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mt eden chardChardonnay remains the favorite white wine among consumers. But among wine connoisseurs, sommeliers, and wine writers, the anything-but-Chardonnay crowd appears to be winning. The explanation for Chardonnay’s diminishing reputation is not hard to discern. We grew tired of the flabby, oaky, buttery monsters coming out of California in the early 2000s and began to search for something with more finesse. Winemakers have backed off that dated style and most Chardonnays today are  more restrained, with less overt oak, and more acidity. But the problem is that Chardonnay, left to its own devices, is not very interesting. It lacks the range of Riesling or the intensity of Sauvignon Blanc. It benefits from some careful but creative winemaking, a little oak, some resting on the lees, judicious malolactic fermentation, etc.

Chardonnay is like most of us. Naked we’re nothing special. But with a good tailor and some dressing up we can make make a good showing.

Yet every once in awhile someone strikes a perfect balance of pure Chardonnay fruit expression and the deft use of oak that marries classic Chardonnay style with a contemporary mineral-driven flair. When that happens it’s an unbeatable grape. This one from Mt. Eden comes close to some of the better wines of Burgundy.

An introduction of buttered toast, hazelnuts and roasted pear with floral highlights gives way to lemony citrus aromas exhibiting great clarity and focus. In the mouth it’s creamy elegance, soft but vibrant evolving splendidly into a burst of bright mineral matchstick tones and a long graceful finish of green apple.

Sophisticated with a toney, uptown attitude—10 months on the lees in a mix of new and 1 year-old French oak will do that. Full malolactic fermentation.

Toney, up-town sophistication. Only Steely Dan gets this right.

Score: 94

Price: $60

Alc: 13.5%

Thanks to the Sommelier Company for making this available.