What California Chardonnays Best Represent The Style?

In your opinions, which California Chardonnays best represent the style?
I’m putting together some very different Chardonnays and need some suggestions or opinions for California. Open to anything you might have to say about it.

Wow, a fairly broad question (I’m assuming intentionally so).
I would simply say there is no “the style.“ You will find California Chardonnay with a broad range of flavor profiles, ranging from the (stereotypically) super oaky/buttery, to very lean, sleek wines that could easily fit into a Chablis tasting.
Perhaps if you offer us a little more information about what you’re looking for, we might be able to offer better suggestions.


Thanks for the reply. I’m looking to showcase different styles of Chardonnay side by side for some friends. I have a unoaked Macon, a 1er Cru Burgundy, etc. Trying to show some people who don’t know much about wine these sort of clear differences.

Alex, I really like the chards from Jamie Kutch. I’ve been buying, cellaring and opening them since the very first release back in 2014. Primarily there are two: one from the Santa Cruz Mountains called Trout Gulch and the other made from Bohan called just Sonoma Coast (and a 3rd one, which is from a section of Bohan, the wine is called Salt Point. It’s in it’s first year of release so too soon to tell on it). Both are made with small amounts of new wood (I think generally about 20%), and there is consistently great clarity of flavor and good buffering of acidity. It’s the only CA chard I buy anymore but I do it every vintage because the wines drink with good balance, they are fresh and bright, which is what I like. And, they age well. I had the 2015 just before the holidays and it’s drinking great–vivid, fresh, delicious. I’d offer you look into Kutch.


Great info Frank, thank you

I’d suggest Stolo. Just tried several and quite impressed. Definitely cool climate, but they have nice volume that screams CA. Older vintages are being sold off as there is a new owner, Parr, actually.

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Just ordered my Trout Gulch today!


The big, oaky, buttery, tropical Chard - that is kinda the quintessential American style. Now, less and less are made in that vein as tastes have changed, but I would argue, that you can’t find that extreme style many other places. So could be a fun example to contrast with.

Maybe get a Rombauer or a Kongsgaard or perhaps an Aubert if budget affords?


Also try Six Cloves. The Chards are made with a light touch and exhibit wonderful acidity and purity. The ‘22 was a touch sweet due to the late heat wave but the ‘18-‘21 are lean and mean.


Sonoma-Cutrer is a good Rombauer substitute at a lower price point.

Definitely need this style in the lineup.


There is no “California style” except as cliche.

I am not sure who still does the big, buttery style as I find it disgusting and avoid it.

The middle road is owned by David Ramey, so any Ramey Chardonnay would be a great option.

On the more minerally, laser focused end of the spectrum I would second the nomination of Kutch.


Any tips on where to pick up some Kutch in SoCal(Los Angeles)? My normal shops don’t seem to have it.

I tend to prefer CA chardonnay from SBC, compared to Sonoma/Napa. They tend to be fresher in general. You might have luck with Tyler, Chanin, Liquid Farm, or older ABC and Qupe. Santa Cruz might another region to check out but I don’t have much experience.


I’d also throw in most SVDs from Ceritas, Rhys, Rivers-Marie, and Peay. Trout Gulch is an amazing vineyard and I believe Ceritas offers a chard from there if you can’t find Kutch.


A second for Kongsgaard and also the Aubert Lauren


An important question is what are you willing to spend, as some of the suggestions can get quite expensive (not to mention nearly impossible to source).

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Peay is hard to beat, imo, great wines that age well.

As others have said this is a very difficult question. Many of the producers named so far (Ceritas, Kutch, etc) are more New Cali. To me they are making chardonnay that is a bit of a reaction to the previous style that became famous like Rombauer. While I enjoy those wines myself, they aren’t what comes to my mind as “representational”. For that I think you should look at producers who have been around for a long time, influenced by Burgundy, but also very Californian.

SBC - Au Bon Climat
Napa - Grgich Hills
Sonoma - Ramey
Santa Cruz - Mount Eden

IMO none of these producers are oaky butter bombs, but they are much richer and more Californian that some of the others mentioned. All these producers also produce wines at various price points. Kongsgaard is a very good choice but not cheap.


Arcadian - Sleepy Hollow

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Kongsaard The Judge is the quintessential california chard.