Our wine club added a twist to the way we did a recent tasting.
Rather than have our monthly blind tasting with the host supplying the wines and all members sharing the cost, each couple brought a bottle. It had to be the host’s choice of a varietal or blend, had to be within a certain price range and the bottle had to be covered.
Margaret Coleman, who conceived the plan, selected Chardonnay and a price range of $20-$25.
Six wines were tasted, again, blind. Five came from California; one was a Virginia wine.
The results? To many, it was a surprise. The Virginia Chardonnay — New Kent Winery’s Chardonnay Reserve 2010 — came out the winner on our 20-point scoring scale. Tom Payette’s creation scored a 15.8 to edge a Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve 2010, which had a 15.6.
“It had all the characteristics of a classic Chardonnay,” wine club member Hugh Catlett said. “This was confirmed from the time I smelled it to the actual tasting of the wine. The nose consisted of the normal variety of fruits that I typically find in a Chardonnay — pear, pineapple et cetera. The nose was only exceeded by the wonderful long finish.
“I thought it was a full-bodied Chardonnay with its oaky and creamy finish. All in all I thought it was a great Chardonnay from beginning to end.”
The New Kent Reserve Chardonnay has a good pedigree. The 2009 vintage won the Virginia’s Governor’s Cup for white wines in 2011, the last year cups were given separately to reds and whites.
The 2010 chard is up to matching its much-decorated brother, in aroma and taste. Throw in light, toasty oak nuances in the mouth, and Catlett’s description is spot on. Aging sur-lie (on dead yeast cells) two years in small American barrels — about a year longer than most chards are aged — helped make this multi-layered wine one that wowed others.
“Its smoothness was like velvet in the mouth,” Al Coleman said.
“I’ve reached the Mecca of this tasting,” said another after four California wines were tested first.
A brief look at the six wines, all available locally and in the order they were tasted. Prices may vary.
Starmont Chardonnay 2010 ($16-$22): Napa; steel and barrel fermentation; notes of light lemon and cream fill the mouth. 13.9 percent alcohol. 14.40 club rating.
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve 2011 ($13.89): This Sonoma wine is the ringer of the tasting because of its cost; melon, slight citrus, good acidity. 13.5 percent alcohol. 13.4 club rating.
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve 2010 ($20.59): What a difference a year makes; rich, creamy, slight citrus and vanilla makes this a lush treat in the mouth. 13.5 percent alcohol. 15.6 club rating.
Stag’s Leap Chardonnay 2011 ($21): Napa; crisp, clean, full-bodied, ripe fruit flavors lead to a slight citrus finish. 14.1 percent alcohol. 13.0 club rating.
New Kent Winery’s Chardonnay Reserve 2010 ($24.99): Ultra-ripe fruit and rich oak aromas lead to terrifically complex tastes. 13 percent alcohol. 15.8 club rating.
Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2011 ($25): A touch of honey, apple and citrus leads to a rich, creamy mouth feel. Its club rating suffered because of its placement behind the power of the New Kent chard. 13.9 percent alcohol. 12.5 club rating.