PICKS of the RACK: Two Appealing Cool-Climate California Chardonnays

Girard ChardGirard | Russian River Valley | Sonoma County | California | 2012 | $20 | 90 pts

Based in Napa Valley, Girard Winery sources its Chardonnay from Dutton Ranch vineyards in Sonoma County’s cool-climate Russian River Valley (RRV). Dutton Ranch farms 1,100 acres of vineyards sustainably and organically, and is renowned for the quality of its fruit. This wine — from the region’s outstanding 2012 vintage — is a worthy introduction to the pleasures of RRV Chardonnay. It offers aromas that suggest honeydew melon, caramel, and mineral; followed by flavors reminiscent of ripe pear, toasted biscuit, and macadamia nut that linger over a long, honeyed finish. The wine is full-bodied, richly textured, and melodious on the palate, with vivid acidity and a generous measure of vanilla-tinged oak (it aged 11 months in French oak, 35% new).

Fountain Grove (4)

Fountain Grove | Los Carneros | Napa County | California | 2013 | $20 | 89 pts

This Chardonnay is sourced from another cool-climate growing region — Los Carneros — on the southern end of Napa County. Named for the long-abandoned Fountain Grove Winery in Santa Rosa, it offers aromas that suggest dulce de leche, honeysuckle, and orange zest; followed by flavors that bring to mind tropical fruit, baked peach, and crème brûlée, all framed by the essence of toasty oak. Like its counterpart from the RRV, this Chardonnay is full-bodied, rich, and deeply layered, with a brisk acidity that brings all the big flavors into balance.

Both of these wines hit all the hallmarks of California Chardonnay — ripe, buttery fruit framed by vanilla-tinged, toasty oak (just to simplify) — but they also have assertive acidity (a hallmark of cool-climate wines) that lends harmony, freshness, and versatility. Serve them with mild to medium-sharp cheeses, cream- or butter-based seafood dishes (especially crab and lobster), roasted pork loin, and herb-encrusted rotisserie chicken.

Availability: We found these Chardonnays at our local Total Wine location. For local availability, visit them virtually at www.totalwine.com.

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