Price Vertical: Five Great Chardonnays to Fit Any Budget

In Price Verticals we recommend wines at escalating release prices that can be found widely at local retail in Texas and that are an exceptional value at the price.

For many wine drinkers, Chardonnay is a varietal you either love or you wouldn’t be caught dead drinking. My relationship with the grape is little more complex. ImageIt was a bottle of chardonnay, Cakebread to be exact, that fueled my desire to learn more about wines and winemaking. We had opened a number of Chardonnays before that Cakebread, but, as a young couple just starting out, they had all been at the very low end of the price scale. Celebrating our anniversary at a restaurant, we splurged and bought a bottle of Cakebread. I was stunned at how the same grape could produce such an amazing and different taste and feel than all our previous Chardonnays. I was hooked.

$10: Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay
Bright and crisp, with predominant pear, apple and grapefruit, this affordable chard boasts hints of spice and oak and delivers a clean finish. This Washington Chardonnay has been a staple in our house for years and has proven to provide the same quality and value regardless of vintage.

$20: Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay
A blend of estate-grown grapes from two different locations, the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve has a lush blend of grapefruit and lemon notes with a touch of oak and very subtle butter.  The finish is also clean and lingers. This wine is a great value at the price.

$30: Cakebread Chardonnay
This is the one that started it all for me. Fifteen years later, it still consistently warrants recommendation. Predominantly pear, apple and melon notes, the Cakebread also weaves notes of baking spice that give it a richer flavor and smooth finish.

$40: Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
The Wagner Family has a long history or fantastic wines: Caymus, Conundrum, Belle Glos and Meomi. Their Monterrey County Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is no exception. Rich and deep gold in color, I love the butterscotch notes that integrate with more traditional chardonnay flavors in this wine.

$50: Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay
Rich and creamy in the mouth, this chard adds layers of fig, almond and honey to the traditional citrus notes for an unusual but very decadent wine. The finish lingers and seems to intensify the butter and oak in the wine. If you are ever in Napa, I also highly recommend a visit to Newton. The manicured English gardens that top their Spring Mountain caves are breathtaking.

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