Retailer Wine Selections


The Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel
recommends a lineup of top quality/value chardonnays.

Rating System

***** Five Stars (92-100) A top-flight wine. Superior in taste and character and providing an outstanding price/value relationship.

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

*** Three Stars (80-85) An above- average wine, at a reasonable price point, which many customers will enjoy.

** Two Stars (70-79) An average wine.


* One Star (50-69) A below-average wine.

There is a huge amount of top quality/value chardonnay on the market, depending on your tastes in fruit and oak, of course. We say, “Different oaks for different folks.” With this in mind, we asked the Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel to recommend a lineup of these whites. As always, the selections all include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s suggested retail price (which, as always, varies from market to market). If you’re a retail beverage professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, call Richard Brandes at 212-353-3832, or email him at



***** (96) Ramey Cellars 2001 Russian River Chardonnay (California). Even though the expression of fruit screams Russian River, it still leads to a very Burgundian character of lush flavors with great acidity. ($35)

***** (95) Shafer 2002 Red Shoulders Ranch Chardonnay (California). Big, lush weighty wine with pear, golden apple, honeysuckle and honey; well-balanced deep core of fruit that appeals to a wide range of wine drinkers. ($38)

***** (94) Chateau Souverain 2001 Winemakers Reserve Russian River Chardonnay (California). Tropical fruit with hints of orange blossoms and sur lies aging adding delightful nuances of vanilla; a real treat ($26)

***** (94) Landmark 2001 Overlook Chardonnay (California). A consistenly awesome chardonnay, in every way; great with lobster. ($28)

***** (94) Hartford Court 2001 Stone Cote Vineyard Chardonnay (California). Aromas of lanolin, nectarine, baked pear and minerals with hints of red apple; very Chablisesque in nose and palate. ($35)

***** (94) Cloudy Bay 2003 Chardonnay (Marlborough, New Zealand). Bold and rich with nice spice and nutty notes adding to the pretty ripe pear, mango and apricot fruit flavors; beautifully balanced with a long, rich finish. ($28)

***** (93) Chateau Rully, Mercurey Blanc 2002 (France). Sourced from 50% Premier Cru vineyards in the fantastic 2002 vintage, this wine explodes on the palate with layers of bright citrus, apples, ripe pears and just a hint of creamy vanilla; medium-bodied, this wine rivals many classified growths from more famous villages in the Cotes de Beaune; pairs with crab imperial. ($25)

***** (93) Villa Mt Eden 2001 Grand Reserve Chardonnay California). Big and lush with substantial weight; deep ripe pear fruit that’s folded into a good balance and structure; stands up to wines three times the price; a good buy. ($18)

***** (93) Rombauer 2002 Carneros Chardonnay (California). Rich chardonnay fruit and a creamy texture surrounded by well-balanced acidity and oak; an outstanding effort. ($28)

***** (93) Chappellet 2001 Chardonnay (California). From a winery whose claim to fame is their cabernet, they have really refined their whites; a wine more reminiscent of a White Burgundy, with golden straw tones and hints of apples and pears in the nose with well defined flavors that display a creamy elegance and a finish that stays on long after you have swallowed. ($15)

***** (93) Domaine Martelet de Cherisey Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny Premier Cru 2002 (France). Fruit-forward and oily; a very full and lush Puligny. ($65)

***** (93) Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2002 Arcadia Chardonnay (California). Chablis style from California; very linear lines, great balance and length. ($50)

***** (92) Domaine Fevre Chablis Fourchaume-Vaulorent Permier Cru 2002(France). A stellar Chablis vintage with the clean lines that one would expect, with apples and mineral nuances. ($40) Clicquot, Inc.

***** (92) Martin Ray 2001 Chardonnay (California). Beautiful layers of citrus, spice and tree fruit flow generously from nose and show abundantly in the medium-bodied format; amazingly complex with grace and elegance with all of the above flavors integrated with hints of vanilla; the finish is crisp with a final, refreshing wash of ripe lemon; serve with meaty fish like a broiled salmon filet. ($20)

***** (92) Dumal 2001 Chardonnay (California). Oak and acidity are perfectly balanced in this unfined and unfiltered chardonnay; citrus, apple and honey lead into a long finish ($60)

***** (92) Patz & Hall 2002 Napa Chardonnay (California). Elegant and refined with supple pear and apple flavors. Subtle spice and toasted oak notes complete this complex chardonnay. ($33)

***** (92) Domaine Chandon 2001 Carneros Chardonnay (California). The aromas are comp-leex yet clean and crisp with notes of apple, white peach, crème brulee and subtle oak; a creamy texture balanced by citrus notes and a flinty character typical of Carneros; flavors of fig and honey build through the long, harmonious finish. ($25)

***** (92) Chateau de Maligny Vieilles Vignes 2001(France). Fresh lemon grass zest, sizzling minerality, vibrant notes of pear, honey and nutmeg. ($20)

***** (92) Solex 2002 Russian River Chardonnay (California). Medium-bodied; creamy with some oak but not overdone; elegant and smooth. ($20)

