Of Proteus and Chardonnay

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Chardonnay is somewhat like a faceless man – it takes on character of site and cellar with uncanny ease. There may be no core essence to Chardonnay but it holds many answers. Chardonnay likes tricks. Chardonnay may be the most beautiful variety or the most ugly. Its drinkers prefer Nostradamus to the prim precision of Riesling’s Copernicus.

Perhaps this penchant for metaphor is why I am so attracted to Chardonnay. It eases burdens not by applying a salve but by shaping itself into just what you need. Its surface-ease requires little reflection, but truths lie deep within.

The two faces of Proteus today are a steely, bright Chablis from master Thomas Pico, and a textural and suave fruit-laden new-wave Napa Chardonnay from Ehren Jordan. Both are master winemakers. Both intimately understand Chardonnay. Both are ensconced in knowledge of their place: Chablis and California.

Great Chardonnay wine-makers are less common than you might suppose. Most Chardonnay, even in the premium market, fails to fully embrace its fundamental lack of nature to apply a philosophy, shape, and vision without compromise. Too many over-mould or under-mould the wine. These efforts are often called “drinkable” – to me they are fallacies.

True Chardonnay does not need profound complexity, but it needs to refuse its Protean tricks and make it what it is meant to be in the particular place and particular time it becomes fully formed. Then, the answer will come forth.

Pattes Loup Chablis 2014: Very Good+ to Excellent. ~$45 + tax at Kits Wine

Failla “Hudson Vineyard” Chardonnay 2015: Excellent. $86 + tax at Marquis Wine Cellars

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