Taste 8 Amazing Chardonnays in Napa Valley

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  • on SEPTEMBER 26, 2016
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You may know that the 1976 Judgement of Paris put Napa Valley on the map. But what you might not know is that Mike Grgich was the winemaker behind the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that snatched the honor. Today, Mike Grgich owns Grgich Hills Estate in Oakville, California, and with his influence on this corner of Wine Country, it’s no surprise that others have taken note and established their own Chardonnay operations closeby. Here are our favorite Napa Valley Chardonnays from the Oakville and Rutherford regions.

Oak Free Chardonnay

Image Source: Yelp

St. Supery
8440 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-4507
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 102 reviews

St. Supery Estate Vineyards is the largest family-owned and sustainably farmed winery in Napa Valley. Their Napa Valley Estate Chardonnay is oak-free, and is therefore fermented in stainless steel tanks. The Chardonnay has tropical aromas, hints of Asian pear and honeydew, and a crisp and clean finish. You can taste this Chardonnay and more of St. Supery’s bold wines at their modern tasting bar—they offer two tastings a day, and walk-ins are welcome.

Insider tip: To get an up-close look at every step of St. Supery’s winemaking process, sign up for the Vineyard-to-Glass Tour. Twenty-four hour advance registration is required for this fun and educational experience.

The Prizewinner

Image Source: Yelp

Grgich Hills Estate
1829 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-2784
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 307 reviews

Many people’s first stop on their tour of Napa Valley’s Chardonnay region is to Mike Grgich’s winery. Grgich’s Chardonnay is classically-styled and features tropical flavors along with notes of minerality, pairing perfectly with seafood, creamy cheese, grilled chicken, and roasted pork. You can try a sample of the Chardonnay in Grgich Hills Estate’s intimate tasting room, or on their lovely patio that overlooks vineyards and rolling hills.

Insider tip: To learn all of Grgich Hills Estate’s best-kept secrets, try the Exclusive Tasting, where you’ll get to sample pairings of artisan cheese with six of Grgich Hills vintage and limited-edition wines.

Cool-Grown Selections

Image Source: Yelp

Beaulieu Vineyards
1960 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94558
(707) 967-5200
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 148 reviews

Beaulieu Vineyards offers Chardonnay sourced from the cool growing regions of California, including Carneros and the windy central coast. They offer tastings of their creamy, spicy, and complex Chardonnay in their elegant wood-paneled tasting room, so be sure to ask the staff about Mike Grgich’s time there in the late 1960s: Beaulieu Vineyards was one of Grgich’s first jobs in Napa Valley, and he helped develop their malolactic fermentation process.

Insider tip: For a delicious burger, head next door to Rutherford Grille. You can bring in a bottle of wine from Beaulieu Vineyards—there’s not even a corking fee.

Eco-Friendly Wines

Image Source: Yelp

ZD Wines
8383 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
(800) 487-7757
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 66 reviews

ZD Wines has been creating their rich and balanced Chardonnay since 1969. For each harvest, ZD Wines carefully chooses quality vineyards from throughout the cool-growing regions of California, ensuring that their Chardonnay obtains the distinct flavor and complexity for which this winery is known.

They also focus on organic and sustainable farming and renewable energy. You can learn all about their growing techniques on their Eco Vineyard Tour and Wine tastings, where you’ll get to sample some of ZD Wines’ offerings.

Insider tip: After touring ZD Wines, go for a walk on the Shore Trail at the nearby Lake Hennessey City Recreation Area. From this trail, you can get a beautiful view of sunset over Lake Hennessey.

Hollywood Glamour

Image Source: Yelp

1991 St. Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA
(707) 968-1144
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 279 reviews

The historic Inglenook Winery was founded in 1879, but in 1975, it was purchased and refurbished by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Throughout its long history, Inglenook has made crisp and well-balanced Chardonnays: their Cask Series Chardonnays in particular are a pale straw color, and contain subtle undertones like light and clean pear and melon flavors. To try this Chardonnay, reserve your spot on a Heritage Tasting held in the elegant Pennino Salon.

Insider tip: Don’t miss the history museum, which features filmmaking equipment and memorabilia from Francis Ford Coppola’s movies. You can even bring a glass of wine in to sip as you look as exhibits.

High-Elevation Harvest

Image Source: Yelp

Peju Winery
8466 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-3600
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 314 reviews

The family-owned and operated Peju Winery harvests its Chardonnay grapes from their Persephone Vineyard in Pope Valley, a largely undiscovered region in northeast Napa Valley that’s slowly gaining popularity. The grapes are grown at an elevation of almost 1000 feet, giving the fruit a rich and focused flavor, resulting in a lovely aromatic taste with hints of peaches and orange blossoms. To taste this delicious wine, and also learn more about Peju Winery, sign up for the one-hour tour and tasting

Insider tip: If you want to learn about classic food and wine pairings, reserve a spot in the one-hour Peju Wine and Culinary exploration class. Classes are held on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Beautiful Tasting Room Views

Image Source: Yelp

Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St Helena Hwy
Oakville, CA 94562
(707) 226-1395

Robert Mondavi Winery offers both oaked and unoaked Chardonnays that feature touches of creaminess with light fruit flavors and aromas. There are three different tasting room options available, including the Vineyard Room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of the To Kalon Vineyard. Robert Mondavi Winery also has one other major distinction: it helped launch the career of Mike Grgich—he was chief enologist there from 1968 through 1972.

Insider tip: For lunch, head to nearby Oakville Grocery, and try their signature crab cake sandwich.

Bold Oak Flavors

Image Source: Yelp

Elizabeth Spencer Winery
1165 Rutherford Rd
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-6067
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 60 reviews

Elizabeth Spencer Winery is known for its Block Seven Chardonnay, a golden yellow variety with a bright and fresh lemon and green apple aroma. The Chardonnay is vinified in oak, giving it deep, bold flavors. Give it a try at the Charter Tasting, offered at Elizabeth Spencer’s stand-up tasting bar and at the café tables in the lovely courtyard.

Insider tip: Test your wine identifying skills with a Blind Tasting. You’ll be taught how to distinguish flavors and aromas, and you’ll then be asked to try and identify four wines.

From Grgich Hills Estate and beyond, Oakville and Rutherford are filled with amazing Chardonnay blends. To try all of these bold and delicious Chardonnays, head over to this famed slice of wine country.




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