The Winos’ Tasting Series: Division I Chardonnay at Division III prices

By Jesse on March 14, 2008

The Young Winos were thrilled to be featured in the LA Times earlier this week, and we want to thank all the winos out there who sent us good tidings. The article represented us really well, with one exception — an insignificant detail to some, perhaps, but an issue of great importance to me. I want to take this opportunity to state for the record: I am not a graduate of Syracuse University, I have never been a graduate of Syracuse University, nor do I ever intend to be a graduate of Syracuse University. I’m sure it’s probably an admirable institution, but my allegiance forever lies elsewhere:


So, in honor of my Division III alma mater, I decided to open up a couple of nice mid-range California Chardonnays that are currently on sale for “Division III prices” at my local bastions de vino. Doug sat down with me to help me taste the pair.

First we opened up the 2006 Edna Valley Chardonnay from San Luis Obisbo County, currently on sale at Vendome Studio City for $10.99 (marked down from $16.99). Classic straw-golden pigmentation in the glass… a healthy-looking Chard. The nose had a nice acidic note to it, which I always find reassuring when you’re drinking warm-climate Chard for under $20. A lot of oak there as well, but that zesty acidity balanced it nicely. Doug picked up a little honey and some pear, while to me, the nose was reminiscent of when I’d make popcorn as a kid and then shake some Parmesan cheese on there instead of butter. Anyone else know what I’m talking about?

Big oak on the palette, but again that acidity was there to save the day. Doug got some lemon notes, and I got a little bit of slightly unripe peach, like biting into a peach a day or two before it’s ready because you’re hung over and not thinking clearly. There was also an intriguing mineral element trying to break free, but I found it was being smothered by the oak. The finish was dry and long — the oak and butter really reveal themselves here, which I liked — with a little bit of spice on the end. Overall, an interesting bottle, if a bit heavier on the oak than I like. At the sale price, I’d buy it again… it’s a good wine to have on hand for that night when you’re in the mood for a refreshing, decently interesting Chard. Full price, maybe not.

Next we moved on to the 2006 Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay from — surprise surprise — Santa Barbara County. This is currently on sale at my corner wine shop, Tony’s Liquor and Deli, for $10.99, marked down from $15.00. Very light pigmentation on this one (see photo below), looking more like a Sauv Blanc than a Chard. The nose was similar to the Edna Valley but lacked that acidity that had been so reassuring to me. A full bouquet of butter, vanilla cake, some hay barn elements, maybe some apricot. Doug picked up butter and vanilla as well, and then added fresh-ground pepper, with which I wholeheartedly agreed and was embarrassed I hadn’t noticed before.

My embarrassment turned to shock and awe when I tasted the wine. Total pepper! I can’t remember the last time I had so much pepper on a Chardonnay. And a weird grapefruit element too… was I drinking a Sauv Blanc here? After a sip or two, though, I started getting some classic Chard notes, some oak, and some butter — good thing too, because if it was just pepper and grapefruit, I was gonna call shenanigans.

Towards the end of the glass the pepper calmed down and the wine settled into itself nicely, eventually offering an interesting Dijon Mustard element which I really got into. The spice hangs around on the finish and melts nicely into lemon. Not bad overall, and definitely a departure from your usual Santa Barbara Chard. I might be inclined to go for a second round at this sale price; in fact, I’d be really interested to know how this bottle pairs with Thai food, spicy grilled fish, or other dishes that might usually scream out for Sauv Blanc or Albarino.

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Is it weird that they both have maps of California on the back?

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The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005.


  1. Speak for yourself about “representation!” “Lonely and desperate engineer” my ass.

    Comment by jasonm1 — March 14, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

  2. You could file for a correction Jason, but you weren’t misquoted…

    Comment by Andrew Lang — March 15, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

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