Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Blind Tasting of French and California Chardonnay - Thanksgiving 2009

For this year’s Wait Family Thanksgiving dinner I decided to do a blind wine tasting side by side prior to, and then alongside our family meal. I chose two chardonnays, one from the France and the other from California both comparably priced ($27 and $30), served in the appropriate Reidel stemware.

Our first Chardonnay was the 2005 Pouilly-Fuissé Appellation d'origine contrôlée produced by Louis Jadot, imported by Kobrand Corporation, New York NY. Pouilly-Fuissé is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), “controlled term of origin” for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion Burgundy in central France, located in the communes of Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly, Vergisson and Chaintré. Maison Louis Jadot is a wine company (founded in 1859) that produces and markets Burgundy wine. They both their own vineyards and have a négociant business controlling 380 acres of vineyards in Burgundy including Beaujolais.

This wine is a fruit forward crisp chardonnay with tropical fruits, pineapple, melon, a light touch of oak with expressive minerals on the nose and palate. The finish is clean, silky with persisting fruit followed by a slight chalkiness and mineral notes on the return. The Chardonnay is slightly lower in alcohol (13%) than our second wine and hence seemed to have a lighter body.

Our second wine was a barrel-fermented 2006 Chardonnay from Fess Parker’s Ashley Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. I visited the winery in August 2009 while on a wine country tour along the California coast. Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard is on Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos, CA in the northern end of Santa Barbara County. The winery’s founder, Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. (born August 16, 1924), is an American film and television actor best known for his 1950’s portrayals of Davy Crockett for Walt Disney and of Daniel Boone in the late 1960s.

The Ashley Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, a 620-acre ranch named for Fess’ daughter, is only 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean making it the western most vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley growing appellation. This site is very cool with the gently sloping hillsides and the sandy-loam soils. They produce grow in this vineyard 150 acres of Pinot Noir, 15 acres of Chardonnay, 13 acres Pinot Blanc, 12 acres of Pinot Gris, and 10 acres of Syrah.

This wine is a clean, full-bodied, well-balanced, dry, Chardonnay. It has shades of straw-yellow with light gold hues from the body to the rim, displaying fresh peach, crisp apple, pineapple, grapefruit and lemon, hazelnuts, toasted almonds, lychee nut, and pie crust on the nose and palate accented by just a hint of vanilla on the back end. It is well structured and its profile is well-integrated with a prolonged clean, fresh fruit return and a nice creamy finish.

There were 2463 cases of this barrel fermented wine produced. It was aged in 40% French Oak (Sirugue, Darguad & Jaegle, De Murcurey, Ermitage, D’Aquitaine and Claude Gillet) for 10 months with a final alcohol of 14.5% (Brix: 25.3; T.A.: .819G/100ML; P.H.: 3.50).

Wine Comparison

Both wines were first tasted and evaluated blind side by side in individual glasses. Only the grape varietal was made known. Most of them preferred the Pouilly-Fuissé on its own stating that it was fruitier but preferred the Chardonnay from Fess Parker with the meal as it seemed to pair better with the turkey, stuffing and potatoes. One of my brothers stated that the Chardonnay from Fess Parker tasted “more expensive” while one of my sister-in-laws preferred the Pouilly-Fuissé all around.