Top Three Chardonnay Wines (2022 Edition)

In a recent conversation with one of you WineSnobs, I asked what kind of content they would like to see more of. They made a great suggestion – do a Top Three wines series for different categories and/or varietals. I thought it was a great idea. It also prompted me to reflect over all the amazing wines I’ve encountered so far and come up with a short list of three wines I can recommend that would further advance your journey, adventure and discovery of wine as a whole.

So without further ado, here are the top three Chardonnay wines I recommend for 2022. No matter your taste – oaked, un-oaked, dry, light, buttery or acidic – these three Chardonnay are sure to change how to look at and appreciate this varietal. Be sure to share your thoughts and notes with me on social media or in the comments below.

Tara by Ventisquero Wines, Atacama Desert, Chile

Subtle, creamy white cherries. Full, lush, silky, luxurious, weighted mouth feel. leathery terroir notes remain front and center. Chalky slate finish. Unlike most chardonnay which leave your palate dry and tingling with spice, this one’s hallmark is an absolutely drenched, wet, moist (read drooling) palate. At 12.5% ABV, you can take your time and enjoy it without experiencing any palate fatigue.

A fine wine by all accounts. An impressive feat considering it was fermented in whole clusters using only naturally occurring yeast and pressed by foot! Unfiltered! Wild!

Read my full review of the 2016 vintage here

Chardonnay by Panther Creek Cellars, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Soft, restrained nos of mild citrus and under-ripe peach, damp slightly mineral leather, white cherries linger. Subtly firm, viscous body, slightly weighted mouth feel, good tension. White pepper, subtle citrus zest, under-ripe white cherries, crisp, refined caramel and a spice tingle.

If I were to open a Chardonnay on any given day, this would be it.

Read my full review of the 2017 vintage here

Chardonnay by Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Supple, slightly crisp nose with notes of damp hay, light citrus, cantaloupe, pomegranate white cranberry which evolve into peach stone fruit. Take your time because hours later this becomes a truly magnificent wine. Beautifully balanced from front to back. Soft silky if not viscous mouth feel. Sweet citrus up front with a touch of zest. The palate is rendered moist through the finish. The body quickly fades across the palate leaving hints of honeysuckle, ripe cantaloupe and cola.

A very gentle, terroir driven Chardonnay with a beautiful, full bodied expression.

Read my full review of the 2020 vintage here

2020 Chardonnay by Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

2020 Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Morgan Winery, Salinas, CA

Supple, slightly crisp nose with notes of damp hay, light citrus, cantaloupe, pomegranate white cranberry .as it opens up these notes turn into more of a peach stone fruit. Take your time because hours later this becomes a truly magnificent wine.

Body is beautifully balanced from front to back, greeting the palate with a soft silky if not viscous mouth feel immediately. Sweet citrus up front with a touch of zest. Hints of white cranberries. There’s a noticeable minerality that lends a slight bitter in the background and renders the palate moist through the finish. The body quickly fades across the palate leaving hints of honeysuckle, ripe cantaloupe and cola.

This a very gentle, terroir driven Chardonnay with a beautiful, full bodied expression. I love this wine maker’s work. Great philosophy and execution.

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2012 Syrah (Double L Vineyard – Santa Lucia Highlands) by Morgan Winery, Salinas CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2012 Syrah (Double L Vineyard – Santa Lucia Highlands) by Morgan Winery, Salinas CA

Deep dark intense semi-opaque color. It appears clear and free of suspension. Out of the bottle nose is a little restrained for a syrah but very much present. Up front ripe dark plums, blackberries, dark cherries over a backdrop of old dusty, woody leather. Hints of black licorice punctuate the nose. Fruit and earth go hand in hand here. A deep, dark, brooding syrah.

Body is balanced from front to back. Bone dry. Thin plum skins carry over to greet the palate . Tannins are crisp, fairly restrained and fully integrated into the body. Slightly under-ripe blueberries. Barely noticeable acidity provides a gentle tension across the palate. Towards the back a gentle spice warmth slowly takes over the transition to finish, along with thin black currants. With each sip, a gentle grip builds upon the lips one delicate layer at a time. As it breathes, old barnyard woody leather and licorice intensify.

Following the nose I expected a massive beast of a Syrah however this is the complete opposite. Body is very delicate and gentle on the palate. There is a certain classic, understated simplicity to its expression and execution. This should make for a great benchmark Syrah in any cellar/collection. It is now that I have to remind myself that this is Santa Lucia Highlands and what a difference this climate/terroir makes with this otherwise massive varietal. This winemaker has done a great job of shepherding these grapes and chanelling everything that is great about this vineyard, and region at large.

Tech Sheet

2012 Double L Syrah by Morgan Winery

From Winemaker: 2012 Double L Syrah Tech Sheet.pdf
Terroir: Vineyard: Double L
Appelation: Santa Lucia Highlands
Soils: Arroyo Seco & Chualar Loam
Climate: very cool, Region 1 (UCD)
Composition: Rootstock: 110-14, 420a
Clones: 383 & 470
Aging: 1 3 months in 100% Bordeaux barrels
Analysis: Alcohol: 14.4%
Acidity: 6.7 G/L
PH: 3.54
Total Production: Approximately 75 cases
I would also like to say a Special Thank You to the Morgan Winery family and crew for digging into their limited library and making this limited production and beautifully crafted wine available. It’s truly a pleasure and honor to explore your life’s work.

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2019 Pinot Noir by Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

2019 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Morgan Winery, Salinas, CA

Bright, clear, ruby color. Shy nose, greets with wet hay, subtle raspberry, cherry and sweet cranberry. Swirling unlocks red vine licorice, honey nectar, and a sweet citrus afternote reminiscent of Meyer lemon. All mere suggestions at their most intense. Sophisticated.

Body greets with a gentle, soft, weighted, zesty, viscous composure. Once the palate adjusts, a soft, bitter, licorice, wet wood, cranberry, and slightly under-ripe raspberry dominate the expression. The overall expression is familiar yet different. This is clearly Santa Lucia Highlands, one of my favorite regions for Pinot Noir. A crisp, refined oak caramel vanilla rounds out the body without distracting the palate and rendering the mouth feel more plush and luxurious. This whole act quietly vanishes leaving the palate slightly dry and moist, completely neutral. Impressive. That’s a first.

This iconic region and its fairly neutral terroir among other key factors make it the perfect place for growing and making rich, nuanced, exquisite Pinot Noir with a unique expression of its fruit characteristics. In this way, this wine showcases this iconic region so well. By blending so many clones it becomes a true celebration of SLH and Pinot Noir. What a great representation. Nicely done!

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