It is easy to see why Chardonnay is both loved and grown around the world. It’s a grape that provides a canvas for a wide array of flavors, from fruity and flinty to toasty and nutty, sure to please any palate and pair with a variety of meals.
Though California is the iconic state for American Chardonnay, it’s not the only game in town on the West Coast. Oregon is showing that not only can it give Burgundy a run for its money with Pinot Noir, but also with the French region’s famous white wine grape. Further north, Washington is producing lush wines with lingering finishes.
Not to be outdone, the East Coast is also staking a claim when it comes to outstanding Chardonnay. New York winemakers are crafting wines that range from steely to rich and ripe. If you haven’t yet explored wines form Virginia, it’s time to add a new state to your domestic wine repertoire.
Pour yourself some while you cook and share the rest with friends and family when dinner hits the table.
Recommended American Chardonnay from 5 States
Ryan Cochrane 2015 Solomon Hills Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley); $36, 96 points. This bottling from the San Francisco-based producer is about as Burgundian as California gets. Aromas of honeydew rinds, Meyer lemon pith and honeysuckle meet with briny chalk, chiseled marble and a touch of almond warmth on the nose. The extremely fresh, clean and chalky palate shows stunning texture as well as rounded lemon blossom, sea salt and the faintest butter flavor. Editor’s Choice. –Matt Kettmann
Benovia 2015 Three Sisters Chardonnay (Fort Ross-Seaview); $48, 95 points. With a persistence of lightly-toasted oak, this youthful wine offers intense luxury. A gritty, stony texture complements its delicious aspects of lemon rind and anise. Green apple, ocean spray and an underlying streak of dried herb provide additional complexity and length. –Virginie Boone
Gary Farrell 2015 Russian River Selection Chardonnay (Russian River Valley); $35, 95 points. A scent of French butter offers an immediate invitation to this excellent wine. Austerity on the palate gives way to a juicy core of invigorating tangerine and white peach flavors. The gravelly minerality on the midpalate finishes softly and with ease. –V.B.
Talley 2015 Oliver’s Vineyard Chardonnay (Edna Valley); $38, 95 points. Plump aromas of lemon mousse, meringue, wet limestone, white flowers and ripe key lime show on the nose of this excellent bottling. The palate bursts with flavors of cool cream, sea salt and lemon pith, set against a chalky texture. A mysteriously compelling experience. –M.K.
Donkey & Goat 2016 Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay (Napa Valley); $32, 94 points. This vineyard is in the West Oak Knoll area of the valley. The wine was left unfined and unfiltered by the winemakers, who employ native yeast for fermentation. Juicy stone fruit and zippy acidity strike a chord of balance and complexity that’s low in oak and deliciously crisp in peach. –V.B.
Two Sisters 2015 Courtney’s Vineyard Chardonnay (Sta. Rita Hills); $40, 92 points. Tangy aromas of lemon curd meet with warmer touches of Marcona almonds and cider-laced popcorn on the dynamic nose of this bottling. The palate starts with a melted butter richness before tangy citrus peels and savory sea salts combine for a long finish, where both butterscotch and vanilla also make an appearance. –M.K.
Sonoma-Loeb 2015 Envoy Chardonnay (Carneros); $38, 91 points. This wine is made with grapes from the Sangiacomo Vineyard and barrel fermented to produce a richly layered expression of peach, pear and stony minerality. With a grit of texture, it’s a fulsome, lush and voluptuous wine with a salty tease. –V.B.
N. Kendall Wines 2015 Chardonnay (Finger Lakes); $35, 91 points. There’s not a lot of embellishment on this steely, tightly structured Chardonnay but its transparency is quite enthralling. The palate is bracing and mineral, offering zesty lemon and green apple flavors that seem to build in concentration and density in the mouth. The finish is long and saline. Editor’s Choice. –Anna Lee Iijima
Lamoreaux Landing 2015 Reserve Chardonnay (Finger Lakes); $20, 91 points. While lavishly oaky and luscious in feel, this barrel-fermented Chardonnay maintains balance and levity. It’s a ripe, plump wine, but fresh in acidity and delicate apple, lemon and spice flavors. A kiss of vanilla lingers nicely on the finish. –A.I.
