This may seem odd, but I bought this wine because I was in the mood for something Chablis – y. Which, you may wonder, why would you turn to a Sonoma County wine, the epitome of (what I call) Cal-oaky Chard, when looking for something de France? Well, my friends, I tell you, there are wine producers along the California coast who know how to hold back, use refinement in their winemaking techniques. And behold, a fine example in Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Chardonnay.

Now I’m going to take a minute to clarify — no, this wine does not speak of French terroir, nor does it mimic perfectly the quality of a true Chablis. What I’m getting at is the minimalistic approach to oak barrel aging so the natural fruit can really shine through that…softening process. What we have here, and what I was looking for, is a Chardonnay that truly speaks of Côte de Californie.

About the Wine: Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, predominantly from the Russian River AVA of the Sonoma County wine region. According to Kenwood’s winemaking notes, three quarters of the juice was fermented in French and European oak (it doesn’t say but I suspect this was neutral oak) and aged on the lees for six months. This portion of the wine went through a secondary malolactic fermentation. The remaining quarter of the juice was aged in stainless steel.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: I know I already gave some of it away in my intro, but this is a wine worth writing about (and hopefully reading about).

Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Chardonnay is a fun yellow in the glass — a secure shade of yellow that emits a bit of sparkle. On the nose, you’ll get a strong aroma of ripe green apples, the kind that are so sour you start salivating straight-away. And yet there’s an alluring, smoother undertone as well — honey or vanilla — it’s hard to tell with just a smell, so dive right in for that first sip.

Oh yes, that first sip will definitely speak of those green, granny smith apples. But, just as you suspected there’s a smoothness, a roundness in the palate so that “sour” in the smell doesn’t bite or bother. No, it’s that glorious green apple without the tart tang on the tastebuds. And that calmness you scented? Yes, there’s a subtle hint of white flower petals and a dose of vanilla to accompany the fruit flavors. All that complexity, and that’s just your first sip.

Let the wine settle on your tongue, and you’ll get a good hit of beach-y minerality. Like the salty-sandy minerality of California’s sunshine coast. It leaves just the slightest little tickle on the tastebuds for a fun finish.

In the end, I would say this is a medium bodied white wine with a medium to high acidity: While the true flavors really do burst through in the aroma and foretaste, that gentle use of, what I assume is neutral oak, allows a needed softness in the mouthfeel without tasting oaky, buttery, or caramel-y (in otherwords, without detracting or distracting from the innate loveliness of the Chardonnay). And in case you forget where the wine is from, that crips, clean finish will tell you — you’re in California wine country for sure.

Food Pairing: I paired Kenwood Sonoma County Chardonnay with seared fresh scallops, and apple and pair “slaw,” and a delicately drizzled butternut squash puree. While the puree paid homage to the oak barrel aging, the apple and pair certainly complimented the fruit flavors. But the best thing is the fresh seafood — choose scallops or another shellfish and really pull on that beach-y minerality. I promise, it’ll amplify both the wine (taste and texture wise) and your meal.

More Info: If you haven’t read my review of Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma Coast Zinfandel please do — it’s a surprisingly juicy, jammy Zinfandel that even a reluctant red wine drinker will enjoy. For more information about Kenwood Vineyards and to purchase wines directly, please do visit the Kenwood Vineyards website. I was able to purchase the Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay at Safeway (Sale Price: $18).


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