The 2011 Creme de Lys Chardonnay is 95% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier (Viognier gives the wine a rich floral nose) sourced in vineyards from 50% Lodi, 45% Central Coast and 5% North Coast AVA’s in California. Creme de Lys is one of Diageo Wines many brands, others include Rosenblum, Snap Dragon, Chalone and Sterling Vineyards. The Creme de Lys Chardonnay is not your typical $10 California Chard, the Creme de Lys is produced using methods you normally see used in much more expensive wines. First the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, this is a procedure routinely used for Red wines and is used on Chardonnay to help balance oak aging. Malolactic fermentation changes tart, citrus tasting acid to more mellow, apple pear tasting acid. Then a portion of the Chardonnay is aged for a time in 100% French oak barrels, French oak barrels can cost $1,000 a piece, you do not see French oak very often for ten buck wine. The Chard was then aged, both the portions in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, “On-lees”. The term “On-lees” indicates that all the dead yeast residue and grape bits are left in the tank during aging, this leaves all the flavor the grapes have to give in the tank and barrels. The thing about “On-lees” is that the more you stir the wines, the creamier it gets and they stir the Creme de Lys on a regular basis, again not something you see everyday in $10 Chardonnay. The Viognier was added just before bottling, again another thing you do not always see, usually if the nose is a little less than exciting, then so be it. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is crystal clear, shiny pale lemon yellow. The nose is lemons, peach and tropical flowers. This is a very lightly oaked Chardonnay with silky mouthfeel and a nice balance of tart citrus and fresh fruit. It tastes of golden apples delicious apples and lemon chiffon, pineapple mixed with pear and lime. The mid palate shows a faint touch of minerality, custard with kiwi slices on top and a late slap of sour, tart tangerine. The acidity is strong enough to keep the creamy aspects of this Chardonnay from dominating, and while strong, it is balanced and would help this wine pair well with spicy, bold foods. The finish starts off bold and then slowly fades away.
The Creme de Lys Chardonnay is not short on flavor, it has more than enough complexity to keep things interesting and has a very cool tart/creamy balance. The more sips I take, the more I like it, I keep finding something new. If you are not crazy about oaked Chardonnays, do not be scared off, the oak influence is subdued. All in all, the Creme de Lys Chardonnay is a very solid Chard that just happens to sell for around ten bucks.