For those of us who have switched our allegiance to unoaked chardonnays, the 2008 Artesa Carneros chardonnay, a mostly classic expression of the California style, comes as a pleasant surprise.
Part of the delicate character of this lovely pale yellow wine comes from the fruit itself and part from the methods employed by the winemaker. Eighty-five percent of the grapes were barrel-fermented in new and old French oak, and the remainder were fermented in stainless steel. All were fermented on the lees. Half of the resulting wine then was subjected to secondary malolactic fermentation, yielding an agreeably understated species of that creaminess we associate with California chards.
The wine opens on the nose with light lemon and a hint of ripe pear. Much to the fore on the tongue is pleasantly attenuated toasty oak, and then the fruit kicks in, especially lemon and apricot. Buttery bottom notes and a touch of honey fill out the nicely structured mid palate. Surprisingly, the long, clean finish sparkles with a flinty minerality reminiscent of that found in French expressions of the varietal. All in all, this is a refined, beautifully balanced chardonnay and a great buy at the price (about $19 at big box stores and wine shops).
We'd serve it with snapper Vera Cruz or maybe pork chops done on the grill and accompanied by grilled peaches.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.