Our first question about Noble Vines' 446 Chardonnay was how it got its name.
The answer reflects this white's identity as a single-vineyard wine. Winemakers have long propagated superior vines by using cuttings to produce genetically identical new plants, which are called "clones." A chardonnay vine called Clone 4 is known as the Martini clone because winemaker Louis Martini cultivated it in Carneros, where chardonnay grapes thrive in a cool climate. Noble Vines grows Clone 4 in Block 46 of its San Bernabe vineyards in Monterrey Valley, one of the coolest growing regions in California. So, 4 and 46 gets you 446.
It also gets you a lush, fruit-forward chardonnay that begins with the aroma of ripe pear touched with vanilla. Those flavors continue on the palate, joined by golden delicious apple and touches of pineapple and butterscotch. The mouthfeel is creamy and soft, the finish medium long, with a refreshing whiff of herb and white pepper at the end. The wine is aged in either oak or steel barrels, depending on the acidity of the grapes. If the batch our bottle came from was oaked, there was no trace of it in the flavor.
Available for about $14 at supermarkets and big-box stores, this chardonnay would cozy up nicely with a rich bowl of fettucine alfredo, a plate of soft cheeses or a grilled snapper Veracruz, sauced with tomato, chiles, green olives and capers.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.