Chardonnay holds an important place in most American wine lovers’ hearts: It was probably the first white wine many of us tried from California. Whether fermented in stainless-steel tanks or small oak barrels, it is still the white that most Americans reach for in the wine shop or at the grocery store, and it’s present on countless restaurant wine lists. The variety has stayed constant, but the style and quality of these wines has evolved greatly over the decades.
Today, Chardonnay spans multiple styles. The butter-driven, high-alcohol style once synonymous with American Chardonnay—and the one that spurred the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) backlash—has given way to crisp, food-friendly offerings, more in step with the increasing American (and my own) taste for high-acid whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner.
Where once consumers and vintners couldn’t get enough of amped-up oaky richness, today, it’s a badge of honor to produce an unoaked Chardonnay that balances freshness and complexity. Ultimately, whether the style is unoaked or barrel-fermented, winemakers are producing delicious examples of this all-American variety at all price points.
California Editor Steve Heimoff joins other tasters of American wines on our panel to explore these diverse Chardonnay styles and top picks, revealing a few surprises along the way. From California, Washington, Virginia and beyond, American Chardonnay is an excellent summer sip that pairs with myriad dishes.
On the other side of the globe in South Africa, another white of complexity and elegance—Chenin Blanc—is making waves. Tasting Director Lauren Buzzeo explores the wines, faces and places of this iconic South African white.
Summer is the perfect season to experience Sonoma County’s bounty of epicurean delights, the focus of Contributing Editor Virginie Boone’s piece. This insider’s guide to the artisanal food-and-beverage scene for which the California county is famous is a mandatory read for anyone with a taste for the best in America’s burgeoning local culinary movement.
Wherever you are in the country, as you celebrate the Fourth of July and the summer months, raise a glass to the great things available to us on our own home soil.