2012 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Rochioli-Allen

Chardonnay, especially when made in the United States, was a tough sell for me. I found the overly oaky, buttery styles heavy handed, clumsy, and really out of balance. It's not that I hate oak in white wine, or that I dislike the flavor profile of Chardonnay. I was having a specific negative reaction to the trend towards big and oaky wine that had been the standard in California for years. Fortunately, there are more than a few American winemakers who agree with me and make Chardonnay that I want to drink.

One such producer is Gary Farrell. I fell in love with the winery a few years back when I first visited Sonoma. I find Gary Farrell wines to not only be consistently well-made, but beautiful expressions of the grape with power, big flavor, yet still finesse and balance. It was Gary Farrell that helped me love Russian River Pinots and old vine Zinfandel, and today's Chardonnay is another gorgeous example. Yes, there is oak and a butteriness from the malolactic fermentation, but the wine is still fresh and vibrant. There is stone fruit and apple on the nose with a hint of orange and buttered toast coming through. There is enough acid for structure and a smooth, long finish that keeps you coming back. Really enjoyable today and I bet it'll only get better over the next few years.

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