Try a crisp California Chardonnay

October 16, 2013 

California Chardonnay is a wine that has grown in popularity over the past 30 to 40 years. Although 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 on a sunny afternoon or by an open fire on a cool fall evening.

Chardonnay tastes best when served around 48 degrees. Try using a neoprene wine tote to carry the bottles if you are transporting them, say to a party, 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.

The 2011 Frei Brothers Russian River Valley Chardonnay is one of many labels that is owned by the E.J. Gallo Winery. The Russian River Valley is a cool climate region and this wine tends to be very crisp and creamy, with hints of orange zesty and green apple flavors. This Chardonnay sells for $17 a bottle and will highlight lump blue crab cakes topped with a beurre blanc.

The 2011 Simi Chardonnay Sonoma County is in the $15 price range. The Simi Winery uses grapes that are grown in the various regions of Sonoma County, 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.

The 2011 Bogle Winery Chardonnay is one of the better value-priced wines available on the market retailing for around $9 a bottle. This Chardonnay is full-bodied and has very nice finish, tasting of lush green apple with hints of butterscotch. Body is a term that describes the texture of a wine in the mouth and a "full-bodied" wine is one that contains flavors are rich and complex. This Chardonnay will pair well with grilled salmon that is topped with a Hollandaise sauce accompanied by grilled asparagus.

A white wine that is served too warm will also taste alcoholic and will also be somewhat flabby -- meaning that it lacks acidity. If it is too cold, although it may feel refreshing in the mouth, you won't be able to taste any of its' flavors. The nice thing about a fall afternoon is that it shouldn't so hot outside that it will warm up your bottle of wine.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. He can be reached at

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