The 2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay is sourced from Rodney Strong’s estate grown vineyards as well as contracted vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Sonoma Coastal region. 60% of the Chardonnay was fermented and then aged for 5 months in French and American oak barrels and this portion also underwent malolactic fermentation. The remaining 40% was fermented and aged in stainless steel containers and there was no malolactic fermentation. There are 2 main factors you need to know about California Chardonnay (other than where the grapes were grown) and that is oak conditioning and malolactic fermentation. I routinely hear people saying that they do not like oaked Chardonnay and what they usually really mean is that they do not like over-oaked Chardonnay. In the past some California winemakers were guilty of really killing the flavor with too much exposure to oak, the wine tasted like it was dipped in butter and the oak gave you dry mouth. That is why you now see winemakers do some sort of variation on what Rodney Strong does, a 60-40 blend of oak to unoaked, giving the wine some rounded buttery creamy flavors along with the crisp fruit and citrus flavors. The next thing to look for is malolactic fermentation, malolactic fermentation reduces the acidity in wine (both Red & White). An added benefit is that it changes the natural malic acid, which is tart and crisp tasting to lactic acid which is softer, more rounded, more apple to malic’s grapefruit. Malolactic fermentation also allows the flavor profile of the grapes to better complement oak barrel fermenting and aging. So, if you find a Chardonnay that you really enjoy, find out if it is oaked and/or if it has under gone malolactic fermentation, that will help you identify other Chardonnay’s that are in your preferred style. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is a pale golden yellow. The nose is lemon chiffon, green apple, a faint whiff of butterscotch, the pineapple from a pineapple upside down cake and French vanilla. There is a nice combination of tart and mellow going on in this Chardonnay. It starts with creamy pear, dried pineapple bits, fresh lime, soft peach, Irish butter and tangerine. The mid palate adds light banana, tart grapefruit and just a hint of minerality. The acidity makes its presence known, but it is well balanced by all the different flavors, but this is a Chardonnay that will be versatile when paired with food. The finish is full and is properly long.
The Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay is a very solid effort, it lists for $15, but you can often find it discounted (I found it for a few cents under ten bucks). They did an extremely good job with the oak on this Chardonnay, it adds interesting flavor, texture and structure, but it knows its place and does not try to overpower the wine. This wine drinks very well on its own, but would rock Firecracker shrimp or blacken catfish, while having the balance to handle eggs and french toast at brunch.