The 2011 Hess Select Chardonnay is sourced from the Hess family owned, Shirtail Creek (sustainably farmed) vineyard in the Monterey AVA (just north of Paso Robles) inside the larger Central Coast AVA in California. Hess is known for their single vineyard Napa wines and the Select series is their more affordable line, the average on-line price for this Chardonnay is under $10, it should be a few dollars more in stores. This is an oaked Chardonnay, it was aged for 9 months in mostly used French oak barrels (30% new barrels). The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is a clear, shiny, golden wheat yellow. The nose is crisp and clean, with notes of lemon, pineapple and grapefruit, along with blood orange and spring flowers. While this is an oaked Chardonnay, the oak is done with a delicate touch, adding a little butter and orange blossom honey, but letting the fruit and citrus shine thru. It tastes of apple, lemon, a soft dash of lime and grapefruit. The mid palate bring along some dried pineapple and a balanced hit of rich European style butter, along with a faint slap of minerality. The finish is an interesting mix of citrus and creamy smooth butter and it slowly fades away.
Chardonnay is the quintessential winemakers wine, it seems each winemaker and each winery has their own take on what a Chardonnay should be. I often here people say that they do not like oaked Chardonnay and I always tell them the greatest determining factor on if you like a particular Chardonnay or not, is not if it is oaked or unoaked, it is who made that Chardonnay. The Hess Select uses oak to add a pleasing creamy flavor and to knock the edge off some of the tart citrus flavors, allowing this Chard to be a mix of crisp and clean and muted and creamy, a best of both world’s Chardonnay. The Hess Select drinks very well, it is never heavy and is very tasty. It is not acidic enough to pair with fresh seafood, but a beer-battered catfish or a spicy Caribbean shrimp dish would pair nicely.