Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Chardonnay, 2013

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20180706_164834.jpg

Grape: Chardonnay (at least 85% by law)

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2013

ABV: 10.5%

Purchased for $12 (Meijer)

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Sweet cream butter, papaya, mango, orange com? con? cow? (notes unclear)

Palate: Medium sweet. Butter, golden apple.

Finish: Pineapple, butter.

Parting words: Chateau Grand Traverse has a history of producing uncommon wines along with quality grocery-store varietals. This is one of the former, obviously. Before this bottle, I’d had late harvest Gewürztraminer and Riesling, obviously, but I had never even heard of late harvest Chard.

The result is very nice. It’s fuller-bodied than the usual style of Chard with big tropical fruit drenched in butter. I expected it to be sweeter than it was, but that may be due to the cool vintage. I’m eager to try a 2016 CGT Late Harvest Chard. Pick me up a bottle if you see one. 2013 Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Chardonnay is recommended.

 

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30 Year Vineyard Anniversary Reserve Chardonnay

Maker: Chateau Chantal, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20180314_214642.jpg

Grape: Chardonnay

Place of origin: Chateau Chantal estate, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Oaked Chardonnay

ABV: 13.6%

Purchased for $30 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room, Auburn Hills).

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Oak, roux.

Palate: Buttered toast with marmalade and a slice of melon on the side.

Finish: Sage, lemon zest. Fruit fades, but butter lingers.

Parting words: Last week I reviewed Chateau Chantal’s 30 Year Vineyard Anniversary Reserve Riesling, so this week it’s the Chard’s turn. I usually like to review wines that have spent more time in the bottle than these, but since they’re special releases that will likely sell out quickly, I thought I should go ahead and review both.

It helps that they’re both very good! The Riesling, while good now, is a year or more away from its peak as I said in my review last week. This Chardonnay is firing on all cylinders right now. I’m sure it would hold up fine with another year or two in a cellar, but why wait? It’s already delicious. For me to enjoy an oaked Chard, there have to be other things going on besides oak and butter. Oak and malo flavors are in the foreground here without question, but there is enough fruit and acid to round things out. More than that, this is one of the best examples of this style in Michigan.

Like the Riesling, the only place to get this wine is at the Chateau or at the Auburn Hills location of Michigan by the Bottle. Unlike the Riesling, the 30 year Chard is on the menu, so I would guess that more of it was produced, but why wait? Go out and buy some now. Chateau Chantal 30 Year Anniversary Reserve Chardonnay is highly recommended.

Lawton Ridge Vintner’s Select Chardonnay, 2013

Maker: Lawton Ridge Winery, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA20171113_102251.jpg

Grape: Chardonnay (at least 85%)

Place of origin: Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2013

Style: Oaked, malolatic fermented Chardonnay

ABV: 12.7%

Price: $15 (winery)

Appearance: Very pale gold.

Nose: Creamy, slightly bitter, French oak, lemon thyme.

Palate: Full-bodied and medium sweet. Oak, citrus peel, white peach, pineapple sage.

Finish: Clean and fruity with a hint of oak.

Parting words: Lawton Ridge winery is located west of Kalamazoo, Michigan, but thier vineyards (around 10 acres planted) are near Lawton, Michigan, south of Paw Paw. It has been in commercial operation since 2005 or so. According to their website, they pride themselves on producing terroir-focused food-friendly wines.

This Chardonnay was one of my favorites when we visited the tasting room last year. It’s a departure from their standard, all stainless Chard. According to the label, this wine is finished in oak barrels for three months immediately before bottling. It’s a good example of judicious use of oak in Chard. It has a hint of the brown butter aroma that California Chardonnay is known for, but it’s balanced by fruit and herbal aromas. It’s one of the best oaked Michigan Chards I’ve had and a steal at $15. 2013 Lawton Ridge Vintner’s Select Chardonnay is highly recommended.

 

Wyncroft Avonlea Chardonnay 2011

Maker: Wyncroft/Marland, Pullman, Michigan, USA20170502_111830

Place of origin: Avonlea vineyard, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

ABV: Unknown.

Price: $35 (Michigan by the Bottle, Auburn Hills)

Appearance: Medium gold with a thin robe.

Nose: Rancio, golden raisins.

Palate: Full bodied and medium sweet. Sherry, gruyere cheese, sweet butter, hint of oak.

Finish: Sweet. Apricot, croissants.

Parting words: Wyncroft/Marland is a very limited production, estate winery in the Southwestern Michigan co-owned by winemaker Jim Lester. Jim was one of the earliest boutique winemakers in Michigan, as he frequently reminds people. He’s one of the rare big talkers who lives up to his own hype, though.  The Wyncroft label is used for limited production estate wines with Marland used for their line of more affordable wines from vineyards they don’t own. I’m very fond of his reds, but I haven’t always liked his whites. It’s not that they’re inconsistent, it’s that I haven’t always enjoyed the style in which they’ve been made. No accounting for taste, as they say.

Avonlea vineyard is Wyncroft’s flagship, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. Avonlea was hit hard by the Polar Vortex in 2014 with substantial loss of Chardonnay vines, according to Wyncroft’s website. The surviving Chardonnay vines had their fruit devoured by a murder of crows shortly before harvest. The damaged area has been replanted. In the meantime the 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages are available.

This heavy, buttery style of chardonnay is not my favorite, especially not when from Michigan. Avonlea Chardonnay was pleasant but heavy handed  when first opened. As it opened up, it became even more unbalanced and took on unpleasant oxidized and burnt butter flavors. Even Mrs. Sipology, who normally enjoys oaky chards, didn’t like it. I can’t say I liked it either. I don’t know if this wine is flawed or tainted (I don’t think it’s the latter) or what, but I really can’t recommend it, especially not at $35.

Moraine Vineyards Chardonnay, 2012

Maker: Dablon Vineyards, Baroda, Michigan, USAwp-1484144619731.jpg

Place of origin: Moraine (now Dablon) estate, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Unoaked, dry Chardonnay.

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13.1%

Price: $20 (winery)

Appearance: Light gold.

Nose: Tangerine, brown butter, peach, mango, minerals.

Palate: Dry. Butter, melon, mineral water, banana.

Finish: Bitter butter batter, gravel dust.

Parting words: 2012 is a vintage best known for its excellent reds in LMS and the northern Michigan AVAs. The whites I’ve had from 2012 have been inconsistent, even from large producers. I tasted this wine at the Dablon tasting room and I was pleasantly surprised.

Moraine Vineyards Chardonnay is unusual for Michigan.  The unoaked ones tend to be round, fruity and mild but Moraine is boldly dry, even drier than its ABV would suggest. It’s more like a Chablis or Mâconnais than a  typical Michigan Chard. Fatty fish or creamy cheese would be excellent pairings, but chicken and pork chops would work too. I really enjoyed this wine. Worth the money and then some. 2012 Moraine Vineyards Chardonnay is highly recommended.

Hawthorne Barrel Reserve Chardonnay

Maker: Hawthorne Vineyards, Traverse City, Michigan, USAwp-1472691746227.jpg

Style: Oak aged Chardonnay (17 months in oak).

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2013

ABV: 12.3%

Price: $22 (winery)

Appearance: Bright straw.

Nose: Brown roux, lemon thyme, oak.

Palate:Mandarin orange, bitter oak.

Finish: Strong oak with a bit of tartness and sweetness.

Parting words: This is a pretty good buttery, oaky  Chardonnay. I was a big fan of it at the winery but for whatever reason (probably the state of my palate), it’s not thrilling me currently. Nothing remotely objectionable here, though. It’s not complex but it does serve up pleasant citrus, butter and oak flavors. The oak is strong but some people like that sort of thing (even I do sometimes). If you’re a fan of big Cali Chards, you will also enjoy 2013 Hawthorne Barrel Reserve Chardonnay. It is recommended.

Wente Vineyard Riva Ranch, 2013

Maker: Wente, Livermore, California, USA20160224_170838-1.jpg

Place of origin: Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California, USA

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for around $20 (lost the receipt)

Appearance: Light gold,

Nose: Canned pears, lychee, dab of brown butter.

Palate: Medium sweet. Golden apples, then buttery with a little bitter oak on the back end.

Finish: Oak, then green apple with a little bit of butter, then acrid oak.

Parting words: I don’t remember where I picked this up. It may have been Trader Joe’s. Before I dove into Michigan wine, I used to buy a lot of California Chardonnay, especially Wente. It’s nice to go back and check out a wine like that, especially a line extension like this Riva Ranch Single Vineyard. Riva Ranch is a Wente family owned vineyard.

It’s firmly in the California style, of course, Wente being one of the inventors of that style. Going by memory, it’s more intensely flavored than Morning Fog and as it warms up some unpleasant bitter tastes creep in, but overall it’s a tasty wine. I would appreciate more fruit, but those who enjoy the oaky/buttery style of Chard will probably enjoy this more than I.

The price is fair (though I wouldn’t pay much more than $20) and it’s nice that it’s single vineyard. Wente’s Riva Ranch Single Vineyard is recommended.

Verterra Reserve Chardonnay

Maker: Verterra, Leland, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-03-25-14.54.50.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

Price: $20 (website)

ABV: Unknown (not listed on label or received from producer by press time)

Appearance: Medium gold with some necklacing.

Nose: Butter, toasted oak, plum, white peach, mineral water.

Palate: Golden delicious apple, lychee, oak, white pepper.

Finish: Chewy oak, canned pear, brown butter.

Parting words: Verterra is one of the best producers on Leelanau and it shows in this wine. They make two Chards, an unoaked (a popular style in these parts) and this one that spent several months in french oak before being bottled, also undergoing malolactic fermentation. It tastes pretty Californian to me, which isn’t a bad thing if you like that style like I do (usually).

As the wine sat and warmed in the glass, some of the fruit seemed to disappear, which was disappointing. It was still tasty, just not quite so well balanced as it was when the cork first came off. Unfortunately, due to poor meal planning, I was unable to taste it with food, but based on experience with similar wines I think it would pair well with chicken, swordfish, shark and the like. The price is very nice for a quality Michigan wine. The 2012 Verterra Reserve Chardonnay is recommended.

L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs

Maker: L. Mawby, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USAMawby B de B

Grape: Chardonnay

Place of origin: Leelenau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Brut sparkling wine.

ABV: 11%

Purchased for $21.

Notes: Whole cluster pressed. Méthode traditionnelle. Cuvee 206. More information on label.

Appearance: Pale gold and very effervescent.

Nose: Dry apple cider, limestone, dried flowers.

Palate: Bubbly and light. Ripe golden apple and Bosc pear, with a hint of meyer lemon and mineral water.

Finish: Quite dry with more mineral notes and a tiny tang on the back end.

Parting words: All L. Mawby does is sparkling wine, and they do it well. The flagship L. Mawby wines are made using the méthode traditionnelle used for Champagne.

I have virtually no knowledge of Champagne but from the few tastes I’ve had of the real stuff, this wine fits the profile of brut Champagne. Most Michigan sparklers are backyard quaffing material, which is just fine, but if you’re looking for a step up, the Mawby Blanc de Blanc is a good option. It’s just fine with traditional white wine fare, but it works best as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres or as the first round of a celebration (before the cheap stuff comes out). L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs is recommended.

 

Alamos Chardonnay

Maker: Alamos, Tunuyán, Argentina

Place of origin: Mendoza, Argentina

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Brassy gold.

Nose: oak, lemon zest, thyme.

On the palate: Medium bodied and medium sweet. Brown butter, clementine, white pepper.

Finish: A little tart but fades into pretty heavy oak. Not pleasant, but not unbearable.

Parting words: This wine was the result of another grocery store shelf dig.  I hadn’t had a chard for a while and I was looking for one with some good age on it from somewhere that wasn’t California or Burgundy and this wine fit the bill.

It’s not bad really. It’s overoaked in the standard New World style, but not by much. I can see this wine going well with fairly standard seafood or roast chicken dishes. On its own, it’s a good enough for a weeknight or a casual chat with friends. The price is a little high for this sort of thing ($13) but it’s not outrageous either. My only criticism is the finish. Maybe a little less oak would have taken some of the bitterness out of the finish. Anyway, Alamos 2008 Chardonnay is recommended.