Our Wine Panel Reviews Chardonnay

For our latest round of National Retailer Wine Panel reviews, we asked panelists to taste and grade bottles of Chardonnay, any style from anywhere.

The round before was pinot noir.

As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which can vary from store to store and market to market). Unless noted otherwise, the price reflects a 750-ml. bottle. If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact managing editor Kyle Swartz at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or 203-855-8499 x225.

Rating System

Five Stars (100-92): A top-flight wine, superior in taste and character, and providing a superior price/value ratio.

Four Stars (91-86): A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

Five Star Wines:

(98) Hartford Court “Stone Côte Vineyard” Chardonnay (California). This beautiful Burgundian-style chardonnay is 100% barrel-fermented and aged completely in French oak. Amazingly balanced. This wine is a terrific example of chardonnay, with a straw-yellow hue and a stunning nose of tropical fruit, citrus oil and orange blossom. It is full-bodied, with tangy acidity, complemented by suggestions of toast and minerals. Outstanding! ($69.99)

(96) Crossbarn Chardonnay 2016 (California). Paul Hobbs has done it again! His entry-level 2016 Crossbarn Chardonnay is truly one of the best values in California. Bright citrus and lemon rind on the palate. ($28.49)

(95) Tasca d’Almerita Chardonnay (Italy). This is an amazing, well-balanced wine from Sicily, where the Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing chardonnay. It’s warm and sunny with coastal breezes and high elevation; this helps moderate the balance between fruit and acidity. This in combination with use of new French oak creates a wine full of body and richness, with notes of ripened banana and pear. There is also subtle nuttiness with brioche undertones, all backed with a line of bright acidity. It is a wine that is great to drink now and even ten years down the road. ($60)

(95) Talley Rincon Vineyards 2015 (California). Perfect combo of minerality and butter. Rich, silky, elegant with a super-long finish. Aromas are like a field of wildflowers. A true treat. ($45)

(95) Keenan Chardonnay 2015 (California). This chardonnay has everything. Citrus and crisp fresh pineapple on the palate dance harmoniously with the grapefruit on the nose. Keenan has found a wonderful balance of oak and sur-lie aging, giving the wine a magnificent texture and mouthfeel. ($29.99)

(95) Poderi Aldo Conterno “Bussiador” Langhe Docg 2014 (Italy). Many people know of the great chardonnays of California and Burgundy, but there are so many other great chardonnays in this world! I love the chardonnays of Piedmont in northwestern Italy. Typically known for Nebbiole, some producers have found much success with chardonnay. Poderi Aldo Conterno produces a full-bodied chardonnay with the backbone of acid needed to stand the test of time. Also it has notes of pineapple and nuts with a long, clean finish. Aldo is mostly known for his Barolo, but he produces this wonderful Chardonnay. ($70)

(95) FEL Chardonnay 2015 (California). The Anderson Valley offering from FEL outdrinks its price point by a long shot. Aromas of fresh melon and Granny Smith apples balance out the bright, fresh, ripe pear. This is textbook Anderson Valley Chardonnay. ($31.99)

(94) Daou Paso Robles Chardonnay 2015 (California). A beautifully balanced chardonnay from Paso Robles. It has a rich mouthfeel of butter, and a hint of caramel with pops of tropical fruit and acidity. An amazing wine for dishes with butter as a theme. ($20.99)

(94) J.Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay 2016 (California). This is where winemaker Kristen Barnhisel gets to shine with a “best of the best” approach. Best site and clones, handpicked at night, whole-cluster pressed, oak aged for 14 months in barrels sourced from five different cooperages. Richly textured, creamy mouthfeel, elegant finish. Could even be cellared till 2021, if only we were that patient. Save this for that special dinner with your best friends! (24.99)

(94) Saintsbury “Green Acres” Chardonnay 2013 (California). This wine has a little something for everyone. Richness, texture and the depth that you expect of good American chardonnay — plus a kick. Green apple and minerals jump out at you, making you hightail it to your favorite BYOB oyster bar, and crush a few plates of those delicious little bi-valves. ($46)

