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Oct 14, 2008 06:16 PM

Can you really get "Oaky" Chard. for under $10 ??

Wine store guy told me this Chardonnay was "really oaky and buttery".
I had it alongside a dry Reisling.
The difference was NOT as stark some some people insinuate. (oaky vs. non-oaked)
It was subtle, at best.
I wrote it off to my newbie tongue.

Then I read that oaky wine is more expensive, since its an expensive process.
Do you think this $8 Chard was not TRULY oaky, or maybe just had some oak chips sprinkled in it?

Do you think I should fork over $20 for a "true" oaky chard,
and do my taste test again ?

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  1. Oak for aging is expensive. Oak CHIPS for flavor is not.

    Try Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay, or (even oakier) Lindemans "Padthaway" Chardonnay . . .

    1. If I may ask: why are you looking for "oaky" ?

      1. Probably there was no oak in the chardonnay and the salesman didn't know what he was talking about. The difference is stark. Riesling, if it's made in barrels, is made in neutral oak.
        Can you remember the name of the chardonnay?

        5 Replies
        1. re: SteveTimko

          >>> Riesling, if it's made in barrels, is made in neutral oak. <<<

          So, too, are a number of Chardonnays . . .

            1. re: 914NYC

              OK, first of all . . .


              Dona Sol is a label only, not a winery. Part of the Bronco portfolio, along with names like Charles Shaw* (aka Two Buck Chuck), Black Mountain, CC Vineyards, Coastal Ridge, Coastal Vines, Congress Springs*, Crane Lake, Domaine Laurier*, Domaine Napa*, Estrella*, Fat Cat, Forest Glen, Forest Hill, ForestVille, Foxbrook, FoxHollow, Grand Cru*, Hacienda*, JW Morris*, JFJ Winery*, Laurier*, Montpellier*, Napa Creek*, Napa Crossing, Napa Landing, Napa Ridge (Once a label belonging to Beringer), Napa River, Quail Creek, Quail Ridge*, Rutherford Vintners*, Salmon Creek, Sea Ridge*, and AT LEAST a dozen more!

              Note: an asterisk following the brand name indicates that this was once a winery, but (generally the pattern was) went into bankruptcy or otherwise closed, and Bronco bought the trademark as well as (perhaps) the existing inventory.

              While Bronco has often produced some very pleasant wines for the price, NOTHING Bronco has ever produced is STELLAR.


              1. re: 914NYC

                If you want oak, try the '06 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chard. If you want a really nice and well-balance Chard with good acid, apple and pear notes, try the Newton Red Label. It's a few more bucks but worth it ($16 at Costco).

                1. re: 914NYC

                  914NYC, you have taught me something. There is a local store call Vino100. I didn't realize it was a national chain. I tried it once and the best "reasonably priced" wines they recommended were below mediocre or almost undrinkable. I never returned.

              2. bad luck there. a lot of poorer quality wines will hide the fact by using wood chips, as zin mentioned, to hide that fact. the flavors wood imparts vary from mild to intense vanilla to even an actual wood-like taste (blech). Sometimes it can be interesting. If you want to taste wood. try the Sebastiani Chardonnay. you can also try their DUtton ranch for something slightly more refined. those 2 should give you a strong idea of what "oaky" means.

                1. To quote RicRios: "Why are you looking for oaky?" While I am, granted, one of the "Anything but Chardonnay" Club, I will still say "GIVE IT UP!!!!" Have you tried a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a French Chablis? Almost anything is better than oaky, buttery Chardonnay. Join us in 2009!

                  31 Replies
                  1. re: grantham

                    I have no problem whatsoever with the OP liking, enjoying and/or wanting an oaky, buttery Chardonnay . . . or an INOX Chardonnay, or anything inbetween -- let alone a Sauvignon Blanc, a Viognier, a Cheinin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, or Green Hungarian, for that matter!

                    He likes what he likes; he wants what he wants. Fine!

                    What I DO have a problem with is Dona Sol . . .


