Today I'm looking at a couple of 2006 Chardonnays from Schug, the Sonoma Coast and the Carneros. In addition to those they also make a third, more limited, Chardonnay known as Carneros Heritage Reserve. Walter Schug whose vision has guided the winery since he founded it in 1980, learned wine-making in his native Germany. This experience strikes me as particularly relevant and helpful when making varietals such as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir that love cooler wine growing regions. The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is Schug's entry level offering of this varietal. The retail price is $22. With just over 7,300 cases made, this is Schug's second largest production. The nose reveals a lot of citrus and a hint of spice. The first sip shows more spice and citrus notes along with peach and pear characteristics that carry through the mid-palate. The finish of the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay has white pepper and little touch of candied apple. This is a medium bodied wine with firm acidity. Oak is detectable and adds to the spice characteristics throughout, but never overshadows the fruit. I found this wine to be a great complement for a classic panini with tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella. Most lighter fare will be a good match for it as well. It's also light and refreshing enough to enjoy on it's own.
It's not always easy to find well made Chardonnay from California in this price range. The Schug Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a winner. What pleases me most about it is it's true varietal character. This is a wine made to drink in it's youth.
The Carneros Chardonnay comes mostly (96%) from Carneros fruit. Half of that is from the Schug Estate. In a lot of ways the Carneros Chardonnay is a bird of a different feather. Even from the vanilla in the nose it reveals the additional use of oak which lends itself to greater complexity. Pear and spice present themselves in the first sip. The mid-palate has a buttery apple pie note accompanied by significant mulled spice characteristics. The finish is clean, crisp and quite refreshing. This is a bigger, richer wine with a rounder mouth-feel than the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Still the use of oak is restrained and never over the top. Sufficient acidity is present to make this a well balanced effort. More than the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, this one seems to need food.
Just over 5,000 cases of the 2006 Schug Carneros Chardonnay were produced and it retails for $26. Wine-Searcher shows that it's available pretty widely for closer to $22. For either price you're getting a good amount of complexity and a well crafted wine for your money. I would expect this wine to drink well for a couple of years.
Both Chardonnays from Schugare well made wines that are also fairly priced. Beyond that it's a question of taste. My personal preference was for the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. It has an easy drink-ability about it, which for me makes it a more than solid "everyday drinker." It's a workhorse Chardonnay, which seems to be it's intent. The Carneros Chardonnay offers more complexity, structure and room for contemplation. Also a solid bet, especially, paired appropriately with food. It's a Chardonnay you'll enjoy if you want to get a little "dressed up" for dinner.
Up Next: Schug Carneros Estate 2005 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
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