My wife is a Chardonnay addict. If I open an amazing Zinfandel that knocks my socks off, or an incredibly perfumed and complex Pinot Noir, she will say “that’s nice dear. Give me a glass of Chardonnay.” After opening two mediocre (okay, one was mediocre, and one was horrible) Chardonnays for her, I had to make amends. And last night, I did a very good job of it. The 2005 Chardonnay vintage in California is shaping up to be excellent, and maybe even great, and the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay fits right in. It’s not particularly oaky; in fact, I was surprised at how little oak there was, but there was so much of everything else that it didn’t need it. This is not a typical California Chardonnay with oak and vanilla and butter flavors that predominate. It is wonderfully balanced, with incredible layers of fruit and very interesting mineral hints that are a perfect counterpoint to the acid. But what is amazing is the richness that comes from the intensity of the flavors, rather than a hefty dose of new oak.
Unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive wine ($30 at deep discount), but if you are interested in an atypical California Chardonnay from an excellent vintage, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful example of some of Napa’s best Chardonnay.