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by Fred McMillin
How Good are the 1998's?
...James Laube, Wine Spectator
Let's Check It Out
The difficult growing year produced Chardonnay more acidic and less appealing than usual, according to the Spectator. For example, the previous four vintages averaged a 96 rating, while the 1998 came in at eighty five, down eleven points!
If that's the case, I figured even we normal mortals should be able to detect it. My panel has tasted blind a large number of 1996 through 1999 vintages in various price ranges. Here are the winners.
How did the 1998s Do?—California Chardonnays
Our Best Chardonnay of the Winning Years 1996-1999
$10—Sierra Vista Winery, El Dorado County, 1999
Was Laube Right?
There were 53 Chardonnays in the study, including 28 1998s. The '98s won only two of the above10 price groups. What doesn't show on the table is that the '98s came in last in 7 of the 10 groups. Laube was right!
Postscript—A "Chardenot" Footnote
We've been exploring Chardonnays of the nineteen nineties. How was the grape doing in the eighteen nineties in the Golden State? The foremost Napa Valley author, Prof. George Husmann, indicated the status of the "Chardenot" grape. In 1886 he wrote that while it had "high promise, [the variety] has not yet been well and thoroughly tested." But, just a decade later "the celebrated wine grape of Burgundy" had made his highly-recommended list of the 1890s!
This page created May 2001