When a wine has the broad “California” appellation on its label, it usually suggests an inexpensive wine made from a blend of grapes from several regions. This means it can’t be labeled “Napa Valley” or “Santa Barbara County” or any of the dozens of more specific California appellations — even if some fruit from those regions is in the blend.
And it can telegraph that the wine is rather generic and not particularly memorable. But there are, of course, exceptions.
One of them is Rodney Strong’s 2019 California Chardonnay, a well-priced Chard with no pretensions — a wine that is ideal for serving at a party, or having on hand as a “house” wine for casual drinking. And who isn’t looking for such a wine from time to time?
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For one thing, this wine over-performs, tasting more expensive than it is. For another, it is well balanced between fruit and oak. While the wood influence is certainly there, it doesn’t dominate.
It’s not a wine that should be over-analyzed, either. It’s got a good mix of flavors that include apple, tropical fruit, and citrus, with some typical oak-driven vanilla. With refreshing acidity and alcohol at a moderate 13.8 percent, it’s decidedly not one of those big, overpowering California Chardonnays.
For the blend, Rodney Strong draws on vineyards from Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara Counties. Sixty percent of the blend was barrel-fermented and then aged in barrels for seven months, with the rest fermented in stainless-steel tanks.
The result is a wine that’s easy to drink, balanced, and with more complexity than I expected in a “California” Chardonnay. It’s listed at $17 by the winery, but Wine-Searcher puts the average price at just $12. While there are plenty of wines in this category and at this price point, Rodney Strong’s offering is a step up from the pack.