Warm Weather Chardonnay

By Barbara Hay ~
If you’re a Chardonnay drinker, it’s time to change the register from oaked to unoaked or at least lightly oaked. While there is a place for big, rich, oaky Chardonnay, more and more of us are moving toward something crisper, brighter, and more food-friendly—especially for warmer weather. Traditional California-styled Chards with rich and oaky buttery flavors will overwhelm seafood and delicate spring and summer vegetables.

This spring and summer, Chardonnay lovers must try Chehalem “INOX” Willamette Valley Chardonnay. This light-bodied and wonderfully balanced wine takes its name from the French abbreviation for “stainless steel,” and it has a crisp, steely delivery. Reminiscent of some Old-World Chardonnays, this Oregon wine has all of the hallmarks of a cool climate-brightness, pinpoint fruit, and explosive aromas and flavors. There are lovely white gardenia aromas woven into a fruit rich bouquet of peach, apricot, pear, pineapple, and green apple. The flavors are bright and minerally, offering lime, apple and pear fruit accented by peach and the barest hint of cherry. This supple, silky white hows a great balance and bright acid; the length is lovely and the weight rich to pair with a wide variety of meals. Great pairings would include: grilled vegetables, mild goat cheese, chicken or trout.

Another lovely warm weather Chardonnay comes from Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat. Au Bon Climat is a Santa Barbara County Burgundian in sensibility, but with California style. Fresh and delicious, it has aromas of citrus, stone fruit, and custard apple. The flavors are opulent, smooth and integrated, with apricot, golden delicious apple, lemon and nuances of rich tropical fruits. Perfect when paired with turbot or lightly grilled chicken for a match of delicacy and richness.

Faced with competition from the new world, Chablis is better quality than ever—one delicious and easily affordable that comes to the taste buds is Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils Chablis. This bone-dry wine comes from the very heart of Chablis country, on the left bank of the Serein River. As is typical of most Chablis, there’s a nice mineral, quartzy note alongside tropical fruit and green apple. Versatile and gulpable, Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils is bright and crisp, with the classic, taut structure and refreshing minerality with a hint of saline that define traditional Chablis.

Chablis and unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnays like Au Bon Climat and Chehalem “INOX” are light enough for sipping on their own on hot summer days and rich enough for an elegant dinner.