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Bye Bye ABC: Explore Chardonnay’s Many Expressions

It’s no secret that Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. A truly versatile, green-skinned varietal that’s capable of great expression, Chardonnay is growing in pretty much every wine-producing region. The public has had its share in the rise (and fall) in popularity of the grape, as winemakers around the world have turned their hand to adapting it to a broad array of styles.

What better way to mark both #NationalWineDay (May 25) and #ChardonnayDay (May 27) in 2021 than with a celebration of Chardonnay based wines. Nielsen data show it is the second most popular wine in U.S. by sales volume, after Cabernet Sauvignon. (52 weeks ending 11/28/20).  We conducted another in our series, BensonLive Presents, called “Cheers to Chardonnay,” which aired May 25, 2021; you can view the video on our YouTube channel.

Writers: if you’re challenged to find new and interesting angles, Benson’s client roster has a bevy of Chardonnays – from unoaked to oaky still wines, bubbly and attention-grabbing packaging and campaigns, there’s an array of Chardonnay in our court to choose from. Below are just a select few to tickle your palate!

No Oak Bomb Here

Balletto Vineyards Teresa’s Unoaked Chardonnay – Russian River Valley, California – SRP $20 – At Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian River Valley wine region of Sonoma County, all the wines are grown on sustainably farmed estate vineyards and reflect the Balletto family’s passion for the land. This one continues to define California’s Unoaked Chardonnay category. Crisp and vibrant, yet amazingly luscious, it showcases how chardonnay does not need flashy oak or malolactic fermentation to be distinct and delicious. It’s mouthwatering with refreshing acidity that contrasts its surprisingly robust and weighted mid-palate.

Bubble Up!

Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blanc – Robertson, Western Cape, South Africa – SRP $30 – This 100% Chardonnay Méthode Cap Classique wine (the South African style of méthode champenoise). Only the cuvée juice (premium quality) was used for fermentation from the best selection of grapes in Robertson. It is one of South Africa’s most awarded sparkling wines and showcases what the “Graham Beck way” truly means.

Hahn Winery Selection Blanc de Blanc – Santa Lucia Highlands, California – SRP $50 – Limited production. Carefully sourced from of select vineyards in Monterey County, this sparkling wine is crafted from 100% Chardonnay, picked in early August when sugars were low and acid beautiful. Done in a Méthode Champenoise, this wine spent 30 months in the bottle. Generous aromas of strawberry and cranberry are complimented by fresh floral notes. The palate opens with flavors of peach, cantaloupe, and strawberry, finishing with hints of honey, light minerality and beautiful acidity.

Packaging & Inspirational Campaigns

Bread & Butter Chardonnay – California – SRP $15.99 – Bread & Butter believes good things shouldn’t be complicated, and neither should you! They launched a 360-degree campaign dubbed, “Don’t Overthink It” essentially giving wine lovers the freedom to simply enjoy. Made for beautiful spring afternoons, Bread & Butter Chardonnay is a simple and easy drinking wine. Delicately balancing flavors of green apple and citrus, this Chardonnay is made to be enjoyed year-round.

Hahn Appellation Series Chardonnay – Arroyo Seco, California – SRP $17.99 – The Hahn Appellation Series, a new addition to Hahn Family Wines, is replete with gorgeous dark teal and copper packaging and screw cap. Grapes for this wine are sourced from Ste. Nicholas vineyard, one of the family’s six certified sustainable estate vineyards, in Arroyo Seco, one of the smallest AVAs in California. Bright light gold in appearance with aromas of tropical fruit, vanilla, honey and caramel. On the palate, vibrant flavors of pineapple, lemon, apricot and gentle notes of honey, followed by nuanced toasty spice on the finish.

True Myth Chardonnay – Edna Valley, California – SRP $18 – With inspiration drawn from Mother Nature, this wine honors the grace and beauty of the vineyard. Cool climate Edna Valley is an ideal environment for Chardonnay, producing a rich and creamy wine bursting with tropical fruit flavors, making it a great wine for the spring. BONUS: Stay Tuned for limited-edition Ryder Cup x True Myth Edna Valley Chardonnay summer 2021; perfect gift idea for the golf enthusiast in your life!

Everyday Occasions Under $20

Highlands 41 Chardonnay – Monterey, California – SRP $15 – Artfully crafted by fourth generation winemaker Anthony Riboli, Highlands 41 Chardonnay is grown from sustainably farmed estate vineyards in the heart of Monterey and produced at the Riboli Family sustainably certified winery in Paso Robles. It greets the nose with an array of ripe fruit aromas, including citrus, guava, and orange peel. A touch of spicy oak adds complexity. Balanced acidity creates structure and a long, complex finish. This brand captures the energy and excitement of visiting somewhere new, meeting new people, and exploring new adventures.

Reata Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – Sonoma Coast, California – SRP $20 – Created with grapes from Russian River Valley and Los Carneros during a perfect and extended growing season, this Chardonnay has naturally high acidity with fresh fruit aromatics and flavors of apple blossom, honeydew melon, guava and grapefruit zest. The creamy texture and rich flavors of toasted oak are framed by its bright acidity that lifts the fruit and leaves a lingering finish. Made by veteran winemaker Linda Trotta with more than 35 years of winemaking experience.

Step It Up $20+

Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay – Edna Valley, California – SRP $28 – Grown in the coolest climate region in California, which also enjoys an extended growing season, this Chardonnay has intense and complex varietal flavors. It’s smooth and balanced with refined acid structure and a creamy finish. Named after the Acacia Baileyana plant that is beloved for its yellow flowers and is synonymous with the traverse mountain ranges of California, including Edna Valley, the beautiful label design pays homage to this namesake.

Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay – Russian River Valley, California – SRP $29 – Made by Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian River Valley wine region of Sonoma County, the texture and balance are spot on, making it one of those wines that draws you in for another sip. Both complex and elegant, showing its cool-climate heritage with concentrated flavors and a dark and lasting texture that has perfectly bright citrus tones for balance. It opens with warm spices, ripe pear and lemon aromas. New oak has been used sparingly to enhance the wine with subtle toasted tones, rather than dominate the aromatic profile. This is serious Chardonnay with depth, structure and finesse.

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay – North Carolina – SRP $25 – Bearing the North Carolina designation, the Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay was crafted with grapes from the estate vineyard. In this way the wine honors the legacy of self-sufficiency that George Vanderbilt originally envisioned for his estate. Channel a bit of Vanderbilt level hospitality with this Chardonnay.

Hahn SLH Chardonnay – Santa Lucia Highlands, California – SRP $25 – Great Value, Tastes Expensive. The ‘SLH’ label is the flagship of Hahn Family Wines, celebrating their 40th anniversary. This is a true ‘gem’ from the small, but mighty Santa Lucia Highlands. This wine greets the nose with citrus and stone fruits, followed with hints of ripe tropical fruit and vanilla. On the palate, this wine is full-bodied with a viscous round mouthfeel, balanced acidity and flavors of lemon, vanilla and delicate butter notes that lead to an elegant long finish.

Lucienne Chardonnay, Lone Oak Vineyard – Santa Lucia Highlands, California – SRP $40 – Family Owned. Estate Grown. Limited production. This 90+ rated wine from Hahn Family Wine’s 146-acre certified sustainable Lone Oak Vineyard sits at the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands where it is cooled by ocean breezes from the Monterey Bay. This 2018 Chardonnay is beautifully balanced with a profile that is sophisticated and nuanced. Aromas of fruity floral lychee, honeysuckle and ripe citrus with a hint of vanilla. The palate is feminine and dry in character, with delicate and elegant notes of silky citrus, hints of toasty oak and medium acidic finish.

Sauvignon Blanc: Through the Eyes of Winemakers

Sauvignon Blanc is having a moment.

In July 2020, Nielsen reported it was the fastest growing wine type with a 38 percent increase in sales. Even before the pandemic, volume was up 8.9 percent in 2019. This can be attributed to a variety of factors like how the grape grows very well in multiple regions, its accessibility around the world, and its range of price points for buyers.

Benson’s press webinar was held April 22, 2021. To review materials, view this Dropbox link.  Or, you can view the webinar on YouTube here.

Take it from these winemakers who have mastered the grape’s potential and consistently create standout bottles.

Anthony Beckman, Balletto Vineyards 

Working with 850 acres of estate vineyards at Balletto Vineyards, Anthony Beckman is able to create unique wines specific to the Russian River Valley area. Working there since 2007, he has contributed to much of the vineyard’s success and continues to do so with his approach to winemaking. His philosophy is to let the vineyards authentically speak through the wines to make the statement, “this wine can only be grown and made here.”  

Let the vineyard speak to you through this Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California – SRP $20 

Elunda Basson

Elunda Basson, Steenberg Vineyards 

An accomplished winemaker and respected specialist in South Africa with more than 20 years of experience, Elunda Basson took her talent to Steenberg Vineyards as Cellarmaster in 2019. The vineyard produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country due to its location in the Constantia area near the ocean and its storied winemaking history dating back to 1682. Under Elunda’s expertise, the wines exhibit freshness, elegance, and finesse.  

Enjoy this unique twist on Sauvignon Blanc: Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia, South Africa – SRP $18 

Juan Jo VerdinaJuan Jo Verdina, Hahn Family Wines 

Joining Hahn Family Wines in 2002 as part of the cellar team and working toward becoming Winemaker, Juan Jo Verdina knows the wine production of the estate inside and out. He heads the Hahn and Boneshaker brands with Hahn’s portfolio including six varietals and Boneshaker’s focusing on a robust Lodi Zinfandel from 40-year-old vines. The Hahn Winery Selection Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from a vineyard in Monterey County that experienced a mild vintage resulting in a naturally balanced acidity.  

Taste the Hahn experience with its Sauvignon Banc: Hahn Winery Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, California​​ – SRP $32 

Rob Takigawa, Tangent Wines  

With 20 years of experience working with Tangent, Rob Takigawa worked his way up starting as a Tank Room Manager, then Assistant winemaker, Winemaker and now, Director of Winemaking. He has grown further knowledge with each passing vintage, learning how to capture Edna Valley’s uniqueness to the rest of California’s growing regions. The Sauvignon Blanc is harvested at different levels to achieve the ideal finish and sourced from a vineyard with a Sustainability in Practice Vineyard Certification. 

Try a uniquely Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Tangent Sauvignon Blanc, Edna Valley, California​ – SRP $17 

 

Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker, WX Brands

With 30+ years in the industry, Linda has worked harvests around the world including Italy, South Africa and Chile. One thing she is most proud of in her career is that in her leadership role(s), she mentored and developed talent who have gone on to make their own marks of excellence in winemaking and viticulture. Her Bread & Butter Sauvignon Blanc shines with bright aromas of lemon zest and a hint of tropical fruit. The Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc is made from sustainably grown Sauvignon Musque Clone, known for its intensity and array of aromas and notes associated with expressive and fine Sauvignon Blanc.

Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $18 Wine.com

Bread & Butter Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $16.99 Online shop