I often open bottles of chardonnay from California with trepidation, fearing that I will find an over-oaked, stridently spicy, tropical fruit cocktail laced with meringue and caramel. Yuck! So I was casting about last night, after LL had seared and roasted a fillet of morgan-label-ch-highland-07.jpg wild Coho salmon, roasted some fingerling potatoes and sauteed some sea-beans with preserved ginger, and she said, “Wait, isn’t there one of those chardonnays that we like in the refrigerator, one of those steely ones?”

Yes, Morgan Winery to the rescue!

The Morgan “Highland” Chardonnay 2007, in Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands, was exactly what we were looking for. The wine is carefully made to preserve freshness, focused acidity and classic chardonnay flavors. The wine is fermented in French oak, but only 35 percent new barrels; it ages only 10 months in oak, and only 35 percent of the wine goes through the malolactic process, so any element of lushness or creaminess is held to a minimum. Primarily what you get are riveting purity and intensity, scintillating elements of limestone and shale, and perfect balance and integration. Delicious green apple, pineapple and grapefruit flavors unfold to offer hints of peach and pear and an even more delicate strain of jasmine and honeysuckle. A few moments in the glass unleash touches of baking spice and buttered toast, with a high bell-tone of crystallized ginger. The finish brings in a bit more wood, a sort of dry, blond spiciness. This should drink beautifully through 2011 or ’12, well-stored. 13,000 cases were produced, so there’s plenty to go around. Excellent. About $26.