Solo Sojourn – Chardonnay v/s Chardonnay

Call it the “ Battle of the Chardonnays.” Which, by definition, could not be solo. More like duo. Quite appropriate, I say, for a duel between wines. So here’s the story.

Every Friday afternoon at the offices of Wines & Vines magazine, staff would gather informally and open some interesting bottles of wine. On one such afternoon in the fall of 2002, a $ 67 Chardonnay from Sonoma (the name was never revealed) was pitted against a $ 1.99 upstart, Charles Shaw. The result is the stuff of legend. The staff chose the two buck chuck – & wrote about it in a column in the magazine. This was the first published reference of this now ubiquitous, then rebel, label. And the rest is history. I simply had to recreate this and do my own blind tasting of a pricier Chardonnay against the still humble Charles Shaw.

I chose a Rodney Strong Chardonnay ($ 11.99) as the challenger. To make it statistically tight, both wines were the same vintage (2010) and region (California. With the Rodney Strong from the Sonoma sub-region.) The playing field was level. The battle was fair. We were ready to taste.

I had to co-opt a reluctant spouse – a diehard red wine fan – into this experiment. His main task was to make it a truly blind tasting for me. A process made somewhat harder by my choice of wines – one bottle was significantly shorter (Burgundy style) than the other.  So just brown bagging the bottles would not do. They had to be hidden from sight and poured in secret. A task competently accomplished by said spouse. Thank you.

Is the curiosity getting to you now? I know you want me to get to the point quickly and not belabor the tasting report. So here is the verdict. The Rodney Strong was clearly the winner. Why? See my tasting report. As a benchmark on not-so-great wines, there are some that I would not drink (e.g the Quail Creek Sauvignon Blanc last reviewed). This Charles Shaw Chardonnay was not quite that category. But certainly not as drinkable as a Cab from the same label. Which is the choice for my next solo sojourn.

  2010 Rodney Strong   ChardonnaySonoma, CA      $ 11.99 2010 Charles Shaw ChardonnayCA.  $ 2.99
Color Pale Greenish Yellow Pale Greenish Yellow
Nose Aromatic. Strong Fruit & Oak. Hint of vanilla. Mild, barely detectable aromas. Candied rose petals.
Taste Bright & zesty. Short length.   Gently bitter finish. Soft, full body. Hint of sweetness. Mildly tart – adds   surprise in the otherwise predictable richness of Chardonnay. Undistinguishable, pedestrian.   Blasé. Fuller body. Dry with richer mouth feel. Longer length. The rose   aromas in the nose transfer to the taste.
Remarks Easy drinking. Simple, uncomplicated but very pleasing. Inoffensive. Inexpensive. Drinkable. Great to satisfy a mid-week wine   craving.
Rating 7 4
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