Thursday, November 16, 2006

2002 Rosemount Estate Chardonnay Orange Vineyard

Tonight I had a friend coming by to strategize something for work, and then dinner to think about. I decided to pop this bottle of wine in the fridge and take my chances. It's a Rosemount Estate wine that I've never had (don't drink much of their wine in the normal course of things) which I found tucked into the pallets at Costco some weeks back. And, as you know, I'm not a huge chardonnay fan. Still, most people are, so this was the choice.

Rosemount Estate has a huge presence in the supermarkets of LA, and while some of their wine is fine, I find a lot of it doesn't have gobs of varietal characteristics--my own personal way of wandering through the world of wine. For those of you not familiar with the specific characteristics of different grape varieties, I'd suggest a click over to the Professional Friends of Wine site to see their informative chart. They sort out flavors that are in the grape, versus processing flavors, and it can help you to understand (in part) the mysteries of wine scoring since (like judging dogs at the Westminster Dog Show) the best wine ratings should be based on some kind of standard. This is not objective, but there is still a method in some of the madness. Judging a wine's quality should hinge on some combination of a wine's display of varietal characteristics and local, or terroir, characteristics--or at least that's what I was taught. This is also how people succeed at identifying wines they drink blind--they know the varietal characteristics so well that they can sort out red currant from red raspberry and know whether a wine is a pinot or not.

The grapes for the 2002 Rosemount Estate Chardonnay Orange Vineyard (Costco, $7.99) are grown in a highland vineyard outside of Sydney with volcanic soils and cool-climate growing conditions. When I first opened the bottle, I thought: rut-ro. There was a definite whiff of oak, which is not quite what I expected. The back label revealed that I had apparently blanked out on the fact that the wine was aged in French new oak for a number of months! As the wine warmed up slighlty the strong oak smell blew off and it became more appealing. It is pale gold in color, with a nutty, citrusy aroma. When you taste this wine you are aware first of citrus, then a taste that reminded me of figs, then a nutty edge at the end like cashews. These are all good varietal characteristics of a lightly oaked chardonnay.

This wine was much better with food than solo, and for that I turned to tuna. What to eat in the week leading up to Thanksgiving is always a bit of a puzzle. I find that the mere thought of that turkey and the pounds of leftovers makes me downright reluctant to eat poultry. And, with Mom and Dad coming to town there will be more good food than ever at the house, not to mention more wine consumed, so all in all a good reason to trim some calories whenever you can. So we had a scrumptious grilled tuna with green goddess aioli from the September 2006 issue of Cooking Light magazine. The 2002 Rosemount Chardonnay was excellent with this meal, especially with the green goddess aioli. It was just the right body for the food--medium in weight and texture.

There is a new 2003 vintage of this wine in the stores, as well as the 2002 vintage. I discovered the price on the 2002 has increased substantially from what I paid for it at Costco in most retail stores and online vendors where it is going for between $10 and $15. At either the low price I paid or the higher price it seems to be going for in most stores, chardonnay lovers who like a bit of round oakiness in their wine, this represents very good QPR. Hard to find a chardonnay under $20 that doesn't taste artificial and overblown, but this one delivers citrus and nutty flavors that are in nice balance with each other. Rosemount suggests you could cellar this wine until 2010--maybe a bit optimistic but I do agree that this wine has the potential to hang around and get even more mellow and integrated over the next 2-4 years.

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