                    1. re: zin1953

                      Dona Sol, oaky, buttery, California Chardonnay. We all have prejudices. FINE!

                    2. re: grantham

                      How did the "Anything but Chardonnay" club start?


                      1. re: Chinon00

                        ABC started because some people got sick of tasting over-the-top, over-oaked, fruit bomb chardonnays with no minerality or acidity. White wine without minerality and acidity=no good.

                        1. re: orlwine

                          So it's not all Chardonnay that they dislike?

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              I love SOME Chardonnays . . . and I hate others. OK, "strongly dislike" as opposed to "hate."

                              If the "taste of oak" (as opposed to the effect of oak upon the wine in aging) is thought of as a seasoning, one can ALWAYS "over-season" a dish. So, too, with oak.

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            First of all, "ABC" is not "Au Bon Climat." Well, OK, it really IS, but not in this context!

                            "ABC" ("Anything But Chardonnay") is a very common term within the wine trade, and is in fairly widespread usage among consumers as well. "ABC" began as a term used by the sales and marketing personnel at wineries throughout California, and then beyond, and it was quickly "adopted" but the public as well. Nothing "official," it just began as some loose terminology because for a time (ESPECIALLY with restaurant by-the-glass programs), it seems as though EVERY white wine was Chardonnay. Indeed, it was as though California "Chablis" (aka "house wine") was replaced overnight by California Chardonnay! By-the-glass sales to restaurants of anything other than Chardonnay were virtually impossible . . . remember, initially, it was a term borne out of frustration!

                            "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Chardonnay" (think "Sara Lee").

                            One of the better known proponents of "ABC" was Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyard, who once said that he was looking forward to the day the last Chardonnay vine was uprooted from California. But he was far from the only vintner/winemaker . . . Also, the guys at Vinum Cellars released their very popular "ABC" wine, called "CNW," or "Chard No Way."

                            Alternatively, by the way, in the pre-Sideways era, "ABC" was also "Anything But Cabernet," during a time when every red offered by the glass was either California Cabernet or California Merlot, and there actually WERE good Pinot Noirs and Syrahs and Grenache-Syrah blends available.

                            The "C=Cabernet" side never stuck as strongly, as first Merlot dominated the by-the-glass market, and then the movie "Sideways" came along and . . . the rest is History.


                            1. re: zin1953

                              So it refers specifically to Cali-Chardonnay and not White Burgundy for instance?

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                Historically, it was both. Overexposure to just one grape will elicit extreme reactions; when all the variety easily available to you is different styles of the same damn grape, it's a fairly reasonable reaction to jump on *any* white wine that isn't made from that grape. And a white burgundy is still more like a butter-oak-bomb chardonnay than a Grüner Veltliner is, for example.

                                But Chardonnay's period of unchallenged dominance of California is over, so I don't see any reason for wine drinkers to be ABC, except snobbery. (Those still suffering from PTSD get a pass of course)

                                1. re: tmso

                                  >>> And a white burgundy is still more like a butter-oak-bomb chardonnay than a Grüner Veltliner is, for example. <<<

                                  Not the White Burgundies I drink . . .

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    What I meant is that although the style is very different (I take my burgundy with no butter or tropical fruit, too), you can tell it's the same varietal, even at those extremes. An amazingly versatile varietal, but still the same grape.

                                2. re: Chinon00

                                  Uh -- perhaps it was me being here in California (Thomas in is Paris), but I never heard it applied to white Burgundies . . .

                                  In my experience, it was overwhelmingly applied to California. Another area that was painted by the "ABC" brush was Australia. One of the keys is to think "lower-end" wines. Even at the height of the ABC attitude, there was ALWAYS room for great bottles of California Chardonnay and White Burgundies -- remember this started off in the wine trade as a reaction to Chardonnay's complete domination of the by-the-glass (and wine list) market. As a result the European wines that were also tarred with the same brush were NOT White Burgundies like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chablis, nor even Mâcon, but rather the VARIETALLY-LABELED Chardonnays from places lke the Alto-Adige of Italy, or the various Vins des Pays (such as "VdP d'Oc," or "VdP des Jardins de France," etc.)


