Chardonnay is perhaps the most loved and the most hated white wine in the world. It is heavily dependent on its region and easily manipulated by its winemaker. The most beautiful still wine expressions come out of the Burgundy region of France where the climate and soils conspire to create complex and haunting masterpieces. The best versions of the grape typically come from climates cooler than the Sierra Foothills. In the Sierra Foothills, most wineries that offer Chardonnay source the grapes from outside of the region. However, some wineries are adventurous and undeterred by the challenge of making Chardonnay from local grapes. It is these latter attempts that we rate below.
FOOTHILLS WINO PANEL SELECTION BEST CHARDONNAY
The Sierra Vista Unoaked Chardonnay, especially the 2022, is a beautiful example of a crisp, clean Chardonnay that is highly unexpected in the Sierra Foothills. Picked early and unmanipulated, this is a go to wine for pairing with seafood or starters. Not your style? No problem. Sierra Vista offers two other styles of Chardonnay, a rich and creamy, stereotypically California version (Barrel Aged) and a new tweener version under the Tiger Lily line (which might soon emerge as one of the best whites in the Foothills as winemaker Ryan Wright homes in on its signature). Read more here.
OTHER FAVORITE FOOTHILLS CHARDONNAYS
How do you make a great Chardonnay in this climate? You grow it at 3500 feet! And then you trust it to one of the best winemakers in the region. There are delightful citrus notes, rare in these parts, but this Chardonnay, fermented and aged in oak, maintains its crowd-pleasing qualities. There is a creamy texture, but this wine is not too buttery. We'd love to try a stainless version of this one (hint, hint)!
This Chardonnay is sourced from Calaveras County, outside the region we mostly cover, but still in the Sierra Foothills, so we'll count it. While rich, creamy, and tropical, as you would expect, there is also some Davell magic in here that make this wine well worth the try.
Most of the Gwinllan Chardonnay is reserved for their award winning sparkling wines, but they make some delicious still Chardonnay as well. A nice mix of citrus and tropical fruit, pleasing acidity, and just a slight hint of oak combine to make this a delight on the palate.
Long the gold standard for Gold Country Chardonnay, the Lava Cap Chardonnay can always be counted on to be perfectly constructed. High elevation, north-facing vines help to keep these grapes in check, but make no mistake, this is a classic, rich, and elegant Chardonnay.
Miraflores grows many varieties on their estate, including a small block of Chardonnay which is handcrafted into this crowd pleasing, classic California Chardonnay full of rich complexity and weight.