Despite its popularity, chardonnay isn't a varietal I give much heed, in part because my preference in white wines runs more to sauvignon blanc, vermentino, albarino and riesling, in part because little notable chardonnay comes from my backyard, meaning the Sierra foothills, the Delta and Lodi.
Thus, today's opening round of the West Coast Wine Competition in Rohnert Park gave me a broad opportunity to catch up on chardonnay. It constituted the biggest class our four-person panel evaluated. There were 74 of them. The tasting is blind, so we don't know who made them or where they came from, though most no doubt originated with California producers. And we were told most were from the 2008 vintage.
Of the 74, seven got gold medals. I look forward to learning their identity at the end of the judging, especially the three chardonnays late in the lineup that got consecutive gold medals, an unusual development in any competition. Were they from the same region, made by the same winemaker? That's my hunch, but I could stand corrected. We'll find out Friday.
As to all the gold-medal chardonnays, they shared several traits. They were more dry than sweet, more lean than fat, more understated than blustery. Their fruit was clear, more on the tropical and citric side of chardonnay than the apple. Most had a welcome spiciness, and most were relatively restrained in their oak. While I might not be a big fan of chardonnay, I look forward to learning their identities, and to buying them for chardonnay fans who stop by during the approaching summer evenings.