One of the most interesting ways to understand wines and their complexities is to taste the same grape grown in different regions. Reading the San Francisco Chronicle I came across a summary of Washington State Chardonnays and thought I’d forward it on.
If you want to experience how region or “appellation” affects wine then here is one good suggestion – get some California (Napa or Sonoma) Chardonnay and try them side-by-side with some of these Washington selections that the SF Chronicle suggests.
What will this tell you? I gaurantee you that while Chardonnay is the grape you’ll notice a difference. The difference is not that one is bad and one is good but that the growing conditions in Washington (generally cooler climate, shorter seasons) will affect the grapes differently then California climates (warmer, longer seasons).
While generically Chardonnay commonly is attached to various descriptors include green apple, pear, lemon, fig, pineapple, melon and honey, you should notice some differences. The Washington Chardonnays should be “brighter” because the colder regions keep the sweet fruity-ness down. So the Washington ones will taste more like apple and citrus or tropical fruit. California Chardonnays are generally grown in warmer weather creating a riper fruit with more sugar content. With them you’ll find honey, melon, and “creamy” as common descriptions.
Kind of fun. You should give it a try. Since New World wines are labeled by grape, you can do this for any region. Once you start to tell the differences then you’re on your way to being able to select a different region with different dishes, either at home or in a restaurant.
Enjoy the Wine Life!
2003 Avery Lane Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Comments: Round and ripe; bright apple, lemon and pineapple aromas with hint of earth; similar flavors with anise, apricot, some oak and breadfruit; long finish.
2001 Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Vnyd Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Comments: Very good and a panel favorite. Golden Delicious apple, buttery toast, earth and petrol aromas; kiwi, pineapple, apple and banana flavors; cedar notes on the long finish.
2001 Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Columbia Vly Chardonnay
Comments: Very good and a panel favorite. Subtle apple and banana nose; zesty entry with flavors of apple, pear, pineapple, lemon, mint and citrus accents; long, soft finish.
2002 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Comments: Nose of lemon meringue, pear, apple, vanilla, toast, caramel and oak; soft pear, apple, peach and spice flavors; a touch harsh but generally crowd-pleasing.
2003 Forgeron Cellars Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Comments: Juicy grapefruit and coffee aromas with balanced apple, pear, citrus, stone fruit and caramel flavors; creamy and floral on entry; bright acidity. Limited production.