The Best California Chardonnay to Drink Right Now | Wine Enthusiast
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In California, ‘Almost Magical’ Chardonnay Offers a Balance of Freshness and Flavor

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Chardonnay is one of the great chameleons in the wine world,” says Writer-at-Large Tom Capo, who reviews wines from Sonoma County. “That’s why it’s popular everywhere, and why so many winemakers love working with it.”

The grape is especially well-loved in California, where it is the most-planted white variety. While Chardonnay’s classic flavors include green apple, fig and citrus, it’s characteristically versatile and moldable. A thousand small decisions, made both in the field and the winery, can carve out unique identities.

“Really, it’s almost magical,” Capo continues. “It can be grown in warm inland valleys, or on cool and windy coastal hillsides. Winemakers can block the malolactic fermentation to keep the acids brighter or stir the lees to develop creaminess. Oak, stainless, concrete egg—there are just so many options.”

On the whole, California Chard offers an “enticing balance of mouthwatering freshness with abundant flavor,” adds Writer-at-Large Elaine Chukan Brown, who reviews wines from Napa. “The combination can be so satisfying, and I’m excited to see it becoming more and more common in these wines.”

But despite Chardonnay’s ascendance in California, there are still under-the-radar bottlings to be found. “The Santa Cruz Mountains remain somewhat of a Chardonnay gem hiding in plain sight, surrounded by the millions of people in Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area who live less than an hour away,” notes Writer-at-Large Matt Kettmann, who reviews wines from California.

He points to Storrs Winery, a veteran of the region with 35 vintages in bottle, which consistently offers wines with ample fruit and salty minerality. A newer property, Mindego Ridge, has vines planted just 15 years ago, “but its mountainside site, surrounded by redwoods and constantly chilled by the Pacific influence, shows a stunning citrus purity.”

In other words, California Chardonnay is an exciting category worth exploring. These top-reviewed bottles, selected by our Tasting Department, are a great place to start.

“Maybe you love it when it’s fresh, citrus-scented and floral, or decadent and rich, or somewhere in the middle,” Capo says. “No matter your preference, there’s a Chard for every palate.”

Alpha Omega 2021 Toyon Vineyard Chardonnay (Carneros-Napa Valley)

Toasted and buttered baguette aromas waft from the glass as this creamy-textured yet lively wine brings poached pears, candied pineapple, vanilla and white pepper nuances to the palate. Complex and layered, the wine beautifully matches richness with finesse. Best 2025–2032. 97 Points  — Jim Gordon

$160 Alpha Omega Winery

Sangiacomo 2022 Four Siblings Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

The captivating nose of this wine expresses aromas of Anjou pear, honeycomb, marzipan and white flower. On the palate, a kaleidoscope of fresh Golden Delicious apple, pear and Rainier cherry flavors come with a subtle kiss of fresh sage and thyme. A very long finish dances between plush acidity and aromatic intensity. Editor’s Choice. 96 Points  — Tom Capo

$70 Sangiacomo Wines

Storrs 2021 Christie Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains)

The delicate yet intensely mineral nose of this bottling pairs a chalky base with blanched almond, lime peel and grapefruit zest aromas. The palate is zippy and firm, showing a yuzu-driven acidity alongside the unique kick of white pepper as it sails across the palate. 96 Points  — Matt Kettmann

$29 K&L Wines

Three Sticks 2022 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

Bright, focused apple and lemon aromas anchor the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is clean and lively, displaying flavors of Honeycrisp apple, with tangerine and lemon winding up the intensity. A long, complex and mouthwatering finish comes in a framework of beautifully integrated French oak. Cellar Selection. 96 Points  — T.C.


Flowers 2022 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

This native-yeast-fermented Chardonnay is a swirl of golden sunshine in the glass, with aromas of tangy tangerine, orange blossom and sweet cinnamon on the nose. Bright and balanced, the palate has lovely precision and freshness. Enjoy now–2040. Cellar Selection. 95 Points  — T.C.


Auteur Wines 2022 Green Acres Chardonnay (Carneros)

Freshly linen, orange blossom, zested lemon, and nectarine aromas swirl from the glass of this vibrant and acid-driven Chardonnay. The palate is flush with pineapple and green apple freshness while extended sur-lie ageing with bâtonnage brings texture. Lovers of Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet will be entranced by this style. Editor’s Choice. 95 Points  — T.C.

$65 Auteur Wines

Dutton-Goldfield 2021 Dutton Ranch Walker Hill Vineyard Chardonnay

This elegant wine from Dan Goldfield smells subtle and spicy, tastes creamy and complex and feels bracing and light in texture. The harmony among fresh, crisp apples and pears, light toast and butter nuances and restrained oak toastiness is superb. Editor’s Choice. 96 Points  — J.G.

$55 Dutton-Goldfield

Mindego Ridge 2021 Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains)

This bottling begins with a fantastically dynamic nose, offering shiso, lemongrass, water chestnut and white flower aromas on a tightly woven frame. The palate pops with a minty sense of yuzu and more lemongrass, leaving a sensation in the mouth as flavors of crisp, white-fleshed fruit shine. 96 Points  — M.K.

$48 Mindego Ridge

Cuvaison 2021 Small Lot Hedon Estate Chardonnay (Carneros-Napa Valley)

A classic reserve-style wine, this poached pear and butterscotch-scented beauty reveals toasted almonds, peach nectar, honey and vanilla flavors that expand with each sip and linger nicely on the finish. The wine shows excellent concentration, layering and length. Pair it with filet of sole sauteed in butter. Editor’s Choice. 96 Points  — J.G.

$70 Cuvaison

A truncated version of this list originally appeared in the June/July 2024 of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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