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2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley & 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve

A few nights ago, I was planning to watch Bottle Shock which I'd never seen before. But, before popping in the DVD, I wanted to pop the cork on some Napa Valley Chardonnay to set the mood. I found two wines in the cellar that I thought would do the trick.

The first wine was the 2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley. A recent release, the wine had been sent to me by the winery for review. The second wine I grabbed was the 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve. I had purchased that wine myself last year.

Napa Cellars is trying to deliver the type and quality of wines for which Napa Valley is famous while staying at accessible prices. The 2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley sells for $24. That's clearly over today's $10 and $20 sweet spots but is quite a bit less than many Napa Valley wines.

While not luxurious, the packaging is good for the price point. The bottle is of green glass in the standard shape and weight. The wine was sealed with a real, standard-length cork and good quality capsule. The label is clean, simple and attractive.

In my glass, the wine was light greenish gold in color and offered attractive fruit aromas that included pear, apple, tropical fruit, canned peaches and just a hint of citrus. Napa Valley Chardonnay have become associated with buttery oak and the Napa Cellars wine had that too, though not to excess.

On the palate, the wine was smooth and rich with adequate acidity and flavors of mineral, yellow and green apple, baked fruit, baking spice and butter. In short, the 2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley is a good wine that offers many of the characteristics people seek in such a wine but with more complexity and less oak than you would typically find at this price level.

Of course, Robert Mondavi Winery has been producing the very prototype of high-quality Napa Valley Chardonnay for years. With fruit coming from some of the best cool climate vineyards, whole cluster pressing, 90% barrel fermentation and sur lie aging, but only partial malolactic fermentation, the Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve wines are full-bodied but fresh.

Bright yellow-gold the 2005 immediately gave off aromas of creamy stone fruit, oak, butter, butterscotch, white flowers and minerality. It was fuller in body than the Napa Cellars wine and had less perceptible alcohol. The flavors started with creme brulee and pineapple  but finished on citrus and crisp apple.

My initial impression of the 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve was that it was a very good wine that would easily meet expectations and was worth the $38 price but didn't excite. Then I let the wines sit for a while.

The Napa Cellars wine remained attractive over time, changing very little even after a few days in the fridge. However, the 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve developed magnificently. The reviews of this wine that you'll find from it's time of release indicated that it could use a bit of time. When I first tried the wine it was already a year older than that which Wine Spectator and Robert Parker had sampled. But giving it an hour or two of air really allowed the wine to blossom. More acidity emerged and the flavors became both deeper and more complex. Now it was a very exciting wine, a bargain at the price. If you've got any of this wine, let it breathe!

Very Highly Recommended
2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve

Recommended
2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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