I follow a pretty predictable pattern in terms of wine with dinner. I like to start with something sparkling, have a glass of white, and then move to a red. Sometimes I begin with a cocktail; sometimes I finish with a dessert wine. But basically, I’m happy in my rut.
Recently I went out for dinner with friends to Tribeca Grill, a comfortable downtown spot with a Grand Award-winning wine list. After studying the menu, we decided to start with a Bourgogne blanc, and as we moved on, picked a second Chardonnay, then a third. It was a departure, but it turned out to be a fascinating exercise in “compare and contrast.”
The Burgundy, Domaine Roulot 2008 ($65), was firm and focused, with citrus and mineral notes. It had lovely purity and elegance, but was too austere to cozy up to the food. So we decided to move on to California for the second bottle and chose a Hanzell Chardonnay Sonoma Valley from 2007 ($75). It was bigger than the Burgundy, but quite restrained by Golden State standards; balanced and fresh, it had the power to match our exuberant main courses of salmon, pork and scallops. We finished with cheese and a half bottle of Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley 2006 ($50), which had all the opulence and toasty oak you might expect from California and made for an exclamation point of a finale for the meal.
While each wine was appealing on its own, and each played an appropriate role in the progression of the meal, we all preferred the Hanzell for its intensity and its balance. I rated it 93 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Hanzell Chardonnay Sonoma Valley 2007 (91, $70).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Chardonnays, along with our quick list of Top Values among California Chardonnay for $25 or less.