In this review: J Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay, Catena 2008 Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina.
I received the J Vineyards and Cupcake vineyards wines as samples and I decided to purchase the Catena and batch taste all three, to get a relative sense of how they compare. I tasted all three wines over a six day period tasting a half bottle each night, starting with J Vineyards and finishing with Catena.
J Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Production: 6,000 cases
Aging: 100% barrel fermented in 60 gallon Burgundian Oak, 40% new. 6 months of malolactic fermentation. 1 year of rest between bottling and release.
Lemon and honey on the nose, the palate is smooth and creamy almost like Creme Brule. There is a hint of toasted oak, or almond on the back-end. I was quite surprised with how well-balanced this wine was. Not that I was expecting it to be out of balance, but it was just really nice to have a great balance of fruit, oak, acidity, all the aspects that need to come together to make a wine enjoyable. The retail price of $28 might be a little steep when compared to equally great wines from other regions of the world, but compared within the Russian River Valley and Burgundy it is quite reasonable. I would purchase this wine for a special occasion.
Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay
Production: 100,000 cases
Aging: 9 months in American Oak
I think of myself as generally a nice guy and so I find it difficult to be critical, having met wine makers and knowing how much of their heart and soul they put into their work. However, this wine fell far short of what I could call enjoyable. I could barely pick up anything on the nose, maybe citrus and oak? The palate was weak, one dimensional and thin. There can be no missing the oak, if you like lots of oak and butter this might be more your style. I don’t know what’s going on here but I far prefered the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc.
Catena 2008 Chardonnay, Mendoza Argentina
Aging: 9 months sur la lies in 100% French Oak, 35% new
On the nose this wine is very aromatic. Almost explosively floral with spicy green apple citrus aroma that you can actually feel attacking your nostrils (in a good way) and even on the second day. On the palate this wine is deliciously juicy, rich and complex. Weighty in texture like cream, with a nice long smooth finish. Definitely the clear winner out of the three and at $13.99 it is an insane value. Interesting to note that the fruit for this wine comes from 3 vineyards ranging in elevation from 3,000 to 5,000 feet. I would like to try more high elevation Chardonnay and see if it is all this impressive!
Conclusion: Catena was the clear winner because of its richness and complexity and great value. Not far behind was J Vineyards. If you like your Chards a little less over the top, lighter on the oak and butter then you might even place this wine above the Catena. Cupcake Vineyards has a bit of work to do for the 2010 vintage in order to compete.