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Senior editor Alison Napjus joined Wine Spectator in 2000. She is the lead taster for Alsace, Beaujolais and Champagne and also tastes wines from regions throughout Italy.
Alison Napjus

A California Chardonnay Face-Off

Keller Sonoma Coast Oro De Plata 2006 and Sanford Santa Barbara County 2007

Alison Napjus
Posted: December 6, 2010

One recent weekend, both Saturday and Sunday found me waiting for a table for brunch, checking out two small by-the-glass lists at two different Manhattan restaurants. By-the-glass Chardonnay is not usually the best bet in my mind—as you too often end up with a rather generic glass of wine—but both restaurants had interesting options available.

On Saturday, I tried the 2006 Keller Oro De Plata Chardonnay, a ripe and juicy wine, with a plumpness to the peach and melon flavors that was well-balanced by the tangy, orangey acidity. I gave this Sonoma Coast bottling 89 points, non-blind.

I also gave 89 points, non-blind, to Sunday’s wine—Sanford’s 2007 Chardonnay, from Santa Barbara County. This creamy white showed hints of lemon zest, hay, lemongrass and spice, backed by a subtle frame of stony acidity. There was a pleasant leesy note on the finish—very mild—that I associate with white Burgundy from the Mâcon.

Both wines showed the same quality, and both wines were about the same price—$11 a glass for the Keller and $10.50 for the Sanford—but they were very different stylistically. This is a tribute to how adaptable Chardonnay is to different winemaking techniques and microclimates, which is part of the reason that this grape finds so many fans.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting reviews for Keller Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Oro De Plata 2006 (88, $24) and Sanford Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2007 (88, $22).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Top Values among California Chardonnay, for $25 and less.

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