FOOD: Fall in a Glass
BY Christianna Sargent
October 19, 2012
Special to the Falls Church Times
On my drives through Arlington and Falls Church as of late, my nose detects familiar scents of fall: wood burning in a fire place, dry crackling leaves dancing on the pavement, baked apple pie cooling, and pumpkin scented candles pouring forth from open windows. All of these fragrances swirl in my head only to relinquish a simple craving—a synaptic connection in the brain stirs nostalgia for fall seasons of the past—and suddenly the urge strikes me to drink Chardonnay. Not just any run-of-the-mill Chardonnay, but rather the finest examples produced in Burgundy and cool, climate regions tucked away in pockets of Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley, California. Or like this fabulous Chardonnay Reserve bottling from Virginia’s own Barrel Oak winery that I’m sipping as I type this article.
Chardonnay has branded me for this time of year and I revel in its luscious aromas when fall descends. Sporting a broad range of flavors and styles, Chardonnay is such a versatile, noble grape, but it presents a catch 22 when grown in comfortable climates and in mass-produced environments. Winemakers all too frequently make a boring, mediocre wine that expresses nothing of terroir (sense of place), because the grapes get fat and lazy. As wine expert from GQ magazine, Alan Richman, claims, “Chardonnay is mindlessly appreciated by a majority of American wine-drinkers. It’s reflexively vilified by a majority of American wine experts—when it’s not from those remarkable vineyards in France.” California Chardonnays frequently get a bad wrap for being overly oaked and flabby on the palate because the grapes are living it up, basking in California sunshine and fertile, lush soil. I know for a fact, though, that great Chardonnay can be produced in numerous regions around the world, not just from beloved Burgundy vineyards. As long as the vines are starved and reared in cool austere climates, Chardonnay rises to the occasion, producing wines of profound intensity, minerality, and lush fruit flavors. Travel to Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, corners of Carneros and to the tops of the Santa Cruz mountains and see Chardonnay aspire to make balanced, elegant and graceful replications of great Burgundies.
At this time of year, I just have to marvel over a freshly poured sample of Chardonnay and revel in its scents that roll off the lip of the glass. Something erotic occurs when you catch that first waft of colliding buttery toastiness, lemon curd, lemon zest, orange blossom, crème brulee, walnuts and white macadamia nut cloaked in fragrances of coconut, baked apple, and warm brioche bread. Shall I continue? Or do you want to jump right out of your seat and go purchase a bottle of Chardonnay?
Just remember once you pop that cork, elegant-styled Chardonnays go nicely with fall cheese plates, roasted Brussels sprouts drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar, poached lobster with a béchamel cream sauce, grilled pork tenderloin with caramelized apples, butternut squash chili, or even that simplistic grilled cheese sandwich that you may happen to spruce up a bit with tomatoes and artisan gouda and cheddar cheeses. Chardonnay offers richness while being oaked, dry, acidic and creamy. So many possibilities abound with fall season foods and Chardonnay wine pairings, which is why I encourage you to give Chardonnay a shot this time of year, even if you’re a professed Chardonnay-hater. Or branch out and explore terroirs outside of France or outside of the United States. Live a little. And for those of you who already know Chardonnay and all of its glory, I toast you with my own small slice of heaven now in my hand.
A few recommendations to find around town:
Barrel Oak Chardonnay Reserve Front Royal, Virginia 2010 – $30
Verget Pouilly-Fuissé Vergisson, Burgundy, France 2009- $38
Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande Canyon Valley, California 2010 – $24
Longoria Cuvée Diana Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California 2008 – $44
Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Santa Barbara, California 2008- $22
Wine & Spirits Education Trust
Association of Italian Sommeliers
French Wine Scholar
By Special to the Falls Church Times
October 19, 2012