Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay was an eye opener for the world and pinned California’s chardonnay on to the map of wine. The 1973 vintage triumphed over the Burgundy whites in the renowned “Judgment of Paris” blind tasting organized by Steven Spurrier in 1976.
I’ll skip the glorious history of the winery as a lot of you might have learnt about it in the movie Bottle Shock.
Obviously, the 1973 vintage is out of the world. Even IF you are lucky enough to get hold of a bottle, I would doubt if it’s what it is. Some wine enthusiasts are claiming that they are witnessing a drop in the quality of their whites in their new vintages while they are doing better in their Cabernet Sauvignon. I just had my first Montelena’s Chardonnay, so I won’t be giving comments on that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they have better Cabernet because Cabernet used to be the estate’s iconic wine before the Chardonnay went under the spotlight.
Chardonnay is a very neutral grape. Winemaker’s intervention can do a lot of magic. Winemakers can choose to keep the terroir, like Burgundy wines, or to influence it heavily with oak, like the ones from California.
Just like a typical American oaked Chardonnay, it’s a medium body wine. Aromas like coconut goes right in your face, it is also dominated by vanilla, creamy, oaky and hints of white spices together with ripe primary aromas like melons and pears. Smooth and creamy texture as if it flows like a gentle river while you are swallowing it down your throat.
The 08 vintage experienced a rough spring which brought about frost damages and crop size was lowered. They did some experimenting in the wine making process by aging some of the Chardonnays in stainless steel to reserve the fruitiness of the wine. It might not be a remarkable vintage with the undesirable weather.
But again, it’s a very personal thing when it comes to oaked Chardonnay. I personally like my Chardonnay in Burgundy style where both fruit and oak aromas aren’t overly dominant. But I am sure a lot of people out there who would love to have coconuts and vanillas in their wine.
It should make some good pair with marinated grilled or roasted chicken or roasted white meat, not ideal to pair it with uncooked and un-marinated seafood. I tried it with Chinese scallop stir fry and it was no good too.