The 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 330 Chardonnay is sourced from the Arroyo Seco AVA inside the Monterey County AVA which in turn is inside the larger Central Coast AVA. The Arroyo Seco AVA has many varying micro climates, but generally the Eastern side of the AVA, closest to the Pacific grows Chardonnay and the Western side grows Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is one of Cameron Hughes negociant wines, a negociant purchases excess wine from a winery. Who originally grew the grapes and produced the wine is kept hidden, since the negociant sells the wine at a lower price than the producer. The negociants wines are not always exactly the same as the original producers, sometimes other purchased wines are blended in or the wine is aged for a further length of time. Since you seldom know exactly what you are getting, a negociants reputation is everything, you have to trust that he purchased the best wines and is giving you the best prices. Many of Trader Joe’s wines are negociant wines, though they operate on a smaller scale that Cameron Hughes. This Chardonnay underwent malolactic fermentation (a process that changes tart tasting acidity to a softer more rounded tasting acidity, this is a process Red wines routinely undergo and is used on Chardonnay to help balance the oak aging) and 70% was aged in American oak barrels with the remainder aged in stainless steel tanks. The alcohol content is 13.8%.
The color is crystal clear, golden yellow. The nose is rich and deep, honey, tropical fruit, lemons, a soft floral edge and butterscotch. I like the oak influence here, it adds flavor, but not weight. It tastes of unsweetened lemon/lime, tangerine, orange blossom honey, mango, pineapple, coconut milk, light, but rich butterscotch and pear. It has lip smacking acidity, that puts a shine on all the flavors and allows the finish to go on and on and on.
If you are used to drinking Chardonnay that simply says California on the label, you need to try a single AVA Chardonnay. I am not saying that a single AVA Chardonnay is automatically better than a Chardonnay that is a blend of several AVA’s, but they are different. With the Lot 330 Chardonnay you can taste exactly what the Arroyo Seco soil and climate bring to the Chardonnay grape. Also, if your someone who does not like oaked Chardonnay, give the Lot 300 a try, there are appealing flavors in your glass that unoaked Chardonnay simply cannot produce, with none of the too oaky nonsense you can get with some California Chards. This is a Chardonnay that you can find in the $12 range and it drinks like a much more expensive bottle.