(93) Truchard Chardonnay 2015 (California). This is a very-well-balanced gem of a wine. Light crisp oak nose of apple and fresh citrus. Palate is all melon and zingy fruit with good acidity to bind together the ripe fruit and creamy texture. Excellent! ($26.99)

(93) Broken Earth Chardonnay 2015 (California). Showing concentrated flavors of melon, pineapple and guava. The oak treatment gives this chardonnay a smooth consistency and adds flavors of clove and vanilla that balance the tropical fruit flavors. ($18.99)

(93) Cuvaison “Adda” Chardonnay 2016 (California). This is one blockbuster chard from one of the pioneering families in Napa. Named for the matriarch of the family, this is one of their single-vineyard-block series. Comprised of the best barrel lots of 15-year-average Old Wente vines. Oak-aged for 18 months, and 100% malolactic fermentation. Rich, powerful, balanced. Beautiful stone fruit aromas lead to a rich, supple core, and a long lingering finish. Definitely a special-occasion wine, but buy two so you don’t disappoint your friends by running out. ($58.99)

(93) Four Bears Chardonnay 2016 (California). Aromas of tropical fruit and green apple unwind into fresh pear and peach on the palate. One of the perennial best values in wine! ($13.99)

(93) 69 Miles Chardonnay 2016 (California). Initially this wine seems to be a powerful, tropical fruit-heavy chardonnay with mango and guava notes all over the nose and palate. It develops nicely on the mid-palate to become an elegant wine full of minerals and balance. ($22.99)

(92) Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon Villages 2016 (France). Affordable, well-made French Burgundy. 100% chardonnay with lots of melon and mineral. Classy wine for little money. ($22)

(92) Butternut Chardonnay 2015 (California). Notes of ripe peach and butterscotch jump out of the glass. Butternut chardonnay is creamy and rich with great depth. A true crowd-pleaser. ($16.99)

(92) Foxglove Chardonnay 2014 (California). This fresh, lively stainless-steel-fermented chardonnay from Bob Varner is pure, structured and balanced. The palate is layered with tropical fruit that compliments the acidity impeccably. ($15.99)

(92) Lioco Chardonnay 2015 (California). The 2015 Lioco ‘SoCo’ is a restaurateur’s by-the-glass dream-come-true. Pair this crisp chardonnay with an order of mussels, and the lemon zest and tropical fruits jump from the glass. 6,400 cases produced. ($22.99)

(92)  Passopisciaro “Guardiola” Passobianco 2011 (Italy). This vintage finished very strong and lent great richness to the wine. Though fresh with notes of stone fruit, it has steaks of minerality running through it to balance. These wines were modeled after the great whites of Burgundy and are aging gracefully in our cellar. Drink now — it won’t last much longer. ($40) 

(92) Rickshaw Chardonnay 2015 (California). This is classic California Chardonnay at a steal of a price. The buttery palate is balanced nicely by the toasted oak, with a hint of pear on the finish. A fantastic effort from the team at Banshee. ($15.99)

(92) The Chard Project 2016 (California). This 50/50 blend of stainless steel and barrel-fermented chardonnay spends five months in 10%-new French oak. The result is a rich, oaky chardonnay that makes an ideal dinner companion. Purchase by the case! ($15.99)

(92) Domaine Bichot Pouilly Fuisse 2015 (France). A bit of French oak balances saline minerality with lemon, white fruit and chamomile. Try it with baked white fish in lemon and herbs d’provence. ($24.95)

(92) J.Lohr October Nite Chardonnay 2016 (California). My humble take is to view this as the little brother to the Arroyo Vista from Lohr. A very Burgundian approach to production and aging, including nighttime hand-harvesting, 3 clone selection, and 10 months aging in French oak barrels. Rich, creamy mouthfeel, with toasted oak notes and floral elements of orange and gardenia blossoms. ($24.99)

(92) King’s Pass Chardonnay 2015 (California). An elegant chardonnay with lots of apple and lemon notes that supported a mineral-laden finish. The lemon-and-lime mid-palate provides lift, and the slight roundness of oak adds to the elegance. ($17.99)

