Like many wine drinkers of our acquaintance, when it comes to chardonnay we've shifted our allegiance from overblown vanilla monsters to crisply acidic versions that spend not a minute of their lives in oak barrels. A fine example of the style we've come to favor is the 2007 Toad Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay (widely available for about $13).
This refreshingly dry Mendocino County wine, subtitled Francine's Selection, spent nine months in stainless steel, eight of those months on the lees to foster complexity, before bottling. That aging time was well spent.
The 2007, rated a Best Buy by Wine Enthusiast, opens in the glass with a tantalizing whiff of sun-warmed peaches underpinned by a trace of meadow grasses. On the tongue it delivers tons of tree fruit flavors, with peach and apricot in the lead and a sunny jolt of Meyer lemon for crispness. Vanilla is present but it's pretty shy for a chard. A taste of honey rounds out the wine at mid palate before giving way to a medium long, lightly floral, delightfully dry finish.
The unoaked Toad Hollow has taken its place in our pantheon of terrific summer wines, great for drinking on its own or paired with a range of summery dishes. We enjoyed it with a stir-fry of chicken and seasonal veggies with fish sauce.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.