It was a close fight this month. The top three wines were separated by only four points, and four different wines all received at least one taster's top score of 6 points.
Though one bottle received no points, we were generally pleased with the diversity and quality of these wines. A range of styles was on display, and we left wondering why we don't try these more often.
First Place: Raeburn Chardonnay 2015 (Russian River Valley). Floral scents dominated with this one, like walking into a flower shop, or more specifically from Josephine, "heliotrope". Also suggestions of apricots, green pear, earthiness, cedar, and baby powder. Ali detected a "small girl toy", while Kristin found "a hint of cigarette smoke". Creamy in the mouth, like lemon curd, plus honeydew, red apples, and cinnamon. Appealing qualities made Josephine "want to find out more" and described it as "intriguing". Andy felt that "it's bridging on dessert wine". Well made. Apple pie notes on the finish. Received 24 points. Suzanne's bottle. About $19.
Second Place: Gallo Chardonnay Signature Series 2015 (Russian River Valley). Notions of motor oil on the nose, plus coconut, butter, vanilla, pina colada, Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen, Malibu rum, jasmine, and oak barrels. Later, some rubbing alcohol notes emerged, along with green bell peppers, laundry detergent, eucalyptus, marshmallow, fabric softener, and chalky, wet stone. Andy found "mostly oak barrel". Weightier texture and rich, though there's a crispness to it, but also a touch hot, with the alcohol peeking out. Cream and vanilla flavors, ending in some hazelnuts. Alcohol on finish makes it seem like a liqueur. Andy described it as "a red wine drinker's white wine". Received 22 points. Andy's bottle. About $30.
Third Place: Domaine Sonoma Chardonnay 2014 (Sonoma County). Fairly light in color, with a pebbly, minerally, river rock nose. Citrus (mostly lime), but also a little tropical, like green mango. Smells inviting. Green apple, fresh cut grass, graphite, and new sneaker scents. Ali was reminded of "DSW...no, WD-40". Pleasant in the mouth, and fruity but not overdone, with flavors reminiscent of white peach, Creamsicle, and Green Jolly Rancher. Tastes like it smells. Good on its own, or with a hot summer day. Minerally and light-hearted. Received 20 points. Kristin's bottle. About $20.
MacRostie Chardonnay 2014 (Sonoma Coast). Looks unfiltered. Funky nose reminded Josephine of Ali using the term "autumn foot" from a previous tasting. Road tire and a pile of freshly raked leaves. Under ripe melon, peach, and vanilla qualities. Subtle oak. Andy decided that "I'm not offended by it", while Josephine found "broom flower, that grows on the forest floor". Another taster described it as a "fire in a cabin in the woods". Tasted better than the smell. Really balanced, with flavors of ripe oranges, tangerines, and tropical fruit. Josephine narrowed this down to "orange candy, not natural orange". Finished with oak notes, and little burn. Suzanne noted that, "If you had to judge it on the finish alone, you'd feel like you shouldn't light a match." Josephine felt that "it's a little too aggressive." Received 9 points. Ali's bottle. About $20.
Camp Chardonnay 2016 (Sonoma County). Skunky and slightly diapery nose, though Andy felt that "It's not like an offensive diaper." Josephine decided that it had "a pleasing musk." Something rotten and vegetal, but also pine. Reminiscent of fruits and veggies about to dehydrate, or dried up nectarine. A little minerality paired with cleanser, pool water, and hints of green apple. Josephine found "undercooked tomato sauce". Fruity, but undistinguished on the palate, this was vague and thin. Lacks intensity of flavor. Feels diluted. David felt that "Someone wanted to extend this wine." Citrus fruit flavors.
Suzanne described it as a "work out wine". Ali liked the finish, saying that the "finish is light and whispery, but nice", while Andy felt it was "too meandering, an ADD wine." David was reminded of "ocean breeze on the finish", with Andy elaborating, "Yeah, like you just licked an arm...a sweaty arm." Received 9 points. Josephine's wine. About $19.
Lioco Chardonnay Estero 2014 (Russian River Valley). On the nose, tasters were reminded of urine, wet dog, yeast, apple cider, cloves, licorice, and cake shop. Ali felt it was like "someone took a pee in the corner", with David adding, "somebody ate a cake and then peed in the corner." Weird sweetness. Smells candied. A pomegranate note emerged with air. Kristin detected "Werther's that has been around too long." Ali was horrified with the flavors, saying "I don't want that in my mouth ever again." Good acidity, though it tasted much like a cider. Andy decided that "it's a shame", while Josephine felt that it "sits there sour". Andy found "a raw snap pea, but not fresh tasting". Not integrated or holding together. Improved with food, however. No points. David's bottle. About $30.