(92) Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay 2016 (California). This chardonnay offers an impressive nose and matching palate of white flowers, Bartlett Pear, and oak notes that provide structure. Medium-bodied, zippy fresh on the palate. This is a stimulating and balanced chardonnay. ($26.99)

(92) TULI Chardonnay 2016 (California) A bold, brash chardonnay loaded with tropical fruit and oak notes. The intensity of the wine is shocking and impressive, yet still has a creamy texture to it that harnesses the rich fruit notes. ($27.99)

(92) Barra Chardonnay 2016 (California). Organic and vegan, this wine hits all the right marks of a California Chardonnay. A touch of creaminess on the palate, a hint of cooked apples — but the best part? Just enough acid to make it well balanced. A great, palatable chardonnay. If more California producers could do this, chardonnay could buck the over-oaked stigma! ($17.99)

(92) Silvio Jermann, “Where Dreams” Venezia Giulia Bianco, IGT 2014 (Italy). Northeastern Italy is known for producing some of the greatest Italian wines. This wine is a chardonnay blend, and is also his flagship wine. A cleaner style with a bit less oak influence, showcasing its bright, sharp acidity, which is great for pairing with food. ($35)

Four Star Wines:

(91) Closerie Alisierie Bourgogne Blanc 2015 (France). A classic-look white Burgundy, for a great price! A great balance between fruit and acid, but not too much to scare off the ‘New World Chardonnay’ drinkers. This is about as good as it gets in Burgundy for under $20. ($16.99) 

(91) Daou Chardonnay 2015 (California). The aromas from the nose jump from the glass with tropical fruits and toasted nuts, with a hint of cream. This Paso Robles chardonnay has a rich, smooth mouthfeel with crisp and vibrant acidity and, on the palate, flavors of white peach, melon, and lemon zing. The lingering finish is clean, leaving flavors of citrus and vanilla. ($19.99)

(91) Kumeu, Estate Chardonnay 2014 (New Zealand). Aromas of toast, nutmeg, marzipan. Full-bodied and layered with pear, white peach and almond, finishing with a lingering almond bread note. ($29.99)

(91) Cambria Santa Maria Valley 2015 (California). Estate fruit grown in limestone and fossilized seashells adds structure to complex spice, citrus, pineapple, honeydew and white peach. Sustainably grown. A great value: your friends will think you paid a lot more! ($14.95)

(91) Four Vines Naked Chardonnay 2015 (California). Completely unoaked — full of tropical flavors and easy acidity on the finish. Nice food wine, especially with fish and appetizers. ($10)

(91) Rombauer Chardonnay 2013 (California). This is the wine your dinner party has been missing. Ripe, buttery and layered. Ripe peach with a medium finish. ($35.99)

(91) Butter Knife Chardonnay 2016 (California). True to the name this wine is packed with creamy rich butter notes and is not shy about it. These are some nice baked apple and cinnamon notes but the focus is certainly its namesake. ($15.99)

(91) Melt Chardonnay 2015 (California). There are bright and very nice baked pear and apple pie notes to the wine, but the initial attack on your palate is without a doubt a rich, creamy buttery note. ($13.99)

(91) Beyer Ranch Chardonnay 2016 (California). A very tropical chardonnay with pineapple and mango on the nose and palate. This fruit-forward chardonnay has oak for balance and a light toasty flavor, but is bright and zesty from top to bottom. ($12.99)

(91) Oak Ridge Chardonnay 2016 (California). A very fresh and vibrant chardonnay, showing aromas of white flowers and ripe green apple. The barrel fermentation provides a creamy texture and vanilla notes that round out the mid-palate and finish. ($16.99)

(91) Crimson Ranch Chardonnay 2016 (California). The use of oak on this wine creates a nice balance to the clean fruit notes on the palate and nose. It provides structure, depth and a creamy texture to this powerful, elegant chardonnay. ($16.99)

