Saturday, May 22, 2010

California Chardonnay..One You Need to Try..

I admit not liking most of the Chardonnay that California produces. For my tastes, the wine too often relies on heavy oak treatment and too much malolactic fermentation. The result is a rich, velvety, buttery wine that coats your palate, feeling thick and fleshy. This style has enormous appeal to many wine drinkers, but I've never been a fan.

Some critics, experts and bloggers argue this is an expression of California's terrior or "signature style". They do have a point, however there are some truly remarkable California Chardonnays available that achieve the balance and harmonious nature I believe represent the best Chardonnays in the world. You know, like those from France! Not that I'm biased or anything...All joking aside, I always remain open to trying California Chardonnay, seeking out ones that match my palate.

This latest Chardonnay, the 2007 Cleavage Creek Reserve, represents deliciousness (a word? who cares!) and an impressive QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). You probably have heard of Cleavage Creek Winery because of their mission and the quality juice they're putting out. Donating ten percent of the gross sales to breast cancer charities is going to produce tangible results, I admire and salute Budge Brown for his efforts. Hopefully after reading this blog you take the time to look at the website and support their mission.

2007 Cleavage Creek Reserve Chardonnay Tracy Hills

(img courtesy

The wine was within a few degrees of room temperature when I opened and poured it with the first taste coming about 20 minutes later. In the glass, I noted a gorgeous straw color, reminiscent of a Montrachet.

Whiffs of pineapple, a hint of perfume, vanilla oak, clover honey and a dash of butter, all of them balanced, flowing from one to the next. The thick, lush seam of pineapple with it's sweet but acidic scent bursts through before tapering off, allowing the oak and honey time to make themselves known before they too recede. I felt happy, relieved that I wasn't smelling an oak bomb.

Eagerly anticipating my first sip, I had my pen at the ready to jot down some impressions. I'm not trying to be authoritative, preferring to give you my impressions while recognizing inherent differences in everyone's palates. That disclaimer aside, I tasted passion fruit, pineapple, the barest caress of oak, and much to my delight, a gorgeous vein of acidity streaking across the mid-palate, contrasted by a creamy texture that held the acidity at bay. This wine tasted as if that acid was designed to wrap the Chardonnay into a neat package but the creamy texture was designed to remind me of which varietal I was drinking.

The creamy, buttery flavor was a great contrast to the citrus acidity, creating something that you could enjoy alone or with food. I was reminded of eating a fruit salad with mango, passion fruit, lots of pineapple and some lemon zest thrown in, then taking a quick whiff out of a bottle of vanilla while you ate the salad. Sitting next to you was a classy lady wearing a classy perfume that occasionally flitted under your nose. That sensory experience is this wine to me.

Despite spending ten months in oak, despite being a California Chardonnay and despite my bias, I absolutely enjoyed the 2007 Reserve Chardonnay. It's an easy A and a very strong BUY recommendation. For $15 this Cleavage Creek is a bargain, delivering far above that price point and featuring a flavor profile that will appeal to all kinds of Chardonnay drinkers. For those interested, @CleavageCreek is their Twitter account.

This wine was provided as a sample from Cleavage Creek Winery.

Beau Carufel



  1. Nice review! Your excitement is evident. It's cool to see a project like this releasing good wines. It's nice to see that you're getting some samples too!

  2. Hey, how'd you get that contact? You've gotta let me in on your secret ;). Anywho, just wanted to let you know that my boyfriend and I will be in San Diego July 2-3 to check out a couple places (and a potential job interview!). Was wondering if you would like to meet face to face for a little wine on either of those days. Let me know if you're free :).
    p.s. I'm totally serious about starting that San Diego wine tasting group!

  3. July 2-3 is actually great for me, we should definitely meet up face to face. Perhaps we can get the beginnings of the San Diego Wine Tasting Club of Awesomeness down on paper?