We won't bore you with another recitation of our reasons for preferring unoaked chards to the oak-aged variety, but instead introduce you to another sterling example of its kind: the 2009 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay from California's Santa Barbara County (about $14 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets).
The advantages of fermentation in steel and no secondary malolactic fermentation are obvious in this wine's enviable crispness and natural balance, both of which are on display from first whiff. The nose is bright and clean, exuberantly redolent of warm butterscotch and cool lemon.
Next up comes the winemaker's nice trick of seamlessly marrying a buttery, silky mouthfeel with tons of luscious but dramatically clean fruit. White peaches are the first to burst on the tongue, followed in close order by juicy fresh pineapple and a kiss of lemon. Butterscotch kicks in on the long, supple and, yes, clean finish.
As with other unoaked chards we've recommended, this one will do very nicely as an aperitif or solo sipper, but it will purr alongside an herb-roasted chicken or seafood like sea scallops seared in butter and topped with a cool but zingy mango and jalapeno salsa.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.