Domestic Chardonnay doesn’t always get the love it deserves, but often that’s based on a misperception that there is a single style of Chardonnay coming out of the U.S. While there are certainly expressions of domestic Chard that don’t live up to our expectations, this same thing could be said about any region or variety — so why the shade towards Chard?
At Verve Wine, we hold our domestic Chardonnay to the same standards that we do every other wine on our shelves. The bottles we support are produced sustainably, reflect the soils from which they come, and above all, are super delicious to drink.
A Translation of Vineyard Diversity
One of the best things about Chardonnay is that it is somewhat of a chameleon grape, meaning that when minimally manipulated, it reflects the place from which it comes. Couple that with the fact that the variety can basically grow anywhere, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for some seriously site-specific wine.
Chardonnay’s transparency distinctly reflects our country’s plethora of diverse growing sites. As tasters, we are able to experience the difference in landscapes and climate conditions through various bottles of domestic Chardonnay. From sea-influenced expressions in Santa Barbara to cool-climate bottles in Oregon, we can’t think of a better way to taste your through the many viticultural gems that exist in our country. We recommend snagging a bottle from Oregon, Central California, and the North Coast (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, etc.) to get started.
It’s Not all Butter
Chardonnay or not, one thing’s for sure: When it comes to delicious wine, balance is always key. Contrary to popular belief, not all domestic Chardonnay is ‘buttery’ or ‘oaky.’ To us, this is basically an alternative way of saying ‘out of balance.’ Thankfully, there are so many domestic Chardonnay producers that eschew the use of chemicals, oak chips, and other flavoring agents and choose to put balance first.
Take Sandhi (Santa Barbara County) or Cruse (Sierra Foothills) for example. Although these wines are vinified in oak, the wood influence is balanced by fruit-driven flavors and ample amounts of natural acidity. When incorporated properly, oak can add structure, backbone, and pleasant spice-driven flavors. When oak is misused or overused, balance, quality, and overall terroir-reflection can fall out of whack.
It Always Has Our Back
Domestic Chardonnay is suited for year-round sipping. During autumn months, bottles with an unctuous yet balanced profile perfectly complement the savory flavors of fall dishes. In the winter, fuller-bodied expressions of domestic Chardonnay warm our bodies and provide perfect pours for sipping around the fireplace. In the spring, high-acid expressions provide the perfect transition from winter sipping to warm weather drinking, and by the time rosé fatigue rolls around in the summer, there’s generally always a bottle of domestic Chardonnay on the table to reignite our taste buds with something equally delicious.
Call it the Goldilocks of wine if you will. When it comes to finding the perfect bottle year-round, Chardonnay is generally always just right.
No Shortage of Talent
Although it can seem like the United States' winemaking scene is dominated by big-name brands, we assure you that for every mass producer that exists, a handful of talented small growers are scattered somewhere nearby. From the North Coast to Santa Barbara and everywhere in between, the USA is loaded with an insane amount of winemaking talent.
Our friends at Arnot-Roberts (North Coast), Lingua Franca (Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon), Presqu’ile (Santa Barbara), and Hirsch have totally nailed down what it means to create small-batch wines from family-owned facilities. If you’ve not checked out these producers out in the past, we definitely recommend giving them a go.
Domestic Chardonnay Makes Our Cellars Happy
In the world of ageworthy Chardonnay, domestic expressions often get placed on the back burner. It goes without saying that Burgundy and Champagne provide excellent references for laying down in the cellar, but that’s not to say that expressions produced in our own backyard are any less worthy.
When produced at the right hands, domestic Chardonnay can seriously withstand the test of time. While delicious now, these wines will bring you on an unforgettable tasting journey if you can hold out another decade or so. To read more on everything you need to know about aging wine, click here.
Discover Fine Chardonnay From Around the World
Jura: The Jura is a tiny region of eastern France, situated between Burgundy and Switzerland. Planted widely here, Chardonnay produces wine with zippy acidity yet maintains a degree of richness. While acclaimed for still versions, Chardonnay is gaining attention for bubbly potential, as the base wine for Crémant du Jura. One of our favorite Jura producers, Domaine du Pelican, works biodynamically here, so their releases are pure transfers of the treasured terroir.
Oregon: Behind Pinot Gris, Chardonnay is Oregon’s most-planted white wine grape. As Eric Asimov said in his column in The New York Times, “Oregon Chardonnay escapes the buttery clichés.” There is even an Oregon Chardonnay Celebration for the variety’s enthusiasts. There’s a long list of producers to try while settling into Oregon Chardonnay. Start with Evening Land, Walter Scott, or Lingua Franca.
Cool-climate Cali: Chardonnay grown in cooler spots around California generally offers crisp acidity and satisfying minerality. Spots such as Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, and parts of Santa Cruz Mountains are examples. Producers working this land are many, so get ready to taste quite a bit of quality Chard. We find that Failla, Hirsh, and Arnot-Roberts are excellent expressions of the category.
Argentina: International winemaker Paul Hobbs explored the potential of Argentine Chardonnay in the 80s and 90s, influencing quality around the country. Cooler climate spots in the Uco Valley, Salta, and Patagonia (home of Verve Wine gem Chacra) are held in high regard today.
South Africa: Chardonnay gained popularity in South African vineyards in the 1980s, and more and more wineries there are producing unoaked versions to convey the purity of terroir. Minerality and salinity balance with fruit and spice in the finest examples of the variety. Explore the site-specific releases from Storm to get the picture.
Australia: The name of the game in Australian Chardonnay is diversity. “Chardy” (as it is often called there) finds a home in vineyards all across the continent, and so there’s no shortage of variety. Chardonnay vineyards getting the most attention are those with cooler, maritime influences or a bit of altitude. Check out By Farr to see what we mean.