Does Chardonnay Have An Image Problem? -or- Chard, The New York Times, And You

Perhaps you’re familiar with the acronym ABC. Not the Jacksons song, nor a Sesame Street bit. No, I am referring to that subset of the wine-drinking public whose disdain for Chardonnay is so intense it has led them to become part of the ABC-crowd. Sort of a viticultural Tea Party of sorts, this is a loose aggregation of rebel wine drinkers who band together in locations all over the country, with the express purpose of drinking Anything But Chardonnay.

(Apologies for generalizations here; the purpose of this post isn’t actually to offer cohesive analysis of anything to do with ABC adherents, I’m just trying to set up my story!)

To date, the phenomenon has not been something that has worried me. While I recognize, courtesy of a syndrome I like to think of as the “blaming-the-varietal-for-the-method” syndrome (see previous post on Carignane!), that Chardonnay’s reputation has taken a bit of a beating in recent years, I am so engaged by, and entranced with, Ridge Chardonnay, and so regularly in the position of both proselytizing for them, and enjoying the astonished and delighted reactions of near-instant converts who taste them, that it rarely occurs to me to remember that there might be a problem.

Our Chardonnays are what I like to think of as “excitement wines,” though for the purposes of this story, it might be more appropriate to name them as “very pleasant surprise wines”; because this tends to be what most people experience when they first try them. They read the winemaker’s notes, and take heed of the fact that we use almost entirely American Oak for our barrel program. And they note that the wines are both fermented and aged in barrel. And that they go through full malolactic fermentation (albeit via wild yeasts!). And more often than not, they then form an opinion as to how the wine will taste. And then they taste. And what they taste is citrus and tropicality; minerality and yeast, acidity and viscosity, complexity and elegance. What they don’t taste is … well … you know what I’m going to say …

So anyhow, here I am hidden away on our lil’ mountain, happily espousing the joys of tasting Ridge Chardonnay, while out there in the world, outside my lil’ oeno-bubble, it appears the problem is worse than I thought. I can’t recall who said it, or when, but it was something to the effect of, “you know you’re famous when you’re in a New York Times Crossword Puzzle.” Well, in this case, I guess you know a problem is real when it shows up in similar fashion.

Last night, I was at table, casual-style, eating some simple leftovers, drinking a glass of 2007 Ridge Vineyards Carmichael Zinfandel (if this was pure fiction, I would have had it that I was drinking Ridge Chardonnay, but alas, it was indeed a zin!), and trying to wrap up the Sunday crossword before next Sunday, and I see the following clue:

And before going to see what 5-down actually looks like, I’m thinking; honeysuckle? pear? lemon custard? citrus? apricot? And then I find 5-down. Three blank spaces. Yep, you guessed it.


Sigh …

Categories: Chardonnay, Events & Photographs, Press Reviews, Varietals & Blends, Vineyards and Oenology, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine Tales

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2 replies

  1. Hey – love this column, and very near and dear to my heart, as I recently wrote a series of columns on the whole “ABC” nonsense (including the esteemed NYT). Check it out!

  2. Oh, this absolutely requires a letter to the PuzzleMaster. Do NOT take this!

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