Oh just another example of me looking for a wine to pair with my meal. Honest-to-goodness, I was looking for a total Cal-oaky Chard, but my partner in wine crime was not in the mood for a buttery indulgence. “I want an oaked wine,” he said, “but I don’t want it to taste oaky.” Sometimes in marriage, you have to compromise, right? Well we found that compromise with Alexander Valley Vineyards 2014 Estate Chardonnay.

About the Wine: Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay is made from grapes along the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. It’s typically a cooler region, dense with morning fog and dewy evenings. Like most of California, this area has been effected by the drought, but not so substantially that the grape growers couldn’t pull a successful harvest. Of course this is where Mother Nature and Humankind have to work hand-in-hand. Because of the dryer conditions, the Card grapes did bud earlier than usual, but the folks over at AVV know how to nurture these grape-babies, keeping them on the vine until fully formed and truly ready for harvest. On top of that, they grabbed these grapes at night when conditions were coolest, preserving the fruit’s natural acidity. Smart.

AVV 2014 Estate Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. 70% of the grapes were fermented cold in stainless steel without barrel aging or malolactic fermentation while the remaining 30% were whole-cluster pressed before barrel aging in French oak. That same 30% then went through malolactic fermentation following aging on the lees for 6 – 8 months. — I’m including these details because it does make a major impact on the flavor profile.


Flavor Profile: In the glass, AVV Estate Chardonnay is a fun, light-filled yellow. The initial aromas are quite fruit forward — you may think you’ve accidentally bought a Sauv Blanc or an un-oaked Chard. Take a sip and those aromas — apple, pear, a hint of tropical fruits, and green herbs — burst forth on the tongue. That’s what 70% cold stainless steel aging will do for you. But never fear, those who want a softness on their tongue. Let the wine settle in your mouth and calmer flavors will come to join you — white flowers like orchids and lilies, along with a creamy vanilla and…wait for it…a bit of oak. It’s that 30% — that tiny percentage of whole cluster, of malolactic fermentation, of French oak barrel aging — they are there and they do their job, if ever so subtle and delicately.

The acid is medium, adding enough crispness to keep the wine fresh. And, although I wouldn’t say there are tannins, this wine does have a sense of body to it — thank you whole cluster pressing.

Food Pairing: If you want to play up the crisp fruit flavors and amp up the acidity, pair this wine with a lighter fare like an apple and herb-based salad with a light protein like chicken breast. If you want to enhance that 30%, pair the wine with something to compliment that creaminess you seek — a seafood risotto would be perfection.

More Info: I initially grabbed the bottle of Alexander Valley Vineyards Chardonnay because I’ve had such great experiences with their wines in the past (in fact, their Homestead Red Blend is one of the few red blends I thoroughly enjoy — although here are a few others). One of the other things I like about AVV is how accessible they are — I can find almost all of their varietals at Safeway for a reasonable cost. I purchased the Alexander Valley Vineyards 2014 Estate Chardonnay at Safeway (Sale Price: ) For more information about Alexander Valley Vineyards and their wines, please visit their website.

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