                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    Thanks for the informed response as usual.
                                    I think that for so many people wine can be very intimidating and people desperately don't want to be caught out there saying or drinking the "wrong thing". So some adopt these phrases and might not have a full grasp of their meaning and end up missing out on exactly what they are looking for in a wine.


                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      <<Uh -- perhaps it was me being here in California (Thomas in is Paris), but I never heard it applied to white Burgundies . >>

                                      Nor I.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Whoops, I missed that the first time around. In the particular turn of the century, Bay Area very international both-sides-of-the-atlantic group I ran with then, it applied to both, and that's the context I learned it in. It sounds like the exception rather than the rule, though. And for what it's worth, I've never heard such a sentiment on this side of the atlantic, and have a hard time imagining such a sentiment even making sense here.

                                  2. re: zin1953

                                    Do not forget that ABC also equals "Anything but Cabernet," and is used in the same degoratory context, as is "Anything but Chardonnay."

                                    I see too many, who wear this as some sort of badge of "elitism." In the end, it should be about the wine, and not the varietal used. Still, folk will gravitate to what they think will elevate them in the eyes of others. Think Chenin Blanc...


                                3. re: grantham


                                  Have you ever looked up Chablis? Do you know what the grape is? Now, it is not *usually* oaky, and is more minerally, flinty and is more often fermented in cement, or stainless steel, but do you know what varietal is used? If you are a non-hypocritical ABC (Chardonnay, as this descriptor is often used for Cabernet, as well) person, you will not drink Chablis.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    most lower end chablis also have light oak in the background.

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          then perhaps that light woodsy taste (not vanilla or butter) I'm misintepreting in the background is from something wholly different.

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Yes, I have always been cognizant that the chardonnay grape is used for Chablis, but as you point out, is handled in an entirely different manner. We were discussing buttery, oaky, California chardonnay. I do apologize for any snobbery and hope California wineries are some day able to change the wine style to be something more similar to Chablis. The only example of a California Chardonnay of this style with which I am familiar is the Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay. I am sure there may be many more.

                                      1. re: grantham

                                        Considering the "ABC" comment, that did not come through.

                                        Thank you for the clarification.

                                        I find that all too often folk attach themselves to "pop" slogans and usually have no clue about which they speak - or write.


                                          1. re: dockhl

                                            Yep. Lots of stainless and use of little or neutral oak.

                                          2. re: grantham

                                            That's odd, considering Cakebread Chard is usually pretty darned oaky.
                                            (It's always aged in oak, usually French, around a third of which is new)

                                        1. re: grantham

                                          The world does not revolve around you and your taste. I personally ADORE the biggest, oakiest, butteriest chardonnays out there and absolutely despise savignon blanc, chablis, pinot grigio, riesling, basically anything white other than chard. If you have nothing helpful to say, then perhaps you should find a post more of your taste to contribute to.

                                          1. re: dhs0196

                                            I agree with you to an extent. People should be allowed to take their own journey through things like wine and to start where they personally choose to start. I just personally hope for anyone interested in wine that the journey wouldn't end at oaky chard or other extremely approachable wines (but if it does that's ok too). There is much to be discovered, and maybe enjoyed. Moreover I hope that your use of such strong language (i.e. "despise") doesn't hopelessly preclude you from possibly enjoying much of the white wine world. Try not to fall into a trap of defining yourself by your tastes today and try to keep an open mind.


                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              That's a nice sentiment about keeping an open mind. I'm very glad I did, myself. For the first 10-15 years of drinking wine, I really disliked wines with residual sugar (except sweet wines like sauternes, etc). I kept every now and then giving them a second, fifteenth, chance. And somewhere in my late twenties found myself able to appreciate them, much to my surprise. And much to my pleasure, a whole wonderful world of central european wines opened up to me!