Memorial Day may be about commemorating the men and women who served in our armed forces, but it’s also the unofficial start to summer. And summer is a great excuse to drink white. So, with the launch of summer, we present four ways to drink one wine: Chardonnay.
While Chardonnay may be the wine people love to hate (thus the phrase ABC, anything but Chardonnay) good Chardonnay is actually brilliant. It can be expressive of its terroir or the winemaker’s style. Great Chablis, for example, expresses the chalky French limestone it’s grown in with marked minerality and typically no oak. On the flip side, there’s that voluptuous, typically oak-aged creature known as the California Chardonnay. So, grab a glass and ignore the naysayers. Here are four chardonnays to kick off the summer.
Start the holiday off with bubbles. A blanc de blancs is a Champagne (or, outside of the eponymous region in France, a sparkling wine) made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape. While bubbles outside of Champagne may not be called Champagne, anyone can use the term blanc de blancs.
Stop in your favorite wine shop and ask for recommendation for a blanc de blancs from Champagne or, because Memorial Day is an American tradition, use the holiday as an excuse to drink American.
Argyle Winery, Dundee Hills Blanc de Blancs Knudsen Vineyard Julia Lee’s Block, $50, Westchester Wine Warehouse
Argyle dedicated an entire block of grapes for bubbles. This wine is light and bright, expresses notes of peaches and juicy ripe pear, some almond and, when you let it linger in the glass for a bit, a yeasty brioche note.
In the north of Burgundy in Chablis, Chardonnay is grown in limestone subsoil topped with chalky clay and marl, and typically fermented in stainless steel. The result? Wines of restraint with good fruit and nice minerality.
Now is the time to be buying and drinking Chablis in general: reserves of the wine will likely soon dwindle. Extreme weather — hail and frost included — hit the area in 2016 and production is currently estimated to be down 50 percent for that vintage. Recent 2014 and 2015 vintages ranked high on vintage charts.
Varmax, in Port Chester, began hording Chablis when news of trouble with the 2016 vintage hit. Included at the store are three Gilbert Picq & ses Fils Chablis from the 2015 vintage, including a premier cru, each offering minerality, bright fruit, and crisp acidity — and a chance to discover the subtle differences in picking dates and wine making styles. $29-$39
Because every picnic deserves a wine, we turn to California for a Chardonnay that can stand up to grilled pork, for example.
The 2015 Au Bon Climat, out of Santa Barbara County, for example, has enough muscle to compensate for being left in a bucket of ice without losing all flavor. And yet, the oak treatment here is light. The wine delivers juicy pear, a hint of tropical fruit, a hint of a dulce de leche note, plus some salinity. $19.99, Varmax
These days, Washington is a great place to turn for Chardonnays that are full of fresh fruit, and often higher in acid. Take, for example, the 2014 Savage Grace Chardonnay. Raised on volcanic loam in the Washington’s Columbia Gorge, the wine was fermented 50 percent in tank and 50 percent in neutral French oak, with just a handful of the oak barrels in this vintage undergoing malolactic fermentation. While there’s a layer of richness to the wine, there’s no heavy, oaky toast. Rather, the wine is bright and fresh and features notes of apple and juicy Asian pear, a hint of candied Meyer lemon, plus pretty minerality. $28, Vino 100 Wine & Spirits
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