The days of über-oaky, “Butterball” California Chardonnays as the norm are long past, and the Golden State now produces the full array of styles possible from this versatile grape. Still, it’s nice to know what you’re getting when you buy a bottle. Nothing could be clearer then the word “naked” as part of the wine name, meaning the wine lacks any oak influence in the winemaking or aging. Not to mention the fact that it’s an eye-grabber on a wine list or a retail shelf.
It was Four Vines’ “Naked” Chardonnay that caught my attention recently on a wine list. I thought it would be interesting to try a California Chardonnay with no oak influence, and to refresh my take on characteristics of the grape specific to California. The wine didn’t disappoint—the honeydew melon and tangerine flavors were framed by plump, juicy acidity, and there was a nice underlying spice note. It was fresh and clean, with a bit of red grapefruit on the finish. I scored it 88 points, non-blind. As usual in New York, I paid a large mark-up at $10 per glass, but this is typically a very affordable bottling, anywhere from $10 to $14 a bottle in a wine store.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Four Vines Chardonnay Santa Barbara County Naked 2008 (87, $14).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Chardonnays.