Joel Gott is our current hero among winemakers advancing the cause of unoaked chardonnay, fermented entirely in steel to produce an elegantly cool and crisp wine with an admirable balance of sugar and acidity. The result is a chardonnay much closer to the flinty French style than to the often top-heavy California style redolent of oak and vanilla.
The 2009 Joel Gott Unoaked Chardonnay (about $16 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets), made from grapes grown in Monterey County, is a beautiful example of what happens when a winemaker chooses the lean and natural approach to this popular varietal, producing a wine with a light but intense body and real staying power.
The nose is subtle but the scent of ripe nectarine is unmistakable. The delicate tree fruit (as lush as peach but lighter and with a pleasingly tart edge) is joined on the tongue by zingy lime and light herbal grace notes, producing a delightfully dry but fragrant balance of fruit and mineral earth. The finish, where a hint of green tea reveals itself, is long and ultra clean.
This wine will make a rewarding summertime aperitif or solo social sipper, but it also will pair nicely with foods hot off the grill, especially chicken, pork and firm white fish in herby marinades.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.