TN: '96 Sterling Chardonnay - Printable Version

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- Van The Man - 08-15-1999 01:20 PM

Good grief! Right after I tee off on the stuff I write a note about it....

Can't help it though, I get these ina club I belong to and can only give so much away....

1996 Sterling Chardonnay, Winery Lake Vineyard; Carneros – Napa Valley (CA, US) - $18.00

Deeply colored, rich and golden in appearance. On the nose, big, lush, sweet honey, fig, baked apple pie and cream with a bit too much toasty oak. On the palate, big, huge, tropical and smooth with a fairly heavy toasted oak envelope wrapped around it. Smooth, round and well balanced in terms of structure, this wine will likely improve for the short term. This is not my preferred style of wine, but if one seeks out those 90 point and higher Chardonnays as rated by the Wine Spectator, this is your wine!

- Randy Caparoso - 08-15-1999 06:13 PM

Never mind the oak or stylistic questions, Van, did it taste good to you? Did you enjoy it with your food, company, and in the context of the occasion? That's all that matters.

Just bringing this up because I'm often shocked to find myself enjoying wines which I would normally not touch on paper. I will confess, if you will, not enjoying Chardonnays in certain situations because I found it to be overly oaked, alcoholic or just plain harsh; and sometimes, underoaked, plain, light and simple. It's funny, however how circumstances can change one's outlook!

- Van The Man - 08-15-1999 07:46 PM

Randy -

Hmmmmm, okay, yes, it tasted good, but it was a VERY poor match with my food which was lobster and schrod sauteed in butter, wine, garlic, shallot and shitake mushroom and then served on a bed of angel hair pasta. The wine just, as I've said, reached out, screamed "here I am you SOB and to he77 with your food, I'm the center of attention and no, I don't want to share the stage." (Did that make sense? <g> )

It was too much wine for the food.....and that's a huge bitch I have with the style.

In another post you mentioned something about haveing wine by itself....I thik that's about the only way to really appreciate a Cal Chard.....and I really spend the majority of my time making a match, food and wine......

- Randy Caparoso - 08-15-1999 07:57 PM

Well, Van, I have to totally agree -- that lobster, shrod, garlicy butter match with the heavy, oaky Chard does sound something awful. In fact, I generally have very poor results with lobster in almost all facets with Chardonnay. Although a lot of people think rich fish/rich wine is the way to go, I think that when it comes to heavy Chard, lobster is way too rich. That Chablis you mentioned probably would have done a decent job. But if you asked me, I would have prepared a crisp but silky, or slightly creamy, style of Sauvignon Blanc -- the elevated acidity, lighter body and flinty or lightly herbal/leafy taste certainly would have better balanced out the heavy, sweet lobster meat, salty/fishy schrod and earthy shiitakes; and a faint sense of creaminess in the texture (say, in a Sauvinon Blanc with a touch of oak, such as Mondavi's or Duckhorn's) would have cozied up with the butter that was probably dripping into the pasta.

- Jason - 08-15-1999 08:20 PM

I think once you reach a certain point of richness, you need to go with a wine of contrast. We've all been trained to pair like with like, but foods such as lobster and Cali chard just compete and wind up coating your tongue.
I like to go the high acid route and this allows you to taste the food better because your palate is clean. One of my favorites is Champagne, shrimp cocktail and a soft cheese.

- Van The Man - 08-16-1999 04:24 AM

Jason -

Agree. I would have loved a bottle of Champagne or a crisp sparkler. That would have worked well.

Randy -

Agree to an SB but I probably would have gravitated toward the Loire. A nice Pouilly Fume or Sancere would have been great here.

I used to buy quite a lot of CA SB and alas, I've gotten away from that as well. In fact, can't remember buying even a single bottle this past summer for personal. Instead, I bought whatever '96 Loire I could find remaining.

In general, I'm finding the California vintners are beginning to turn SB into Chard's little brother and for the life of me, I don't know why.....wait a sec, yes I do know why: Because the American Palate seems to prefer oak and they show this by way of how they spend their dollars. And I s'pose I have my own ideas about who and what is driving this. [img][/img]

I do like the Duckhorn and I like the Cakebread SB and there are a few others I like, such as Rochioli, etc. But now for the other factor: they are not a particularly good value to me anymore when I can get a super wine from Sancere for $12 to $15. <shrug>

But you know something, I do entertain a good bit and I do, occassionally, have to buy these California wines for lack of choice and I do buy them. And when I can find one that's well balanced, they are good wines, if not too expensive....

- Randy Caparoso - 08-17-1999 01:51 AM

Well, I'm always nitpicking, gentlemen, as you probably already know. Re: Sancerre is an ideal lobster wine; but if too much butter and especially garlic is involved, it really is not the best at all. It's too pure and too light, and would either make too much of a contrast (acid/oil) or just be overwhelmed. That's why I suggest a moderately oaked Sauvignon Blanc (or moderately oaked Pinot Gris) for Van's dish -- the idea is to get just enough acidity (certainly a lot more than in Chardonnay), but also with just enough creaminess in the texture to create a common ground with the butter, and just enough fruitiness of California grown fruit to handle garlic (which creates more of a Meditereranean/California context, as opposed to cold climate French context in which Sancerre belongs) with aplomb.

This is the type of anal analysis you get when a restaurateur, who usually operates with a fairly full palette, gets involved with food/wine matching. Sorry, can't help it.

- Van The Man - 08-17-1999 06:33 AM

Don't be sorry, that was a great analysis and it's what I'm trying to learn more about.

One clairification....

I didn't really choose the Sterling Chard on purpose. I knew the wine would not go well with what I prepared.....I do wish I would have known how good it was going to be though as I would have been more careful.

It happened to be a rare night when I was at home and my wife was traveling. I knew she didn't like this wine and I knew I could drink it and in fact, wanted to try it as I had not had it before. (I get it from a club I belong to) So that was it.

In truth, the perfect match for that dinner would have been either a New England Chard or possibly a Long Island Chard.....or I suppose a nice Burg. The New England chards are JUST as you describe, enough fruit to work with the garlic, a creaminess in the texture and just a touch of oak, kept in balance. And had my wife and I been home together, I would have chosen a local wine.

- Randy Caparoso - 08-17-1999 10:58 PM

Oh, I knew that the match wasn't planned. But that's the way things are, aren't they?

It brings back nineteen years or so when I was still an eager-beaver young sommelier, and I happened to have struck up a good conversation with a fairly new, innovative California winemaker at a local wine store. We both had some hot, new Chards to taste and so I suggested that we go my home and do some serious blind tasting. I called my wife at home and asked her about the dinner; and she said everything was perfect, because she had prepared a wonderful chicken dinner. "You're gonna love it," she reassured me.

I remember, then, walking through the door with my newfound friend and immediately getting hit in the nose with powerful aromas of ginger, garlic, and watercress, which she had cooked in a stew with the chicken. Of course, it was one of my favorite dishes -- an exotic, Hawaiian style stew -- but I think I upset her quite a bit when my face fell and I sort of whispered, "Did it have to be ginger watercress chicken!? This dish will absolutely destroy the Chards!" When I think back, I sure was an insensitive a-word in those days (and I don't mean just "anal").

Anyhow, we all eventually got over it. Yes, the Chards were pretty awful with the dinner. But luckily, this winemaker also happened to have brought an additional wine, which was something of a specialty of his -- a feathery light, fragrant, off-dry Muscat Blanc. And guess what... it was absolutely fabulous with the chicken! So all's well that end's well, I guess.