2006 Steven Kent Merrillie Chardonnay

One of the Great Whites of the East Bay

OK, to be fair, there just aren’t that many wineries in the East Bay, and the vast majority are located in Livermore Valley. One of the Valley’s best tasting experiences is the wait-to-be-escorted-to-your-table, paired-with-parmesan-almonds-breadsticks-and-cranberries, served-from-a-decanter tasting room at Steven Kent Winery.

This is a Livermore winery famous for its whites. I’d had the 2005 Sauvignon Blanc before, and while the Sauv Blanc was not on the tasting menu for the day (it was dominated by Cab Sauv, including a 20 ABV Cab Sauv Port!), I and everyone in my party were very much looking forward to this Chardonnay.

The color is a rich, deep golden in the glass, which makes it look a whole lot like a Napa Chard. One whiff, however, and any thoughts of big, bold, buttery oak all go out the window.

The nose is herbaceous and pungent, with some really great sweet notes of pear and citrus. The citrus is more like lemon or lime, not quite as sweet as, say, grapefruit.

The herbs from the nose carry through on the palate, but the citrus and fruit notes turn lightly sour and acidic. Lime notes and sour apple notes make this a perfect food-pairing wine. The server suggested we try the dried cranberries with the wine, and while that was good, we discovered for ourselves that the real treat was the parmesan. The salty aged cheese complimented the wine perfectly.

I seriously enjoyed this Chardonnay, and could happily recommend it to those even a bit wary of California Chards, preferring to eschew buttered oak barrel. This is acid, and fruit, and herbs and flowers, but all in a wonderfully understated way. A real jewel of the Valley.

Verdict: 94/100

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