Au Bon Climat 2014 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay ($24.99)

Au Bon Climat

This transparent light straw color wine shows glints of gold against the light. Pleasant green-apple aromas add aromatic hints of peach and a gentle touch of nutmeg as the wine opens in the glass. It’s beautifully ripe and full on the palate, with peach, apple and lemon zest in a flavor that’s rich but dry, and nicely restrained by bright acidity. Subtle hints of “stony” minerality show up as the wine crosses the palate, with zippy lemon ice in a long, clean finish. At 13.5 percent alcohol, it’s well balanced and fine with food.

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Château Pégau 2014 Cuvée Lône Côtes-du-Rhône ($18.99)

Chateau Pagau

An odd but not unpleasant earthy-chalky note pops up first in the aroma of this pale, slightly brassy straw-color wine on the first sniff, perhaps a signal of time spent on the “lees” of yeast after fermentation. It soon gives way to delicate floral notes and a whiff of stone fruit. Overall the aroma is complex and interesting, but more delicate than powerful. Peach and apricot become a bit more evident along with palate-cleansing acidity in the fresh, tart and dry flavor, but it’s subtle minerality that hangs on in a very long, clean finish. Just 12.5 percent alcohol in a well-balanced Rhône blend of 40% Clairette, 30% Bourboulenc, 20% Grenache Blanc and 10% Ugni Blanc.

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Sonoma-Cutrer 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($25)


Tasted in a restaurant setting with a variety of dishes (see below), this simple but appealing Chardonnay served well. The surprise is that while it does offer a touch of oak, a decided whiff of aromatic tropical fruit, a creamy mouthfeel and doesn’t go strong on acidity, it relies on balance and reasonable restraint to sail safely through these rocky waters and avoid the shoals that used to make so many of us say “Anything but Chardonnay.”

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Domaine de Mauperthuis 2014 Bourgogne Chardonnay Les Truffières ($14.99)

Domaine de Mauperthuis

Transparent pale gold color. Attractive if a bit simple, typical Chardonnay scent of green apples. Fresh and tart in flavor, green apple and bright, steely acidity. It continues clean, brisk and dry, adding a bit of nuance, subtle notes of “stony” minerality appearing as it crosses the palate. Not a highly complex wine, but it’s appealing and a good match with food.

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Berger 2013 Niederösterreich Zweigelt ($16.99/1 liter)

Berger 2013 Niederösterreich Zweigelt

Here’s a tasty introduction to Zweigelt (“Tsvy-gelt”), a modern Austrian grape developed in 1922 as a red grape that would produce well in Austria’s climate. It’s a clear cherry red color, not overly dark. Pleasant aromas of cherries and red berries lead into a mouth-watering flavor, fresh and tart, cranberries with hints of fresh cherry and raspberry. Mouth-filling and ripe, 12.5% alcohol, it has a distinct edge of tannic astringency that lingers with tart berry fruit in a very long finish.

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Château des Reyssiers 2013 Regnié ($16.99)

Chateau des Reyssiers

The subtle and earthy flavors of this clear, dark reddish-violet wine are a step above everyday Beaujolais in refinement and balance, too, although it’s still typical of the region in its fresh scents of cranberry and wild strawberry with a hint of spice. On the palate it’s ripe and fresh, tart red fruit shaped by mouth-watering acidity and distinct, gently astringent tannins. Good acidic balance and comfortable 12.5% alcohol makes it a winning table wine with versatile capability for pairing with food.

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