Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wine Review: 2011 Ventana Chardonnay

One of the things I have noticed as I explore my enjoyment of wine is how malleable my palate has become.  I find that wines I may have written off a year or two ago now capture my interest, and conversely, styles that I was once enamored of are no longer as captivating as they once were.  Chardonnay is a perfect example.  For a long time, I eschewed the typical California style of Chardonnay; the big, buttery tones born of  extensive malolactic fermentation, long maturation in new American oak, the broad and heavy mouthfeel and viscosity that have come to define the style.  For a long time, I wrote this style off; I considered it, at best, a style best paired with food.  Fettuccine Alfredo, ravioli in cream, and roasted poultry all seemed the de rigeur accompaniment for this style of wine.  I could not envision this style as something to be enjoyed alone.

I admit, I have turned a corner.  It is difficult for us to pinpoint the moment when our tastes change.  Sometimes in life, we make have a moment of reflection, and all of a sudden, something we used to not care all that much for becomes something we enjoy.  You move north and appreciate the beauty of a fresh snow.  Somebody links a youtube video to your Facebook page, and you finally understand the raw, swaggering appeal of the Dead Boys.  You take a ride in the back seat of the Bluesmobile and you have a real connection to outrunning Illinois Nazis.  (Yes, I once took a ride in the back seat of the Bluesmobile.  Buy me a beer, and I'll tell you a colorful story).  That's where I'm at with Chardonnay. 

The 2011 Ventana Chardonnay is an approachably priced bottle of wine, going for $15USD in my market.  It shows a lovely pale gold in the glass, with a rim that fades quickly.  The nose is typical of  warm California appellations: lots of topicality, with notes of lemon pastry, mango and banana. 

On the palate, there are similar elements: tropical flavors such as mango, pineapple and a subtle citrus tone. There is ample acidity, but it doesn't have that big malic bite of green apple; there is a pleasant creaminess without being a popcorny butterbomb.   A touch of vanilla shows up, demonstrating a light hand with the oak ageing, and there is just the subtlest hint of almond on the finish.  It has a body that is round without being weighty, and is dry but not astringent.  Integration is the key here.  I would say that this is a very well balanced wine. 

No single element dominates the tone here.  This will work well as a cocktail wine for those who favor this style, and it will excel as a food wine for folks who might enjoy this with heavier white meat dishes.  It is a good example of California Chardonnay, without being overly obtrusive.

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