I know, I don't believe it either. Yet here I am writing positive notes about an American chardonnay. It's hard to think of a more boring category than American chardonnay, which tends to fall into two groups. One is cheap and sweet and the other is expensive and, well, sweet and oaky. In my opinion the only areas really producing interesting chardonnay year in and out are Chablis for top quality wines and Macon for value. There are wonderful wines produced from this variety in the Cote de Beaune and many New World wine regions, but they tend to be the exception to the rule.
I tasted one of those exceptions with a ridiculously rich home-made chicken pot pie last weekend. The 2004 Chardonnay Dijon Clones, Willamette Valley, Côte Sud Vineyard from Domaine Serene is an excellent chardonnay. I never tasted this wine in its youth, but it has matured into a beautiful chardonnay that integrates richness with a firm backbone that is perfectly overlaid with smoky vanillin from the oak. What pulls this wine together is the hard minerality and firm acidity that keep this this wine from falling into this variety's tendency towards flabby sweetness. Former Domaine Serene winemaker Tony Rynders definitely had the right touch with this chardonnay.
I am not intentionally, anymore anyway, part of the ABC (anything but chardonnay) crowd. However, as I think about it I realize I never even look at the chardonnay sections as I run my finger through a wine list. This has happened over the years as chardonnay began to bore me more-and-more and other white wines, particularly riesling, excited me more-and-more. Oddly enough, many rieslings I love and chardonnays I don't have similar residual sugar levels. However, what divides them are the very dissimilar pH levels. Sugar without acid just doesn't work unless it's for the wine-by-the-glass program at Fridays.