The High Guard Chardonnay 2019 is a $6.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive sourced from vineyards located in several California AVA’s. This is a wine produced for Trader Joe’s by a custom wine company making wine for TJ’s for several years.
I read that half of the wineries in California are faux-wineries, meaning that they do not own their own vineyards and may not have their own production facilities. The image most folks have of a typical winery is one with one or two vineyards and an attached winery facility. But, having contracts with existing vineyards and leasing excess space in an established winery is probably the leading model for value-priced wine.
The company that made High Guard Chardonnay 2019 has been around for decades and is highly successful and probably has contracts with excellent vineyards and own top-notch equipment. While this type of winery may not be romantic, you will often get excellent bang-for-the-buck wine.
As a Trader Joe’s Chardonnay, there are almost no technical production details. Here is the bulk of what we know, “It’s a balanced and rather fruit-forward wine, featuring aromas of ripe green fruit, pear, vanilla, and toasted bread. It has a mildly oaked character that’s not overdone and a finish that’s utterly buttery.”
Vanilla and toasted bread are oak barrel flavors, and $6.99 wine does not always have the budget to include barrels. A barrel holds 300 bottles and can cost $1000, so costs can add up quickly. Here is a link to a company that provides oak barrels and alternatives to wineries. Check out the alternatives section to see what tools winemakers have to get oak flavors.
The next detail that stands out is describing the finish as “buttery.” This is where malolactic fermentation comes in; this process converts the Malo acid inside each grape to Lactic acid. Lactic acid is the same acid found in milk. Most Red wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, and Chardonnay is one of the few White grapes to use the process.
Chardonnay can have full or partial malolactic fermentation; it depends on what the winemaker is looking for. Sometimes, the wine sees oak treatment and malolactic, and the other half in stainless steel vats and no malolactic, and the two are blended. There are endless variations.
The High Guard Chardonnay 2019 is a California wine. That indicates that the vineyards were located in a combination of the Central Coast AVA, the North Coast AVA, and/or the Central Valley AVA. If the grapes came from Lodi (Central Valley) and Monterey (Central Coast), the label shows California as the source. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
High Guard Chardonnay 2019 Tasting Notes
The color is a pale wheat beer yellow. The nose shows some oak influence; there is butterscotch, green apple, toasty vanilla, lemon, lime, and bright, sharp grapefruit. The High Guard Chardonnay 2019 does have a buttery finish, it is light, but it is there.
It starts with a stew of peach, pear, and lemon, followed by tart apple and rich vanilla. The mid-palate offers a dash of grapefruit, dried pineapple bits, oak spice, and that mild butter finish. The acidity is well-balanced and makes you want to take another sip.
- The High Guard Chardonnay 2019 is a well-made, good-tasting, easy-drinking Chardonnay that happens to cost $6.99.
- In a blind tasting, if you told me it sold for twice the price, I would believe it.
- The High Guard Chardonnay 2019 is a tasty, well-priced wine.