Over The Barrel: Two Chardonnays I Kinda Like

Last week’s heat wave aside, autumn is firmly upon us. I’m extremely seasonal not only in my eating but also in my drinking. Apples, pears and winter squashes have started to creep into more of my cooking – and oven roasting is whittling away at my time at the grill.

I’m still drinking local rose and sauvignon blanc, but perhaps a bit less. Instead, I’ve actually been reaching for chardonnay more often.

Yes, chardonnay. I know that’s a surprise to long-time readers – I’m on record as anything about a chardonnay fanatic – but it’s true. And here are two local versions that have served me well as my culinary life shifts with the season. [expand]

The first wine is Bedell Cellars 2010 Chardonnay ($20) a well-priced wine that marks winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich’s first chardonnay at Bedell Cellars, where there has been a sameness to the regular chardonnay bottling and the reserve at times. That sameness being oak – oak that stood out as a major flavor component.

Fermented half in stainless steel and half in neutral oak, all with ambient yeasts, this is chardonnay that tastes like chardonnay rather than the lumber yard.

Though dominated by somewhat typical juicy pear and apple aromas the nose also shows intriguing notes of lemon balm, crushed coriander seed and orange peel. The warmth of the season is captured on the palate, which is medium-bodied but still balanced with subtle, but fresh acidity. Flavors of pear, lemon and coriander seed leading into a mid-palate that shows a subtle richness and creaminess without being heavy or flabby. Showing good length, the finish ends with apple peel and seawater.

Most of my complaints about chardonnay – local or not – have to do with all of the oak used in the making of many. But, barrel-fermented chardonnay isn’t going away. It’s still popular with a subset of consumers and let’s face it – some of the best wines in the world are barrel fermented chardonnay.

I’m not going to compare Roanoke Vineyards 2009 Rhyme and Meter Chardonnay ($30) to those wines – White Burgundies that often exceed my wine buying budget – but this chardonnay is a nice example of local-barrel ferment.

Made by Roman Roth using fruit from Sam McCullough’s vineyard in Aquebogue, it was fermented entirely in oak barrels and went through 100% malolactic fermentation.

The nose shows a bushel full of peaches, pears and a bit of dried pineapple, with hints of butterscotch and citrus. Mouth-filling and lush, the palate shows intense fruit – pears, apples, pineapple and ruby red grapefruit. There is a succulence to the forward fruit flavors that balances the caramel-vanilla pretty well. While well-balanced, I could use a bit more acidity here. The finish is long and does show just a bit of raw oak there that detracts.

Make sure you don’t over chill either of these – you’ll lose the nuances and complexities.

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