The Wine Idiot Reviews: Pacific Grove Chardonnay, 2014 ($5.99)
A couple years ago, I went to Solvang and stayed at the Wine Valley Inn. A couple doors down is an unassuming little tasting room called Sevtap. In that little room, I had one of the best wines I have ever had--a chardonnay called Serendipity. It was a really mild chardonnay when I first sipped it, but after I swallowed--seriously, after I had fully swallowed the wine and it was in my stomach--the flavor that clung to my tongue and the roof of my mouth morphed, suddenly, into caramel. As though I had just eaten a spoonful of caramel sauce. It was like a magic trick. And I have been chasing that dragon ever since.
Which is why I purchased this Pacific Grove Chardonnay. My guideline has been broken this time--I remember what I read on the label, because the description of the wine is specifically why I purchased it. It claims to have a finish that tastes like crème brûlée, which is exactly how I would describe the Sevtap Serendipity chardonnay. And since I needed to profile a white, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to see if I could catch lighting in a bottle twice.
Ehhhhhh...notsomuch. Don't get me wrong--this is quite tasty and I'm on my third glass (so please pardon any spelling/grammar errors). But alas, Serendipity it is not.
The first taste is an elusive fruit I cannot put my finger on. Starfruit, maybe??? Maybe the sweetest, juiciest apple of all time? It definitely tastes like Welch's White Grape Juice--and if you've never had Welch's White Grape Juice, do us all a favor and grab a bottle next time you're at Ralph's. This was a "high-value treat" (to use a dog-training term) in my childhood, and maybe why I love sweet wine...
Anyway. As this chardonnay washes over your tongue, you definitely get hit by that "chardonnay" flavor. I have NO idea what that is, other than "chardonnay." But I'm not a huge fan, so I'm grateful that the "chardonnay" phase is short and mild. It just reminds you that you're drinking wine instead of white grape juice.
But then, after you swallow, the flavor does in fact morph. Subtly, without the fanfare of my beloved Serendipity, but it definitely does suddenly start tasting like caramel. Which is super fun and makes you want to sip again right away--which is how you find yourself three glasses in not long after you started.
I paired this with Chicken Lombardy, and it was fine, but I think I would have preferred a less-sweet white with this--maybe a dry grüner veltliner, or a buttery chardonnay. I would recommend drinking this by itself, or pasta, or maybe with a dessert--Trader Joe's Cinnamon Graham Crackers, perhaps. Actually...I just bought some of those...
What the bottle says: "This 100% barrel-fermented Chardonnay offers a rich, mouth-filling balance of lush tropical fruit and restrained vanillin toast with hints of caramel and crème brûlée, making it a delicious complement to herb crusted fish, roasted chicken or light pasta dishes."
What the Wine Idiot says: Oh, yeah actually, I don't know what "vanillin toast" is, but it does sorta taste like it has vanilla in it. Herb-crusted fish? OK, I guess I could see that. If the herb flavor was really strong. Yeah. I don't disagree. Carry on, label.
Who's responsible for this? "Vinted and bottled by Pacific Grove Cellars, Parlier, CA"
Do I need a corkscrew? Yup.
What do smarter people say about it? Well these dudes have a 12 minute video you could watch, or you could just read their tasting notes: "The color is a light yellow straw. The nose leads with notes of heat from alcohol, but is quickly followed by notes of apricot, passion fruit and miscellaneous citrus and tropical fruit. The taste brings mouth coating fruit notes of apricot and zesty citrus. The finish is creamy and smooth. This barrel-fermented wine is a great value, and its deliciousness would be enhanced with a slight chill." And Clever Girl Reviews has an interesting conspiracy theory I couldn't corroborate on the internets: "The internet hints that this wine is actually a La Crema made wine bottled under another label. I could certainly see that. This wine is small batch fermented in 100% oak. It’s also had Malolactic fermentation. The grapes are 100% Chardonnay. We chilled it down to about 55 degrees. With all the oaky goodness, I wouldn’t chill it much more than that. The wine is a golden straw hue. When the bottle was opened I got a whiff of browned butter."
Should I bring it to a friend's house? Eh. If you should bring a white, it's probably not a bad white to bring--I'm thinking about a fourth glass. But I think you could do better. I'll try to find a better TJ's white for ya. You might have to spend $15? But if you wanna spend less than $10, this won't kill anyone.