Oyster Bay Marlborough Chardonnay 2005 Tasting Notes
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Oyster Bay Marlborough Chardonnay 2005 Tasting Notes

Please do not make the mistake of drinking this big Chardonnay too cold. You might not prefer white wines at room temperature as I do, but anything more than a light chill will tend to downplay the aromatic fugue inherent in this effort from Marlborough on New Zealand's South Island. You may need to do some legal research on this, but in the various overlapping jurisdictions in which I live and work, no law states that white wine must always be consumed chilled. If you allow this wine to speak without shivering, you will come to appreciate a basket of fruit, beautifully packaged in a mineral substrate, with a creamy mouth feel; a good deal of wine for $13.

Oyster Bay ferments half the Chardonnay in stainless steel, the other half in new and one-year-old French oak, with lees contact in both cases. The winemakers avoid malolactic fermentation in an effort to maintain the natural punch of the fruit. These, of course, are stylistic winemaking choices, and they work. You can tell that oak has been at work on this wine, but you cannot taste the oak per se. That is as it should be.

A straw-gold with glints of chartreuse, this Chardonnay has oodles of fruit, but the wine's minerality is first on the nose. I find it difficult to pin the minerality down to a single source, but it seems to at least make me muse back to the days I played with cap guns. The minerality makes way for fruit and texture on nose, palate, and on the crisp finish, but it refuses to retreat entirely. The key fruit on the nose is a ripe peach, with support from mango, lemon, and orange peel.

In the mouth, this dry wine has a lush creamy feel, but taste sensations steal the show. The peach is joined by apricot, the mango by pineapple, the orange peel by a faint touch of caramel. While well concentrated, the fruit flavors are also “horizontal” in that they communicate not just the essence of the fruit, but the fullness of the fruit's pulp. This is the kind of fruit that maintains its unflagging stamina without needing to taste like chewable Vitamin-C tablets.

Despite the forward character of the fruit, the wine has the mouth-filling wholeness I feel is characteristic of Chardonnay, though the Oyster Bay is unquestionably a New World manifestation of that grape. While the mineral lasts in every respect, the final word is direct fruit acidity. You can get all these sensations, and more depending on your mood, if you resist the urge to put this wine in the refrigerator.

Verdict: A Statement
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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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