Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Penfold's Yattarna, Good as an $11 California Chardonnay?

On Saturday, August 12, I made what has become a less than frequent visit to Vintage Wines on San Diego to partake of their weekly $5 tasting. The theme on this Saturday? Chardonnay.

I tasted the wines double blind. That is I did not know what wines were in the tasting or their order. I’ve listed the wines in the order they were tasted along with their identities.

2004 Chateau Souverain, Sonoma $10.99USD
Straw yellow. Buttery, oaky aromas over fruity aromatics, spices, ripe apple, and a little anise. Medium weight with soft, mouth filling entry backed up by clean acidity, good presence of flavor on the palate and nice length to the finish. Misses on the mid palate. 2, 2, 4.0, 9.8 = 17.8/20, 89/100. (5)

2004 Devil’s Lair, Margaret River, Australia $15.99USD
Light straw yellow. A little toasty oak struggles up from a sweet musky note mingled with citrus. Medium weight, well structured with crisp acidity and excellent carry of flavors onto the palate. 2, 2, 3.5, 10.0 = 17.5/20, 87/100. (6)

2004 Arnoux,Hautes cotes du Beaune Les Picotins $14.99USD
Straw yellow. Hmm, honey, peanut butter and treacle. Very atypical for New World. Crisp acidity covers the palate. Great structure, excellent presence of flavors and a persistent finish. 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20, 91/100. (2)

2003 White Rock, Napa Valley $21.99USD
Darker straw yellow. Toasted oak, a little ethyl acetate and citrus, almost marmalade. Soft and round with supple entry. Nice carry of flavor onto palate and good length. 2, 2 3.9, 10.0 = 17.9/20, 89/100. (4)

2004 Cloudy Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand $23.99USD
Straw yellow. Beautiful aromatics that include melon, citrus and integrated oak. Wow, mouth watering acidity closes off a stunning complexity that caresses the palate and leaves a lingering memory. Very impressive wine. 2, 2, 4.3, 10.5 = 18.8/20, 94/100. (1)

2003 Penfold’s Yattarna, Australia $53.99USD
Light straw yellow. Subdued, slight petrichor (minerality), over faint anise, oak and citrus. Medium weight with soft and supple entry, nice complexity with excellent carry of flavors onto the palate, pleasing apple-crisp acidity and a lengthy finish. Nice wine. 2, 2, 3.6, 10.3, 17.9/20, 89/100. (3)

Learning the identities of these wines was more than a little surprising. It was not too difficult to identify the Ch. Souverain and the White Rock as California Chardonnay, or the Arnoux as the only serious Old World member. I was not sure where the second wine (Devil’s Lair) was from; New World certainly. And I was willing to guess that the second last wine was probably Australian, simply because it was not a typical California Chardonnay. But it was the last wine that completely fooled me. I was leaning toward Burgundy but it just did not seem to be a complete fit. However its not uncommon in these tastings for at least one wine to be a standout, at least in price, and in previous Chardonnay tastings quite expensive Burgundys have been included. But I was not expecting to see Yattarna, and having never tasted the wine before I would never have picked the style, assuming that what I tasted was typical.

This is the wine Robert Parker Jr. can’t give 80 points? I tasted through the wines again, from lowest rated to highest. I still agreed with the order I had rated the wines. Yattarna scores the same as an $11 California Chardonnay? No, not exactly. It’s the second highest scoring wine on the palate, but it falls down because nosing the wine reveals so little of its character. I guess I could rewrite the tasting note to make more of that point, but that would make this blind tasting a wasted exercise. For me the combination of a tasting note and scoring individual facets of the wine serves that purpose well enough. Yattarna is not just an 89 point wine, but then neither is the Chateau Souverain. And neither of them are drinking as well as the Cloudy Bay!

Just how good is the Cloudy Bay? I bought a few bottles so I could sit down with one.

2004 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay $23.99USD (Screwcap)
Straw yellow. Very open and forward with layers of tropical fruits over buttery oak. Very appealing. Developed nutty, citrus notes with time. Full bodied, soft and supple entry with excellent carry of flavors and attention getting acidity that cuts across the palate ending in a lingering finish. Beautiful wine. 2, 2, 4.2, 10.3 = 18.5/20, 93/100. 14% alcohol. Tasted September 2, 2006.


Mal said...

Chardonnays?????????????? What is wrong with you man? You are slipping - back to the reds!

Seriously though, good reviews. I have had a few Yattarna's and have not been impressed by much other than the price tag - although this comment is really a poor generalisation as Chardonnay just doesn;t do it for me.

Mike said...

Hi Mal

Actually I'm not adverse to the odd white, variety is the spice of life! But stay tuned for some notes on the tasting of some older American reds back to 1974, but also including a 1984 Penfold's Magill Estate.

And then next week I'll be going to a current release California Cabernet tasting, as long as they get enough of a crowd. Sometimes folks just don't turn out for Cali Cabs.