Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When a Bit of Oak Is OK

I've been known to rant about over-oaked wine. I don't like the taste of synthetic wood, or when oak has been used with such heavy-handedness that you might as well be sipping your favorite beverage through a mouthfull of toothpicks.

But there are moments when you want a bit of oak. These include those times you have a hankering for homemade clam chowder with lots of bacon and some toasty roux thickening the soup. Whenever I make this recipe for Panhandle Clam Chowder, for instance, all I want with it is an oaked Chardonnay. But I still want one that balances out the oak with fresh fruit flavors.

I found a good option in the 2007 Ravenswood Chardonnay Vintner's Blend. (suggested retail $10; available for $6-$16). The wine had buttery pear and baked apple aromas and flavors, with lots of creaminess in the midpalate and a creamy finish. Though you could taste the oak, it was not overwhelming and the wine retained its balanced freshness perhaps because while half of the wine was fermented in barrels, the other half was fermented in stainless steel. In any case, it's an excellent QPR choice for people who like richer Chardonnays.

full disclosure: I received this wine as a sample.


Arnaud H said...

Ravenswood is definitely not a name I'd think of for Chardonnays. Will give that one a try. I also found two great Sonoma Chardonnays lately: the Buehler Russian River and the Souverain Alexander Valley. Great value at around 10-12 dollars. Almost makes up for not being able to afford a bottle of Flowers these days.

charles said...

I think Ravenswood makes a pretty good product for their volume and price point. I have rarely been unsatisfied or felt cheated by either them or Bogle.