***** (92) White Oak 2001 Russian River Chardonnay (California). A wonderfully complex chardonnay; rich and lush. ($20)

***** (92) Rockbare 2003 McClaren Vale Chardonnay (Australia). Mineral-infused and citrusy with a touch of spice and oak; medium-bodied; pairs well with shellfish. ($15)

***** (92) Louis Latour Montagny Premier Cru La Grande Roche 2001 (France). A touch of citrus on the nose; smooth and vibrant with pear overtones; a great value in white Burgundy. ($15)


**** (91) Ferrari-Carano 2001 Alexander Valley Chardonnay (California). Quintessential California chardonnay with creamy malolactic notes threading through a well-balanced, well-proportioned palate of ripe pear and spicy apple; finishes crisp and long. ($30)

**** (91) Montes Alpha 2002 Casablanca Valley Chardonnay (Chile). Medium gold, with a mild bouquet of citrus and white spice; medium-bodied and full flavored, there is a delicious buttery edge to the citrus, apricot and star fruit flavors; lush and long on the finish. ($19)

**** (91) Santa Ema 2002 Chardonnay Reserve, Maipo Valley (Chile). Pale to medium gold, with a bright bouquet that shows off snappy citrus aromas; on the palate it is ripe and rich, with flavors of apple, pear and some exotic fruit, all nicely balanced by firm acidity; crisp and clean on the finish, where notes of melon and grapefruit emerge. ($12)

**** (91) Simi 2000 Russian River Chardonnay (California). Just an outstanding bottle of wine; full bodied and oozes with soft hints of citrus and butter with a wonderful lasting finish that leaves you with a soft mineral flavors. ($23)

**** (91) Clos Du Bois 2000 Calcaire Chardonnay (California). A rich straw color with hints of light green; the aroma is toasty, smoky oak blended with ripe melon and honey; in the mouth, this wine opens with lush, tropical fruits, such as ripe mango, papaya, melons and oranges and transitions seamlessly to sweet oak flavors with hints of allspice and nutmeg; finish features smoky oak atop caramel, butter and vanilla. ($23)

**** (91) Philippe Lorraine 2000 Napa Chardonnay (California). Mouth-filling chardonnay; ripe apple and refreshing with easy oak, which is not overpowering. ($15)

**** (90) Jarvis Estate 2001 Chardonnay (California). Floral nose with a hint of honeysuckle; full-bodied with a touch of oak and butter on the finish. ($50)

**** (90) Salus 2001 Rutherford Chardonnay (California). This chardonnay is 100% barrel-fermented in new and used French oak; picks up toasty notes with a touch of butterscotch in the nose and finish; pretty fig and peach flavors. ($40)

**** (90) Sebastiani 2001 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay (California). A full-flavored wine with granny smith apples dominating with a bit of lemon; quite refreshing; a full-bodied finish leaves a nice toasty oak flavor which lingers; matches well with lobster. ($24)

**** (90) Beringer Napa 2001 Chardonnay (California). This Napa Valley Chardonnay has it all; a good marriage of butter and vanilla with lots of fresh apple/peach flavors; a smooth and lingering finish makes it a good match with broiled lobster tails, tuna steaks and grilled chicken. ($16)

**** (90) Chateau Souverain 2002 Sonoma County Chardonnay (California). Full, rich and elegant with intense layers of fig, apricot and honeysuckle; serve with fried oysters. ($17)

**** (90) Graham Beck 2002 Chardonnay (South Africa). Pale gold, with a bright, focused bouquet of green apple that has a light touch of citrus; crisp and clean, with good acidity sharpening the ripe green apple and citrus flavors; mild vanillin lingers in the background, and the finish is fresh and fruity. ($9)

**** (90) Coldwater Creek 2002 Chardonnay (California). Rich, tropical nose of candied pineapple and melons; tropical flavors are balanced by ripe apple and pear fruit with just a squeeze of citrus on the finish; medium-bodied and fruity with a kiss of oak on the finish; wonderful value. ($13)

**** (90) Hamacher 1999 Chardonnay (Oregon). Full-bodied, rich and supple with good balance of wood and fruit; pair with lobster ravioli. ($30)

**** (90) Matanzas Creek 2001 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay (California). An oaky, vanilla aroma, and vanilla and oak and toast on a long finish; for lovers of oaky style wines. ($28)

**** (90) Estancia 2001 Sonoma Chardonnay (California). Mouth filling with flavors of apricot and apple combined with toasted oak. ($11) Franciscan Estates

**** (90) Francis Coppola 2002 Diamond Chardonnay (California). Aromas of ripe pear and tropical fruit, with hints of vanilla; the mid-palate is filled with lush guava, pineapple and honeydew flavors. ($15)

**** (90) Frei Brothers 2002 Russian River Chardonnay (California). Hints of apricot, pear and honey in the nose which are the prelude to a wine that is round and elegant; lush tropical flavors that have a fine spine of acidity and conclude in a thoroughly enjoyable finish. ($13)

**** (90) Toasted Head 2002 Russian River Chardonnay (California). Pronounced creamy, toasty wood; long, lingering finish; helped by food such as lobster. ($16)