(91) River Road Chardonnay Reserve 2016 (California). Bright and intense, this wine has notes of Bosc pears, vanilla and a creamy texture. Lovely fruit notes shine, but not lacking in oak tannin and flavor from those toasted barrels. ($17.99)

(91) Eden Ridge Chardonnay 2015 (California). An abundance of juicy pear notes are up front and center, lending to the pleasing smooth texture. There are toasty oak notes present on the nose, mid-palate and finish. ($11.99)

(91) Duckhorn Migration Chardonnay 2016 (California). Winemaker Dana Epperson has the ability to source from some of the best vineyard sites in the cool climate of the Russian River valley. Aging regimen utilizes 90% French oak over a 10-month period in addition to 75% malolactic fermentation to evoke rich buttery and vanilla flavors, along with tangy citrus flavors and aromas of white spring flowers and fresh baked bread. Rich and elegant. ($46.99)

(91) Muirwood Reserve Zanetta Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 (California). With initial flavors of peach and pear, this wine turns into a spice-laden creamy chardonnay on the mid-palate and finish. There is an acidic and oak structure that helps provide the wine with a long, savory finish. ($19.99)

(90) D’Autrefois Chardonnay 2017 (France). A touch of oak balances the lemon, lime and green apple notes that drive this wine. This results in an approachable, rounder chardonnay that has a zesty kick on the finish. ($12.99)

(90) First and Local Chardonnay 2016 (California). Ripe apple and pear notes dominate this approachable wine. There are round, smooth and vanilla elements that add texture to the already-bright nature. ($11.99)

(90) Cruz Alta Chardonnay Reserve 2016 (California). A fresh chardonnay with aromas of white flowers and melon that continues on the palate with the addition of some apple notes. The wine is lively, and only a light amount of oak can be tasted, and it’s there for structure. ($13.99)

(90) Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay 2015 (Washington). A savory chardonnay with the elegance of Burgundy and the excitement of Washington State. The gentle taste of pineapple surrounded by the savory caramel complete this gem. ($18.99)

(90) Firebrand Chardonnay 2016 (California). A big wine that delivers plenty of vanilla and tropical fruit notes on the on the nose and palate. There is nice citrus element that uplifts the smooth vanilla notes. ($11.99)   

(90) Iter Chardonnay 2016 (California). Pineapple, guava, and mango are front and center in this tropical chardonnay. This approachable, medium bodied wine has rich flavors, a creamy texture, and a lengthy finish. ($14.99)

(90) No Curfew Chardonnay 2015 (California). A smooth, luscious chardonnay with fruit-forward notes and palate of melon and ripe pears. The wine is balanced and has a round texture, making it approachable — yet, it also has depth. ($12.99)

(90) Essentially Geared Chardonnay NV (California). Notes of green apple and ripe peach on the palate with great acidity to balance out the wine. An absolutely fantastic value. 375-ml can. ($5.99)

(90) Tramin Alto Adige 2016 (Italy). Hand-harvested in Termeno on the southern end of the Alps, the grapes undergo stainless vinification with natural yeasts. Tropical fruit mixed with citrus, mineral and melon makes for a smashing shellfish companion. ($15.95)

(90) Scribe “Skin Fermented” Chardonnay 2010 (Caliornia). Scribe Winery is about making wines that speak to where they are grown. This chardonnay is one of their more experimental wines, and for the geek in all of us. Made in an orange wine style, this is more of an intellectual exercise. It’s nutty and intentionally oxidative, while retaining freshness. It is certainly not overdone in the world of orange wines. Grab some charcuterie and decide for yourself if an orange wine is up your alley. ($38) 

(90) Milou Chardonnay 2016 (France). Notes of pineapple and citrus lead to a rich, mineral finish. ($11.99)

(90) Sean Minor Chardonnay 2014 (California). This chardonnay has a fine balance of oak and fruit. Tropical fruits and crushed pineapples on the nose lead into a palate of Bartlett Pear and minerality. ($19.99)

(90) Bogle Chardonnay 2016 (California). Dependable, affordable chardonnay. Easy oak, hints of lemon and toast makes for a tasty sipper. ($10)

