Mon 19 Jan 2009
You might think that with 14.6 percent alcohol the Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay 2006, from the winery’s Rhinefarm Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, would be awkward and unwieldy, but that’s not the case. The wine wears its alcohol as an expression of pent dynamism brilliantly balanced by crisp acidity and a profound mineral element. Yes, this chardonnay is large-framed, dense and chewy, yes, it’s ripe, spicy and full-bodied, yet perfect equilibrium keeps every aspect resolutely, though somehow delicately, in place. A restrained hand with oak helps; the wine ages only nine months in French oak, with a mere 20 percent of the barrels being new. That deftness contributes firm structure and spicy value without the over-spiced, cloyingly sweet and smoky character that mars so many chardonnays made in California. I don’t mean to praise this wine only in terms of negatives: It’s not this, it’s not that. To put the case completely in the way of the positive, let’s say this: The Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay 2006 bursts with juicy, lively pineapple and grapefruit flavors packed with resonance and intensity, while simultaneously offering purity, grace and elegance. This was wonderful with seared and broiled salmon. Production was 1,828 cases. Excellent. Suggested retail price is $25, though I have seen it on the Internet from $19 to $28.