As I mentioned in my post about the Imagery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the “mission statement” — if you will — of Imagery is “California wine with a twist.” In the case of the Cab, there was a splash of Petite Sirah in the mix — and yet the wine was completely open palate, ready to drink straight out of the bottle. I was pleasantly surprised. But for some reason, there was something holding me back about opening the Chardonnay. There’s a misconception about Chardonnay, that it’s an easy to grow and easy to make wine. Not so. Although it can grow in various regions, there are actually ideal conditions for the white grape. And the resulting wines, well, that’s utterly in the hands of the winemaker — it really is like their play-doh. (Read more about Chardonnay here.) So, I guess my hesitation was — what was this twist and was it going to be an overworked Chardonnay? Nope, not so. Imagery Estate keeps both the wine and the Benziger reputation crisp and clean….

About the Wine: Imagery Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay is made predominantly from Chardonnay grapes harvested from Benziger estate vineyards in the Sonoma Valley. The twist? A small percentage of Chenin Blanc. (Yay! [Exact percentage unknown.])

The grapes were cold fermented “with minimal oak influence.” (Exact percentage unknown.) The Chardonnay portion went through just 20% of secondary, malolactic fermentation.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Imagery Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay and breathe in immediate aromas of fresh baked bread with just a hint of caramel. The wine presents a pale straw color on the pour, but settles into the glass with a bit more confidence and solidity in it’s straw-shade of yellow.

Initial aromas from the glass are similar to those found from the bottle, but add to that caramel yeast bread a bit of green apple and lime zest. Indeed, the nose is, at first, quite subtle, so swirl. Swirl and strengthen the scent of lime zest, but also find some warming butter notes and the subtlety of cherry blossoms in the background.

The palate of the Imagery Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay is soft, round, with just a hint of fizz on the taste buds. There’s a thin, but assertive acidity that leaves a bit of a puckering, mother-watering finish. Dominant flavors are of pear, pollen, lemon and lime zest, a hint of grass, a background of popcorn kernel, and the suggestion of a white heat finish.

Food Pairing: I enjoyed the Imagery Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay over the course of two nights. The first evening I paired this zesty white wine with a mildly spiced vegetarian burrito. What I loved was the fresh tomatoes with the wine — their innate sweet acidity highlighted the lemon-lime notes in the wine. Meanwhile, the cheese — with its softness and bit of funk — brought out a bit of that white heat, which I absolutely loved: it’s the element in the wine that really makes it stand out from other Chardonnays; it’s the “twist” I was looking for.

The second evening I enjoyed the Chardonnay with a quinoa-veggie bowl, also tossed with cheese. The quinoa brought out a bit of earth in the Chardonnay, not detected when sipping it on its own. And I must say that this is a wine that pairs well with slightly funky, cruciferous vegetables that sometimes can be hard to partner (in this case: broccoli).

I will also add a note here that temperature is critical: Too warm and you may find an over abundance of that popcorn kernel flavor; too cold, and you’ll miss out on that white heat finish. So I would be sure to serve this straight out of the cellar at 50°F.

More Info: I received the Imagery Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay as a sample for review. Price: varies — find a retailer near you. For more information about Imagery Estate, their wines, and to purchase available wines directly, please visit the Imagery Estate Winery website.

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