol and butter wafting off of other chardonnays.  It even handily beat out a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Amanda and I tried the other day – a U.S. Chard beating a non-US (albeit New World) Sauv-Blac. Wow – that was a new one for us.

I’m interested in exploring wines in the US (and everywhere) that are classic examples of what the land – and wine making tradition – produces.  My only nagging thought, though, is this:  Is the hot, buttery chardonnay a more classic example of the Californian Chardonnay tradition than this new, northern county style?


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