The Chardonnay Conundrum; Ghost Pines Chardonnay 2007
However before I jump into the review please permit me a small aside, I want to speak with those folks in the audience who may find themselves in a Chardonnay Conundrum, which can basically easily be defined a couple of ways. First there's anyone who subscribes to the notion that New World Chardonnay is nothing more than over-oaked plonk. You know who you are, gathered around the wine-bar, sneering at California Chardonnay dismissively and deriding folks who like a little oak and Malolactic [MLF] touches in their wine and on the other side of this so-called conundrum you have everyday folks that really love Chardonnay that has done some time in [evil] new French-oak and has hung out with Malolactic Fermentation. So is there really a "conundrum", I don't think so as their plenty of choices in the wine market places for these two very different styles of Chardonnay. Still there is a lot of sniping and back-biting among folks who consider themselves "insiders" who will dismiss anyone that does not see their favorite style of Chardonnay as being superlative.
Naked-Chard Club: I've wondered about this movement towards austerity and leanness in wines made here in California. Read this snippet of what I found on the Wine Speculator site which I have linked above under the word Chardonnay: They call think of themselves as the The Minimalists" and describe themselves this way; "We are winemakers who prefer not to manipulate the pure "blank slate" of Chardonnay and we are attracting a wider audience. We are a small contingent of California Chardonnay makers who now embrace an aesthetic that shuns new oak and emphasizes bright acidity." Too funny, sounds like my philosophy prof from college, sitting on the desk, in his corduroy jacket, bushy-hair and Birkenstock's waxing ever so eloquently against the excesses of [evil] capitalism.
While it may be true that the popular style leans toward high ripeness, oaky and tropical fruits [where wines are sometime as cloying as your garden variety lounge drink] and this has certainly been an unfortunate trend in the over-produced bulk wine market. I don't think labeling every New World [specifically California] Chardonnay as inherently flawed is a fair evaluation of all chardonnay made in the golden-state. But this is exactly the position [and the problem] that many of those who think of themselves as having an "educated" [the insiders] palate will tell you. I know just writing about this subject will not win me any fans with wine-snobs, but I don't care, it needs to be said and that is why I'm attempting to hammer home the point, "that all New World Chardonnay is not made in the Chateau Two by Four style" and neither will you necessarily feel like you're drinking a pool of warm butter from the movie theatre spigot waiting to be drizzled over stale popcorn either.
It's too funny because I mingle with these folks on a semi-regular basis and hearing the wine-cooler chatter, I've found that it's indeed trendy [sorry you lost me at trendy] and regarded as some-how more noble to "dislike" New World Chardonnay and dismiss it out of hand.
If you find yourself speaking to someone with this mindset [POV] and in conversation you happen to mention that you like or adore a certain American Chardonnay [say, Rombauer], they may not say it to your face but honestly they're thinking "my what a pedestrian palate you have" or that you have just arrived from the school of the uninitiated [short-bus].
On the other hand, if want to be one of the cool kids, just tell them how much you love "un-oaked" Chardonnay or perhaps explain you are a fan of a little village in Chablis
which produces picture-perfect fruit-only driven Chardonnay, where the wines will rarely go through malolactic fermentation or be exposed to any oak and you're in like flint. You'll will have automatically become their best friend and be given membership into their snob-tastic club.
It's precisely implications such as I've alluded to above which may be found on many a wine review [not this one] websites or places where enophiles have discussions about the purity of Chablis style Chardonnay. Though I appreciate [assume] these are not their exact words, still it's that premise which causes me to openly rebel and question this supposed "universal truth" that the New Generation of New World
Grape and ABV: 100% Chardonnay, produced from three of the best places where Chardonnay thrives in California, thus producing a nice blend of 25% Sonoma, 35% Napa and 40% Monterey. The wine weighed in at a very reasonable 14.2% ABV and well integrated.
Winemakers Note: To create a more complex mouth-feel, a portion of the wine underwent sur lies aging and was influenced by oak. 100% of our Chardonnay completed malolactic fermentation, contributing a buttery texture along with deep, layered flavors
Price and where to Purchase: I picked this bottle up at my local Ralphs in San Diego but you can also find this in in plentiful supplies at a local BevMo near you and they charge $19.99 per bottle. The price I paid for mine was only $12.99 as they had it mis-marked. The scanned price was $14.99 and if I had bought six I could have saved an additional 10% [everyday discount] which would have amounted to more than another $1 off per bottle and sometimes they even have a super wine saver where you can get 20% off a six pack of all the same or mix and match. As a friendly reminder not all grocery stores are created equal, some will carry better-labels so be a savvy-shopper.
Other Voices: In case my opinion didn't sway you at all, RP.com had this to say about the '07 Ghost Pines Chardonnay: This wine exhibits plenty of pineapple, nectarine, pear and peach characteristics; fresh, lively and crisp with a touch of oak and gave this wine 88 points. I know not quite the ringing endorsement you may have hoped for if you are 90 plus kind of shopper, not sure price was part of the score achieved. Price points are not something that all reviewers take into account in their review process. You really have to read the fine details closely to understand their scoring criteria [print publications].
What's the Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: I gave this wine a fat 91 points on the CCWB 100 point scale. The QPR [quality-price-ratio] is through the roof at the $12-14 price range.
My Recommendation: This is a wonderfully well made wine that won't disappoint anyone except the anti-oak crowd. It's not your everyday big oaky, butter Chardonnay. In fact it's is quite the opposite, being balanced, having a refined note of butter (from malolactic fermentation) which is skillfully integrated into the mix and to which I say, "nicely done". So I would definitely grab a few the next time you are in the wine shop or at your local grab and go [grocery store]. This wine is head and shoulders over other Chardonnays in the $10 and under category. So until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!