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william hillAlthough still popular among casual wine drinkers, Chardonnay has taken a few hits to its reputation in recent years. The more committed wine drinking public today tends to pass on the fleshy, oaky, buttery style that California made popular in the 1980’s leaving wineries with a choice—please the masses with oak, butter, and sugar or please the wine intelligentsia with a more restrained, elegant style. I’m always interested to see how wineries negotiate this divide.

Like the biblical Solomon, this E.J. Gallo brand cuts the baby in half—put the butter and flesh up front and let the finish dance the ballet.

The wine greets you with a flashy nose of very ripe pear, honey, wet stone, and lemon zest against a vanilla background. Impressive intensity for the price. In the mouth it’s round, weighty and too sweet upfront, showing papaya and vanilla cream, but that bombast  gracefully fades to a quieter register with lime and a satisfying, stony undercurrent on  the finish. This transition is seamless but it’s nevertheless striking—a split personality effortlessly passing from voluptuous to lean and agile. A damaged personality but personality nevertheless, more than you can say for many wines in this price range.

Recommended if a bit of sweetness works for you, especially if you’re serving food on the sweet side.

Good natured, showy but graceful with a bit of zest like Annie Lennox’s Wonderful

Score: 87

Price: $12 (Purchase Here)

Alc: 13.8%

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