It probably has something to do with the proliferation in the past decade or so of citrusy, fullblown sauvignon blancs, especially from New Zealand's Marlborough district, but we've been losing our taste for big, over-oaked, vanilla-forward California chardonnays. They too often overpower the foods they're meant to complement.
Unoaked chards, fermented in steel instead of wood, are on the rise but are still outnumbered by those made in the more traditional style. A pleasing halfway alternative is found in a growing number of chardonnays that are aged in oak but back away from the wood's dominance in favor of balance.
A fine example of this crisper, cleaner California style is the Concannon 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay, which retails for about $10 at wine shops, some grocery stores and the big box stores.
It is nearly as fresh as a good sauvignon blanc but with the slightly heavier body of a chardonnay. It delivers plenty of fruit upfront and follows through with a pleasing finish.
This wine goes really well with roast chicken and grilled fresh fish or scallops, as well as standing alone or pairing with a soft-ripened cheese.
By Colette and John Bancroft. Colette Bancroft is the Times' book editor. John Bancroft is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.