Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve Chardonnay 2006
Gallo produces a Sonoma County Chardonnay that pushes past the usual quality envelope for
its $15 price range without in any sense losing its integral balance. While the watchword for
this wine, from the vineyard to the bottle, is care and control, the result is nevertheless warm,
fragrant and a touch playful.
Greenish gold in the glass, the Chardonnay has a very clean nose, with pronounced intensity, and aroma notes of fresh lime, white flowers, a light minerality, apricot jam, and fresh cream.
The palate is something else again: fruit in several ranges. It shows a clear direction in tree fruit with both apple and pear, stone fruit in peach, tropical fruit in pineapple and mango with a back-note of just picked banana. The wine has both buttery and toasty notes, but neither loses its proper place; the butter I did taste was soft and creamy, and there was no protruding oak. The finish is crisp and yet, since the acid is counterbalanced by a dollop of sweet, it exudes warmth. The fruit is of the solid variety, the kind you want to bite; we aren't fighting with extract or candy. At 13.9% alcohol, there is some heat.
Chardonnay should fill the mouth and stimulate the senses with a cloud rather than a punch,
and this well-made wine qualifies. It takes a stand in a certain stylistic direction, yet if you
are more a fan of the steely type of Chardonnay, you may well still be able to appreciate the
balance and quality fruit this wine brings to the glass (though if you cannot live without oak,
look elsewhere). With 35,000 cases produced, it should be a mainstream market player.
Verdict: A fine effort
Chardonnays are ubiquitous in the world of wine; they can take so many forms of expression. As used to the grape as we may be, we keep reaching for it.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman