I got married at Testarossa because, at the end of the day, they have amazing wines. Their specialties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the smoothness of the Pinot Noir coupled with the richness of their Chardonnays is enough for any bride to leave the alter for the tasting table. I’ve been an on-again, off-again club member for the past 4 years and have tasted almost all of their single-vineyard bottlings for each varietal. The winery sources from both the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey AVAs from some of the most historically exclusive vineyards. That being said, their wines come at a (well-worth-it) cost. So I was surprised to find out that they actually have a, shall we say, more consumer-friendly option out there. Available at local grocery stores, this Testarossa Cuvée Chardonnay takes out a bit of the prim and poise while maintaining all the elegance in this well-balanced, easy drinker.

About the Wine: The Testarossa 2014 Cuvée Los Gatos Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from various vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands in California’s Monterey County. (Learn more about the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.) According to Testarossa’s Technical Director, Bill Snyder, these are the same vineyards used for the single-vineyard bottlings, but the vines picked for the Cuveé are, literally, the new kids on the block (read: younger vines) and those that are higher-yielding.

After harvest, the grapes are gently, whole-cluster pressed, and the juices are cold-settled for one day before separating into stainless steel tanks and neutral Burgundy barrels for primary fermentation. Testarossa uses native yeast for primary fermentation, which is done to dryness in about 1-2 months for the juices in tank and 3-4 months for the juices in Burgundy barrels. Battonage takes place once every 1-2 weeks. Learn more about Chardonnay winemaking.

The wine aged in French oak barrels (13% new) for 14 months. Tank and barrel portions are blended, chilled, and filtered right before bottling.

14.4% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and there is no denying the use of malolactic fermentation. You can smell the buttermilk, soft apples cooked in the sun, and something a bit vegetative, reminiscent of an Asian stir-fry. In the glass, the Testarossa Cuvée Chardonnay is a luminescent yellow with just the faintest tinge of green when the light hits it just right. Initial aromas in the glass are more perfume-y than initially thought when smelling from the bottle. There’s scents of flowers warmed and wilted by the sun. The soft fruits are still present, but take a back seat to these floral aromatics. Swirl, and the wine releases that malolactic acid. Smell the buttermilk, that almost sour acidity, and the funkiness of those bruised, sun-burnt fruits. Move the nose to the top of the glass and find here is where those dying flowers lie. Pull the nose out of the glass and inhale, and find an almost sweet culmination of all these scents.

On the palate, the Testarossa Cuvée Chardonnay is not as acidic as I had thought based on the nose. The texture is initially quite round and full on the tongue, cheeks, and roof of mouth. The scented fruit and buttermilk essence that were so strong on the nose are actually quite mild. Instead, flavors are of apples and pears that have been gently poached — instead of full-on stewed in the sun. The acid is consistently thin until the very end, when it leaves the kind of spice-kick equated with cinnamon, clove, or similar baking spices (note: there’s no actual flavor of baking spices, just that bitter-spice sensation on the tongue).

And despite the fact that I could tell this wine went through ML based on the scent from the bottle, there is no butter or cream bomb to speak of. You must hold the wine in the mouth, just a little “too” long, in order to sense the subtle popcorn-like flavor.

Food Pairing: I paired the Testarossa 2014 Cuvée Los Gatos Chardonnay with a plain cheese quesadilla (cheese and tortilla), alongside a salad of tomato, avocado, and caramelized onion, dressed with a light balsamic vinaigrette. As I’ve noticed with other Chardonnays during this study of Chardonnay, it’s the richer components on the dish that will bring forward the richer textures of the wine. So, here, the cheese, avocado, and flour tortilla brought forth more roundness in texture and the flavors associated with ML to the forefront. Luckily, however, the acidity of the tomatoes, the salt of the caramelized onions, and even the vinegar in the balsamic vinaigrette, continued to cut through those tastes and textures, maintaining the solid level of acidity in the wine, and creating and overall well-balanced meal.

Plus this wine is totes casual, so this with a quesadilla and a salad on a Thursday is just, well, good.

More Info: I received the Testarossa 2014 Cuvée Los Gatos Chardonnay as a gift from my sister. (Cheers Krissy!) Retail: $24. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Testarossa website.

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