As I’ve reacquainted myself with Long Island chardonnay (look for my report in the upcoming issue of the Long Island Wine Press) one thing has become evident: as fresh and refreshing as unoaked, steel-fermented chardonnay can be, it’s rarely complex or particularly interesting. They are great on a hot summer day or with a picnic lunch, but rarely more than that.
Of course I’m also not a big fan of a heavy oak footprint — flavors of raw wood, vanilla, etc. Those wines tend to not play well with the foods I like to eat.
The middle ground between those two styles is varied and not always easy to navigate. It’s sometimes hard to tell, just by looking at a label, just how oaky or not a chardonnay will be. Wines made using older, neutral oak barrels that allow for air transfer (which softens the wines and improves their mouthfeel without adding flavors) hit my personal sweet spot. But again, it’s not easy to know which wines are made that way.
That’s why I’m here, though. One of the best is my wine of the week – Coffee Pot Cellars 2013 Chardonnay ($20) which gets bonus points for being well-priced.
Coffee Pot Cellars’ co-owner and winemaker Adam Suprenant – who is also the longtime winemaker at Osprey’s Dominion — fermented this appley, citrusy chardonnay in neutral oak barrels and strictly avoided malolactic fermentation, which keeps it fresh and lively.
The aromas begin with green apple and juicy lemon, but there is a subtle nutty note from extended sur lees aging – contact with dead yeast cells. Mouth-filling and rich – but also greatly balanced by juicy, mouth-watering acidity.
Don’t make the mistake that I made: Either avoid chilling it completely or let it warm up before you take a sip. Right out of my apparently too-cold refrigerator, the nutty, almost spicy nuance was muted and the acidity a bit too sharp. But as it warmed – nearly to room temperature proved best – the wine relaxed a bit and became more complex and a textural beauty.