(90) Maison Noir (formerly Mouton Noir) ‘Knock on Wood’ Chardonnay 2015 (Oregon). This 100% chardonnay from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA is reminiscent of a nice Macon-Village white burgundy. The all-stainless-steel fermentation creates a lean and racy blast of minerality on the palate. The aromas of ripe orchard fruit round out this fantastic value of a chardonnay. ($18.99)

(89) Le Trois Pecheurs Saint Veran (France). Pale in color, honeydew, lime, chalk, flint, rising dough. Polished, sleek, expansive with a stony minerality that really drives this wine. ($17.99) 

(89) Mandolin Chardonnay 2016 (California). Flavors of ripe stone fruit, pears and pineapple make this wine a great midweek sipper. 750 cases produced. ($11.99)

(89) Coppola Diamond Collection Chardonnay 2016 (California). An amazing balance of fruit and butter make this chardonnay one of the best values in California. From the first wave of flavor to the savory finish, this wine will definitely be a must-have. ($12.99)

(89) Alexander Valley Vineyards Chardonnay 2016 (California). Classic cool-climate chardonnay, sourced from estate fruit from the Russian River. Rich, complex and fruit forward. Very balanced approach to malolactic fermentation and aging in oak and stainless steel. Light minerality is enhanced with 1% viognier to add rich aromatics. Great value! ($18.99)

(88) Disruption Chardonnay (Washington). Cool-climate chard done in the Washington State style. The Ancient Lakes AVA is perfect for chardonnay production. Sourced from two vineyard sites. Stainless-steel fermented with no malolactic fermentation. Some minimal lees contact offers richness that balances the rich minerality and fresh fruit flavors. ($20.99

(88) J.Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay 2016 (California). Vintage after vintage, this great little chardonnay offers incredible value for the white-wine drinker. Something a little different and very subtle from the 2015 going on here. Not a bad thing, just different. Same great sourcing and aging regimen. Chalk it up to winemakers Kristen Barnhisel’s magical touch. Very balanced, with rich mouthfeel and citrus aromas. Still our favorite “house” chardonnay. ($15.99)

(88) Duckhorn Decoy Chardonnay 2016 (California). A huge part of the Duckhorn success is that they grow and add new offerings to their growing portfolio; they constantly share information and sites amongst the team of winemakers. Winemaker Tyson Wolf handpicks select lots from the Russian River and Sonoma coast to blend in unique cuvees, and vinifies using primarily stainless steel. Tropical fruit notes with a hint of spice balance zesty acidity. Remarkable value for the money. ($29.99)

(88) Bouchard Bourgogne Chardonnay 2015 (France). Great wine for the new ABC (Anything But Chard) drinker. Beautiful example of a French-style classic chard. Sourced from the birthplace of the greatest white wines that France produces, with small lots combined to produce a very subtle, rich wine. Elegant and full bodied with hints of apricots and hazelnuts. Reminds you that chardonnay can have many expressions of style. ($24.99)

(88) Peirano Estate Chardonnay 2016 (California). Peaches and honeydew on the nose are complimented by a rich, almost sweet, apple flavor. ($14.99)

(88) Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2015 (California). Aromas of peach and pineapple lead to a palate of toasted pineapple, vanilla and a nice oaky finish. ($15.99)

(87) Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay 2014 (California). Heady aromatics of grilled pineapple, coconut, freshly cut corn, butter and toasted-wood aromas and flavors. ($27.99) 

(87) Leese-Fitch Chardonnay 2016 (California). Medium-bodied, crisp and fresh. The palate tastes of oak and toasted apples. ($11.99)

(86) Cycles Gladiator Chardonnay 2015 (California). Surprisingly soft and delicate, with a hint of spice. This vintage yielded grapes with relatively low sugars, but high acids. Great balance with minimal malolactic fermentation, and minimal oak (15%). Aromas of peach and apricot. Perfect “P” wine (Porch, Pool, or Patio) for the warmer spring weather and lighter fare. ($18.99)

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz.

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