Californication – Chardonnay & Zinfandel PART I

By Gerardo Corleone – California wines seem to reflect the real West Coast summer feeling – minerality, tropical fruit aaand often lots of oak! The balanced combination of these components make them really interesting to try, especially regarding the fact that you can taste some “traditional” varieties (Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) in an unique style.

In pairs of three I tasted Chardonnays and Zinfandels, all from different regions in California. I began my tasting with the cheapest and ended it with most expensive Chardonnay.

I have to anticipate that the Panamera Chardonnay is the best one of these three oaky Chardonnays regarding the price-quality ratio. It opens with a typical new-world bouquet full of smoke, buttery oak, cooked peach and some hints of white pepper and golden delicious. On the palate it shows of pretty creamy and juicy, but with a really elegant mouthfeel, which lets you forget the 13.5 alcohol by volume. Some balamced oaky-nutty flavours add to it and pair well with the mineral acidity.

Some stoney notes make it even more pleasant and push it to a dry and slightly salty finish. Not really persistent, but for 9.99 € you get a really good californian wine here!

Rating: 13/20 (~88 pts.) -Good wine and value!

The Spellbound by famous producer Mondavi disappointed me a bit as I thought that I might get a more elegant and mineral example of Cali Chardonnay. Way more oaky aromas in the nose: Vanilla all over here with toasted oak, whipped cream, some butter and only a defensive hint of pineapple. Creamy-smooth appearance on the palate. Less buttery, but way more vanilla with a dash of ripe peach. Some nutty flavours pair with the defensive, but present freshness (acidity) and push it to an again smokey finish.

If you want to know how a really oaky and vanilla-loaded wine smells and tastes like, then this one is definetely the right one for you.

Rating: 10/20 – Not recommendable!

The Marimar estate also belongs to a really famous wine-family, the Torres family from Spain. They began with their Sonoma-estate in 1986 and planted about 24 ha with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This is one of their flagship wines and comes from a single vineyard named after Miguel Torres, Marimar’s father. It was aged for at least 10 months in french oak (35% new), but it does show way more elegant oaky flavouts in the nose and on the palate then the other two wines: It opens with crushed stones, white dust, powdery minerals and lovely notes of coconut, peach syrup and toast.

Super silky, creamy and smoooooth mouthfeel with lots of palpable extract and a well fitting dash of tannin and roasted almond. The Pacific breezes provide some extra freshness and a special microclimate in this single vineyard and the defensive, but crispy-mineral acidity does represent exactly that. Pineapples, vanilla tart and caramell show up in the persistent-juicy finish.

This one is just great – so complex and nearly reminds me of some big and even more expensive Chardonnays from France! I’m sure it will also age beautifully. If you want to try something really special, then skipp the not spellbounding “Spellbound” and go for this concentrated, but always elegant powerhouse!

Rating: 15,5/20 – Really good wine with potential for further ageing!


You can find all wines at – here are the URLs: