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.


Arcturos 2010 Sur Lie Chardonnay

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Capella Vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan

Style: Unoaked Chardonnay

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Pale gold

Nose:  apricot, pear, tangerine.

On the palate: Medium bodied and medium sweet. Slightly tart but easy going with lots of varietal character. More apricot, blood orange, pink grapefruit.

Finish: Slightly bitter and citric, moves from pink to white grapefruit.

Parting words: This is an unoaked Chardonnay, but it still is very much a Chardonnay. Lots of that fruity but medium dry Chard character. I’ll admit, I’m not as fond of the product of this grape as I once was. This is a nice enough wine, and it’s a nice change of pace from oaky California Chards, even if it doesn’t really impress. The wife thinks it tastes like a Vihno Verde, and I can see what she means. I doubt Chardonnay will ever reach the heights that Riesling does in Michigan, but if winemakers continue to be creative, Chard may have a place. At any rate, Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay is mildly recommended

Trapiche Oak Cask Chardonnay

Maker: Trapiche, Mendoza, Argentina

Importer: Wildman

Grape: Chardonnay

Region: Mendoza, Argentina

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Bright gold. A very pretty wine.

Nose: Woody and creamy, a little bitter.

On the palate: Slightly sweet with a big hit of oak and brown (possibly burnt) butter. The wood is over the top and completely overwhelms whatever sweet or delicate flavors this wine may have. Its price would indicate that this is intended to be a table-quality varietal. There is so much wood here that it clashes with food and produces nasty bitter flavors, even with chicken soup.

Finish: Bitter and astringent. Even worse with food. Very unpleasant.

Parting words: My expectations for this wine were simple. I wanted a chard with a bit of wood and sweetness that would pair well with chicken. I figured Trapiche is a reputable producer, Mendoza is a fine region, Chard should be easy for them to grow there, and the time it spent in the bottle should have smoothed any rough edges it may have had, so this should satisfy my simple needs. I was wrong. This is a terrible wine, one that I wouldn’t even give to a carrion-eating scavenger like the Andean condor on the label. Trapiche Oak Cask Chardonnay is highly not recommended.