May 1 2015 06:11 PM

Only one is 'just right' for this taster

wente_chardonnay
Photo by Jen Van Tieghem

National Chardonnay Day is a thing I never thought I'd give a damn about. I'm typically turned off by California's golden grape, with buttery versions being too rich and lighter versions too bland. But as the "holiday" approaches (May 21) I decided to give one well-known brand of Chardonnays another a shot. 

Self-proclaimed as "California's first family of Chardonnay," Wente Vineyards boasts four Chardonnays in its lineup, a couple of which are available at shops and restaurants around town. As a spoiled wine writer, though, I was able to try three of Wente's Chards in the comfort of my home, comparing the 2014 Eric's Chardonnay, 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay and the 2013 Riva Ranch Chardonnay. 

I was first drawn to Eric's because it's an unoaked version. My foremost problem with many California Chardonnays is the overpowering butter flavors and heavy mouth feel that comes with oak aging. This wine delivered an expected light feeling and crisp flavors, but was much more interesting than other unoaked Chardonnays. My mom, who absolutely loves a rich, buttery Chard, said this was the best unoaked version she had tried, and I had to agree. 

On the other side of the spectrum was the Riva Ranch. This wine was mostly a typical Chard, with creaminess in flavor and texture. The nose held a spicy vanilla component, which matched some of the more subtle notes. I found it more palatable than many heavier Chardonnays I've been subjected to, though still a bit too creamy. 

Falling in the middle of the others was the Morning Fog. It held a heavenly banana cream pie scent with a slight citrus flavor. As the wine developed in the glass, it took on faint notes of peach and apricot. One of the strangest, yet appealing, scents I found in this wine was candle wax. And though I expected to like the Eric's version the best, I found myself revisiting this wine the most. The half-oak, half-stainless-steel aging created a balanced wine that was neither too tart, nor too creamy. If Goldilocks had been in the habit of pilfering wine instead of porridge, I think she, too, would have found this one "just right." 

Write to jenv@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_VT.

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