Fetzer Valley Oaks California Chardonnay 2005 Tasting Notes
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Fetzer Valley Oaks California Chardonnay 2005 Tasting Notes

Fetzer Vineyards produces a serviceable Chardonnay for less than $10 (available for as little as $7 at some outlets). While it lacks the minerality I personally enjoy in a Chardonnay, it is correspondingly free of the oak that pulls all too many California Chardonnays down into the abyss of mediocrity. Only a third of the wine touches oak, and that during fermentation. What the wine offers in abundance is fruit, substantial body, a creamy mouth feel, and a refreshing finish.

I found the wine, which is a clear lemon straw, a bit tight on the nose, but digging deeper I found an aura of peach and light, warm lemon fruit to match the color. A further patient nosing gave me pineapple. The palate yields plenty of fruit acidity with a touch of complementary sweetness. Peach, lemon, and pineapple chime in at a higher level with grapefruit and green apple adding to the fruit-fest. The wine has also a creaminess enhanced by vanilla and baking spice (hint of clove), as well as caramel notes and a bit of candied fruit (and some fruit pucker) at the finish. Whether you wish to tie these all together into an apple-cinnamon pie with a baked vanilla glaze on top (or even a crème brûlée) is your affair. One thing that is certain is that oak would have sent all these elements to the locker room.


Verdict: Economical
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Oak fermenting and aging plays an important part in much of winemaking, but perhaps the American public is getting tired of tasting trees when they should be tasting fruit.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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