Behind the Cork™ - Duckhorn Chardonnay

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2017 Duckhorn Napa Valley Chardonnay ($19)

Here’s another ‘big name’ Chardonnay that’s worth checking out.

Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley in 1976, which was one of the first 40 Napa Valley wineries. Keenly focused on producing excellent red wines, it wasn’t until 2012 that they produced their first Chardonnay.

Their 100% Chardonnay sees 10 months in French Oak barrels with 40% being new, 30% second vintage and 30% neutral. Although, 10% is held back and is kept in Stainless Steel.

Interestingly, before the barrel aging, 40% of the Chardonnay goes through Malolactic conversion.

This process yields a nicely balanced Chardonnay with nice aromas of nectarine and spices. They even describe it as having aromas of pineapple upside-down cake. And, yes, with that description, I’d agree.

On the palate this Chardonnay does have subtle oak that yields hints of vanilla yet still has some bright fruit and a touch of acidity.

So, this is yet another fine example of a Behind the Cork™ wine — it’s widely available and a really nice value for a Napa Valley Chardonnay. Give it a try! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay

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2016 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($19)

This Sonoma-Cutrer is one that is easy to pass-by on the wine aisle. It’s from a big producer and it’s widely availability. But, this is a solid wine. Which makes it perfect for a Behind the Cork™ feature.

The Sonoma Coast is producing a lot of very good wines and Chardonnay is one of the stars. It’s a great growing climate for this grape.

Sonoma-Cuter hand sorts their grapes to ensure only best fruit get processed and the leaves, stems and damaged fruit are removed. The whole clusters are pressed avoiding any skin contact or seeds that result in bitter tannin. The fermentation takes place in a combination of French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.

To get the creamy smoothness of this 100% Chardonnay, it undergoes Malolactic conversion and is then aged sur-lies in a mixture of new, one-year old and neutral French oak.

This results in a Chardonnay with soft flavors of pear and peach, hints of vanilla and just a touch of acidity.

It’s a really good one! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Panthera Russian River Chardonnay

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2016 Panthera Russian River Valley Chardonnay from The Hess Collection ($45)

This 100% Chardonnay comes from The Hess Collection of wines from the Russian River Valley.

Hess Family wines was founded by Donald Hess in 1978. Today, Tim Persson (Donald’s son in law) and his wife Sabrina are owners of Hess Family Wine Estates and are the fifth generation of the Hess family to lead the company.

Panthera is part of a new collection of wines that are not Hess branded. But it certainly represents the tradition and heritage of Hess wines.

This Panthera Chardonnay has a great balance of pear, peach and hints of pineapple along with some acidity and is rounded out with light oak. The oak comes from 15 months of aging in 35% new French oak.

According to the notes, “The word Panthera is believed to be of East Asian origin, meaning ‘the yellowish animal’ or golden-yellow.” This coloring in indeed striking in this inaugural vintage of Panthera.

This Panthera should please any Chardonnay drinker. Look for it!


Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission: I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Sample Provided by Donna White of Donna White Communications


Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week

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2017 Left Coast Truffle Hill Chardonnay ($24)

This Chardonnay is from Oregon’s Left Coast “Truffle Hill” vineyard that contains four acres of European Black Truffle-inoculated hazelnut trees, shrub roses and holly oaks.

This 100% Chardonnay is fermented in 100% French oak before being aged for 10 months.

Left Coast winemaker Joe Wright states “This easy drinking Chardonnay delivers golden flower aromas of honeysuckle and elderberry accented with brown sugar. A burst of acidity on the palate is complimented with ripe pear fruit, rounded out by vanilla, coconut, caramel and butterscotch on the finish.” Well said Joe!

I found this Willamette Valley Chardonnay to be terrific. It had great flavors of baked apple and spices with just a hint of oak. A wonderful pairing with any lighter fare.

This is a really good one that deserves your attention. Look for it! Cheers!


Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission: I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Sample Provided by Will Rogers of Donna White Communications

Wine Fun Facts - Champagne

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Champagne is probably the best known wine in the world. And, there’s a lot to know it about this wine.

Here are some fun-facts about Champagne:

  • Champagne is not made from Champagne grapes

  • Champagne is typically produced from three grapes — Pinot Noir (Yes! A red wine grape!), Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier

  • To be called Champagne, it must be produced in the Champagne region of France. Otherwise, it’s called Sparkling Wine

  • California can produce Champagne – such as Korbel, Cook’s or André – and it is perfectly legal to be called Champagne. The loophole that makes this legal stems from a ruling in 2005, after two decades of court battles, when the U.S. and the EU reached an agreement. In exchange for easing trade restrictions on wine, the American government agreed that Champagne would no longer appear on domestic wine labels – that is, unless a producer was already using the name

  • The first step in making Champagne is to make the wine, like any other wine, in a barrel or tank and bottle it

  • The wine becomes carbonated by a second fermentation inside the bottle that is initiated by adding a solution of sugar and yeast. As the yeast consumes the sugar, it gives off carbon dioxide which stays trapped in the wine since the bottle is capped

  • Champagne bottle are stored with their neck down during the second fermentation so that the yeast will settle in the neck

  • The upside down bottles are regularly turned to ensure all the yeast ends up in the neck of the bottle in a process called riddling

  • The Champagne bottle is then opened and the spent yeast is removed or disgorged

  • Finally, some additional wine and sugar is added (the dosage) to balance the Champagne’s acidity

  • This process of making Champagne is called the méthode champenoise

So, there you have it. A few fun facts about the most famous sparkling wine in the world - Champagne. Cheers!