The 2009 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay (about $12 at liquor stores and wine shops) strikes a beautiful balance between classic California chards heavy with oak and vanilla and a new lighter style that finds fullest expression in altogether unoaked chards.
This wine hails from the cool weather Arroyo Seco region and was sourced entirely from the Riverstone vineyard, where ancient tumbled river boulders underlay about 4 feet of loamy soil. And although the wine was aged eight to 12 months in new and refill oak before bottling and further aging sur lie (on the lees) to heighten complexity, the oak is so restrained as to constitute primarily grace notes.
Balance, then, is the key to describing this lovely straw yellow wine. It begins with its finely nuanced bouquet of lemon, light oak and honeysuckle. Up front on the tongue and through mid-palate, the wine brims with citrus, honey, butterscotch and white peaches with just a tiny oak presence. Then it does something amazing as it converts to a big buttery finish that manages also to be perfectly clean, even developing a nice mineral edge toward the end.
This chard will pair well with white meats like thick pork loin chops rubbed with jerk spice and grilled with fresh peach halves. It also would be just right with cold herb-roasted chicken.
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.