Good deeds call for good wines. Squealing kids, talkative presenters, pompous panelists, committee conversations, the event cash box. Keeping a lid on all that, without offending, can be challenging. Unless you’re my friend T.
T is one of the smartest people I know. An unassuming former university professor who speaks Italian, she’s also a mom, wife and devoted daughter plus – and this role awes me most – the elected president of our local school board. That’s the volunteer equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, in my book. A very, very good deed, because it involves more than love and passion. It takes brainpower.
Speaking of brainpower, French writer Alexandre Dumas (of The Three Musketeers fame) once called wine the “intellectual part of the meal.” So when T told me she loves oaky chardonnay, I was surprised. To most wine experts, oaky chardonnay is the adult equivalent of, well, Lunchables. Or Tab. Or Doritos (my favorite food, just ask my kids).
Oaky “big bottle” Chardonnay mostly comes from industrial batches of wine that have been in contact with oak for so long that the vanilla flavors from the wood mask the grape’s natural taste. Or, if it’s a more sophisticated, smaller batch wine, the tannins from too much oak can leave a dry feeling in your mouth.
As my husband put it, “oaky chardonnay is like a woman with too much makeup on.” In response to that, I’m sure T would say, “what’s wrong with a little makeup?”
To put it mildly, Chardonnay is a touchy subject in wine circles. So here I’m offering two good takes on Chardonnay: oaked and un-oaked. You choose. I’m done passing judgment on people’s choice in wine. And I think T would welcome either one after the next school board meeting.
Two good Chardonnays
White Oak Chardonnay 20II
$24 on White Oak Winery website
In general, California Chardonnays are oaky wines. Those from Russian River Valley are less so and better balanced, I think, than those from Napa Valley. I enjoyed this rich, buttery Russian River Valley Chardonnay at The Stained Glass, a wine bar and bistro in Evanston, IL but you can also buy it from the company website (above).
Ardèche Chardonnay 2012
$9.99 at Binny’s
French Chardonnays are traditionally less oaky. Most come from the expensive Burgundy region, but this well-made value Chardonnay is from the nearby Ardèche hills. With aromas of honey and almond plus full peach taste without sweetness, this is my go-to Chardonnay, all year round. The perfect “nice glass of white.” At a very nice price.