**** (90) McManis 2002 Chardonnay (California). This label has taken the market by storm; a well-portioned, well-made chardonnay; lush butterscotch and lemon custard flavors wrapped in rich toasted almond oakiness; tastes like real chardonnay, not a Pina Colada in a glass; a real good value. ($13)

**** (89) Groth 2002 Napa Chardonnay (California). Ripe and juicy with developed fruit flavors of apple and pear; a nice touch of oak for extra complexity. ($27)

**** (89) Chassuer Sangiacomo 1999 Chardonnay (California). Five years old with solid oak blended throughout; tropical fruit and spice with an elegant finish. ($50)

**** (89) Columbia Crest 2001 Grand Estates Chardonnay (Washington State). Well-balanced with medium oak and firm acidity for structure; butter and vanilla rounds out the wine; a crowd-pleaser. ($12)

**** (89) 2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle 2002 Columbia Valley Chardonnay (Washington State). Well-balanced with flavors and aromas melon, hazelnut, spice and butterscotch; long, lingering finish. ($13)

**** (88) Omaka Springs 2002 Chardonnay (New Zealand). Bright and zingy, with that unmistakable New Zealand combination of ripe fruit and vivid acids; distinctive. ($20)

**** (88) Olivier Savary Chablis 2002 (Burgundy, France). Slate, green apple and flint; an excellent example of a village Chablis from a knockout vintage. ($20)

**** (88) Girard 2001 Russian River Valleey Chardonnay (California). Fruity aroma; peach and melon flavors with a hint of butterscotch; a clean finish. ($19)

**** (88) Echelon 2001 Central Coast Chardonnay (California). Medium gold, with a mild bouquet of sweet white grapes and a light touch of peach and lime; quite soft on the palate, with a light buttery cloak to the citrus and pear flavors; the finish is quite long, with the buttery nuance revisited. ($10)

**** (88) Nieto Senetiner 2003 Reserve Chardonnay (Mendoza, Argentina). With six months in new French oak, this example shows modest wood spice, clean, ripe, pear fruit, and a touch of vanilla bean. ($8.50)

**** (88) Alamos from Catena 2002 Chardonnay (Argentina). This Argentinian sensation from Mendoza is rich and full with good depth and lots of apple/pear fruit layered throughout the glass; serve it with grilled shrimp, chicken dishes and healthy salads. ($10)

**** 87) Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse 2002 (France). Well balanced and well made with the fruit and minerals showing its beauty; the finish allows it to work well with poultry, pasta in cream sauces and shellfish. ($24)

**** (87) Cakebread Cellars 2002 Chardonnay (California). Lean and crisp with green apple; well balanced with medium weight; does not overwhelm the plate; sufficient acidity to cleanse and refresh; matches well with oysters and shellfish. ($33)

**** (87) Domaine Talmard Macon-Chardonnay 2002 (France). Pale gold, with a citrusy nose that also hints at tart green apple and mineral; the initial palate entry is quite soft, but firm acidity quickly arrives, highlighting the green apple and pear flavors, with some light peach in the background; quite dry on the finish, but stays soft and pleasant throughout. ($10)

**** (87) Gundlach-Bundschu 2001 Rhinefarm Vineyard Chardonnay (California). A big wine with impressive zesty citrus flavors and a spicy finish. ($16)

**** (87) Falling Star 2003 Chardonnay (Argentina). A simple, well-made quaffer; easy light fruit and easy light oak; good as a picnic wine or a value-priced house pour. ($5)

**** (86) Geyser Peak 2002 Sonoma County Chardonnay (California). A bright, fruit-driven wine with crisp acidity; pale straw color with attractive green hues; pear and tropical fruit aromas; ripe melon, pear and green apple flavors harmonize with balanced oak. ($16)

**** (86) J.&F. Lurton Chardonnay Vin de Pays d’Oc, “Les Salices” 2002 (France). Medium gold in color, with a mild, slightly sappy nose; soft on the palate, and a bit on the sweet side, with mild acidity and pleasant flavors of apple and pear. ($9)

*** (86) Penfolds 2002 Thomas Hyland Chardonnay (South Australia). Surprisingly crisp for Aussie Chard, with a nice counterpoint of mouth-filling fruit and acids carrying it through; nice value. ($12)

**** (86) Evans and Tate 2002 Gnangara Unwooded Chardonnay (Western Australia). A surprising find in Australia; a great, crisp, warm weather chardonnay, aged entirely in stainless steel; spritely acidity. ($11)

**** (86) Brampton 2002 Unoaked Chardonnny (South Africa). Unmanipulated chard with great expression of fruit; a crisp finish that goes well with food. ($12)


*** (85) Chateau St. Jean 2002 Sonoma County Chardonnay (California). Tropical fruit notes and tropical fruit flavors, with some pineapple; a pleasant finish. ($13)

*** (85) Mirassou 2002 Central Coast Chardonnay (California). A light, refreshing chardonnay with soft oak and vanilla hints; plenty of tropical fruit tastes. ($11)

*** (85) Oracle 2002 Chardonnay (South Africa). A medium-bodied wine with rich flavors of fruit, vanilla and oak; a finish that is soft on the palate; a wonderful everyday wine and a good value. ($7)


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