Lange 2015 Three Hills Cuvée Chardonnay (Willamette Valley); $40, 93 points. This wine is all Dijon clone, aged in two- to four-year-old puncheons. Bright and aromatic, it opens with a toasty scent and a mix of lemony citrus, pineapple and banana fruit. It’s smooth and delicious and nicely layered, with an enduring finish. Editor’s Choice. –Paul Gregutt
DanCin 2016 Chassé Chardonnay (Oregon); $32, 92 points. Sourced from the Durant vineyard in the Dundee Hills, this is barrel fermented in neutral oak using native yeast. It’s complex and textural, with layers of ripe tree fruits. Peaches and mixed tropical fruits are in play, along with some baking-spice highlights. It’s full-bodied and irresistible, diving deeply into a lush finish. Drink now through 2022. Editor’s Choice. –P.G.
Roco 2015 Gravel Road Chardonnay (Willamette Valley); $40, 92 points. After a faulty first bottle of this wine, the second was a revelation: sexy, polished and lushly endowed with a mix of orange, apple, pear and apricot flavors. Its texture, length and definition are truly impressive. Editor’s Choice. –P.G.
Clay Pigeon 2014 Chardonnay (Columbia Valley (OR)); $25, 91 points. This is an orange wine, intentionally oxidized and left in barrel for two years. It’s very much like a fino Sherry, with comparable aromatics. What truly distinguishes this effort is the finish that lingers and develops more and more nuances for several minutes. Don’t expect anything that resembles Chardonnay, but pair this with salted nuts, meats or fried foods and you will be delighted. Editor’s Choice. –P.G.
Argyle 2015 Nuthouse Master Series Chardonnay (Eola-Amity Hills); $40, 90 points. Richer and oakier than the regular Argyle Chardonnay, this conveys flavors of Honey Crisp apple, framed with a palate-pleasing toastiness. It’s balanced and already drinking in a prime window. Enjoy it now through 2020. –P.G.
Early Mountain 2016 Quaker Run Chardonnay (Virginia); $38, 88 points. Lush aromas of pineapple and yellow apple ride over undertones of vanilla, coconut and butter on the nose. Concentrated flavors of pineapple, chamomile, vanilla and apple meld effortlessly on the palate. While the feel is round and silky, bright acidity keeps the balance. The finish is long and smooth. –Carrie Dykes
Casanel 2015 Estate Chardonnay (Middleburg); $20, 87 points. An intriguing nose of lemon, pineapple, vanilla and banana candies are encased in a waft of warm yeast. Flavors of honeydew, more pineapple and oak spice are folded into a saline and nutty component. The weight is plush and feels silky on the tongue. –C.D.
Full Pull & Friends 2007 Chardonnay (Columbia Valley (WA)); $23, 92 points. That vintage is not a typo. This 10-year-old wine is as lively as ever. The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of candy corn, pumpkin spices, candle wax, lemon pith and almond butter—all completely captivating. The palate is lightly creamy in feel but still sleek with zingy tart high-wire acidity and a lingering finish. It’s an accomplishment. Editor’s Choice. –Sean Sullivan
Ashan 2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (Columbia Valley (WA)); $25, 91 points. Aromas of candy corn, spice and almond butter are followed by full-bodied, tropical-fruit flavors that show a pleasing sense of richness and intensity. It’s a delicious example of the variety, with a lingering finish. Editor’s Choice. –S.S.
Woodward Canyon 2015 Chardonnay (Washington); $44, 91 points. A blend of fruit from Woodward Canyon and Celilo vineyards, subtle aromas of pear, apple and toast lead to elegant well-balanced fruit flavors, brightened by tart acidity. The balance is exquisite. Apple flavors persist on the finish. –S.S.
Cerulean 2013 Acadia Vineyards Chardonnay (Columbia Gorge (WA)); $25, 90 points. This soft, ripe wine is moving quickly along the aging curve and drinking nicely. Lush flavors of golden apple, Key lime and Juicy Fruit gum combine, with a burst of toast at the end. Drink now through 2018. –S.S.
Published: December 15, 2017