A Guide to the Best US Natural Chardonnay Wines
Ah, Chardonnay! The golden child of the Burgundy region in France, and a superstar in the global wine arena. Picture this: Chardonnay vines spanning across continents, deeply rooted from Europe to Australia, from South Africa to America, making it one of the most celebrated and widely-grown grape varieties in the world.
Chardonnay, my friend, is like a chameleon – a master of disguise and adaptability. This unassuming white grape can transform itself like no other, taking on a completely different personality based on its upbringing.
Imagine biting into a crisp green apple on a sunny afternoon, the cool juice trickling down your chin – that’s your lean, mineral-driven Chardonnay grown in the cooler climates, offering a refreshing, high-acidity, almost zesty character.
Now, picture lounging by a roaring fireplace with a generous pat of melted butter on a warm toast – that’s your Chardonnay grown in warmer regions, swirling in your glass with a rich, creamy, and voluptuously buttery persona. It’s as if it absorbs the sunshine and the very spirit of its surroundings, resulting in a wine that’s truly a mirror of its terroir.
The Versatility of Chardonnay
Chardonnay has an incredible ability to adapt to different climates and soils, from the cool coastal vineyards of Chablis to the sun-drenched slopes of California. This adaptability results in a wide array of styles and flavors, from crisp and apple-like to rich and creamy.
Chardonnay in the US
In the United States, Chardonnay has found a happy home in regions like California, Oregon, and Washington State. American Chardonnays are known for their rich, full-bodied style, often with flavors of ripe tropical fruit, vanilla, and butter.
The Natural Wine Movement
The term “natural wine” refers to wines made with minimal intervention in both the vineyard and the winery. This includes organic or biodynamic farming practices, native yeast fermentations, and little to no additives.
Why Choose Natural Wines
Natural wines offer a unique, unadulterated expression of the grape and the place it comes from. They’re often lower in alcohol and higher in acidity, making them great companions to a wide variety of foods. Plus, they’re typically produced in a more environmentally-friendly way, which is a bonus for eco-conscious wine lovers.
Choosing the Perfect Chardonnay
When it comes to gifting Chardonnay, consider the recipient’s taste preferences. Do they prefer their wines light and crisp, or rich and full-bodied?
1: Sandhi Wines, Santa Barbara County Chardonnay – $36
Sandhi Wines is dedicated to producing wines of finesse and elegance. Their Santa Barbara County Chardonnay is made in a lean, Burgundian style, with bright acidity and flavors of citrus and white flowers. It’s a refreshing and sophisticated choice that’s sure to impress.
2: Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma Valley Chardonnay – $78
Hanzell Vineyards is a historic estate in Sonoma Valley known for their high-quality Chardonnays. Their wines are rich and complex, with a beautiful balance of fruit, acidity, and oak. This is a classic California Chardonnay with a natural twist.
3: Lioco Wine Company, Sonoma County Chardonnay – $25
Lioco Wine Company produces wines that are expressive of their terroir. Their Sonoma County Chardonnay is vibrant and fruit-forward, with a crisp, clean finish. The wine is juicy and yummy and the price perfect!
4: Matthiasson, Napa Valley Chardonnay – $45
Tucked away in the heart of the majestic Napa Valley, you’ll find Matthiasson – a winery where passion, family legacy, and sustainable practices interweave to create something truly extraordinary. At Matthiasson, every grape is treated with respect and grown with a deep commitment to sustainable farming. Their Chardonnay is lush and full-bodied, with a creamy texture and flavors of ripe pear and apple. It’s a stunning example of what Napa Valley Chardonnay can be.
5: Walter Scott Wines, Cuvee Anne Chardonnay, Willamette Valley – $50
Based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Walter Scott Wines is known for their exceptional Chardonnays. The Cuvee Anne Chardonnay is finely structured and elegant, with layers of citrus, stone fruit, and mineral flavors. It’s a wine that’s both approachable and intriguing.
6: Domaine de la Côte, Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay – $60
Domaine de la Côte produces site-specific wines that highlight the unique terroir of Santa Rita Hills. Their Chardonnay is lean and mineral-driven, with a bright acidity and a subtle touch of oak. It’s a refined and distinctive wine that’s well worth the price.
7: Big Table Farm, Willamette Valley Chardonnay – $45
Big Table Farm is a small, natural winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their Chardonnay is made in a balanced, Burgundian style, with a mix of fruit, floral, and mineral notes. It’s a nuanced and elegant wine that pairs beautifully with a wide range of foods.
8: Ceritas Wines, Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast – $70
Ceritas Wines is a boutique winery in Sonoma Coast that focuses on single-vineyard Chardonnays. The Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay is complex and mineral-laced, with flavors of citrus and orchard fruit. It’s a beautifully crafted wine that showcases the potential of this cool-climate site.
9: Enfield Wine Co., Heron Lake Vineyard Chardonnay, Wild Horse Valley – $38
Enfield Wine Co.’s Heron Lake Vineyard Chardonnay hails from the Wild Horse Valley in Napa. It’s mineral-rich, with a delicate balance of fruit and acidity. With its clean, crisp finish, it’s a fantastic representation of a cooler climate Chardonnay.
10: Arnot-Roberts, Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains – $65
Arnot-Roberts is known for their single-vineyard wines that express California’s diverse terroir. Their Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay offers a unique mineral complexity, coupled with vibrant citrus and apple flavors. It’s an elegant and distinctive wine that’s well worth exploring.