Chardonnay is a wine that has grown in popularity over the past 30 to 40 years, especially ones produced throughout California. While some of these wines age well, many are made for enjoyment within the first couple years after release. The nice thing about this varietal is that while it complements a number of different food groups, it also tastes just as good without food whether it be poolside or by an open fire.
Chardonnay tastes best when served around 48 degrees and when I bring this varietal to friend's houses or restaurants, I always use a neoprene wine tote to carry the bottles in order to maintain the temperature of the wine. These totes are produced from the same material that is used to make wet suits, providing insulation and protection to the bottles during transportation.
There are quite a number of very good Chardonnay's that are available retailing for less than $20 per bottle, three of which are produced by Frei Brothers, Simi Winery and Bogle Winery.
The 2010 Frei Brothers Russian River Valley Reserve is one of many labels that are owned by the E.J. Gallo Winery. I found this wine to be very crisp and creamy, with hints of green apple and orange. This Chardonnay highlighted a lump blue crab cakes topped with a beurre blanc sauce.
The 2010 Simi Chardonnay Sonoma County is in the $18 price range. Simi Winery uses grapes that are grown in the various regions of Sonoma County, Calif., with the Chardonnay being blended by using grapes that are grown in both the Russian River
Valley and the Carneros appellation, resulting in a wine that is somewhat oaky, with refreshing flavors of apple and peach. It is a nice complement to fresh Florida stone crab claws steamed and served with real butter.
The 2011 Bogle Winery Chardonnay is one of the better values priced wines available on the market. This wine retails for around $10 a bottle and should be easy to find. The 2011 Chardonnay is full-bodied and has very nice finish, tasting of lush green apple with hints of pear. Try pairing this Chardonnay with grilled salmon topped with a Hollandaise sauce and accompanied by grilled asparagus.
Wine related accessories can make for very interesting stocking stuffers during the holiday season. In addition to the neoprene wine totes mentioned above, other favorites include foil cutters and the Vacu Vin Wine Saver. Neoprene wine totes come in various sizes ranging from a one to three bottle capacity. The foil cutters really need little description as they are used to cut the foil that protects the cork, while the Vacu Vin is a pump that removes air from open wine bottles, in a very inexpensive manner.
But then again, my favorite item to find in a stocking is a bottle of Silver Oak.
Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.