Napa Valley Chardonnay
Napa Valley Chardonnay has a range of styles, from rich and buttery, to restrained with citrus driven flavors. Find out how to find the best Chardonnay for you.
Known as the heartland of rich, buttery Chardonnay, Napa Valley has more up its sleeve when it comes to this versatile grape. There is a range of lean, high acidity styles with minimal oak too.
Pay attention to the climate where it grows
Chardonnay is a really interesting variety because it likes cool, warm, and hot climates. Very few grapes are so easy-going when it comes to temperature. So what does it taste like depending on where it’s grown?
Cool Climate Chardonnay
Lemon, starfruit, grapefruit, and green apple, with subtle floral aromas (like apple blossom). Wines are tart, with refreshing acid and a light body.
If you like this style of Chardonnay look for wines in Napa Valley that grow closer to the San Pablo Bay, such as Carneros, Wild Horse Valley and Coombsville. You'll also find similar styles grown in the mountains, like Mount Veeder.
Warm Climate Chardonnay
Yellow apple or baked apple, mango, and pineapple with a fuller body and lower acidity. If you like this richer, more full-bodied style look to the Napa Valley floor sub-regions including Rutherford, Oakville, and Calistoga.
Spread the Love - Buttery flavors in Chardonnay
Do you like that buttery, creamy texture and aroma that Chardonnay is known for? These styles tend to come from the warmer areas of the valley, including the AVAs in the valley like Calistoga, but you can find this style in Los Carneros too.
Why is Chardonnay buttery, you ask? This aroma (and creamy texture) comes from a winemaking process called Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) that happens naturally, or is encouraged to happen by the winemaker.
It gives wine a creamy texture and aroma. Not all Chardonnay wines in Napa Valley are made this way, and if you don’t like this flavor be sure to check the back label on tasting notes, or mention of MLF.
Crème brûlée and caramel flavors in Chardonnay
Do you like vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, and cake-like aromas in your Chardonnay? These come from oak aging! Chardonnay is one of the few white grape varieties that's enhanced by oak aging. Many producers throughout Napa Valley will age their Chardonnay in oak to add complexity and texture.
In recent years, there's been a push to use less oak, even in Napa Valley. So, if you prefer a more restrained style of Chardonnay, look for “unoaked” or "aged in stainless steel" on the label.