Brewer-Clifton Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2017 $42

I’m not sure I can think of another prestige wine that gets as little respect these days as California Chardonnay. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken with winemakers the past few years and be them from the Okanagan or Argentina, they all take great pains to claim that the Chardonnay they’re making is not “California” style. What they mean, of course, if a wine that has a significant oak influence and emphasizes the buttery, tropical fruit notes of the grape when grown in warm climates. But is that really the California-style in 2020? 

If it’s this bottle from Southern Californian powerhouse Brewer-Clifton – it’s not. I don’t think I’ve had a more delicious Chardonnay this year (and I knocked more than a few Puligny-Montrachets when I thought the world was going to end). It’s fermented in neutral oak (think: minor wood influence) and doesn’t see any malolactic fermentation (think: not interested in “softness”), but this isn’t one of those endless new world wines that claim to be made in the Chablis tradition (think: very few of them ever pull it off). Instead this is a wine that shows the heights of new world Chardonnay: it’s got 14.5% alcohol, thanks to the warm SoCal climate, but it carries that with a absolutely focussed skeleton of acidity that keeps it light and fresh while still highlighting ripe pear and crisp peach notes. People love to describe wine with terms that are only tangentially related to taste: it’s austere, it’s classy, it’s mature. You know what this wine is? Flipping delicious. Most importantly: it’s happily Californian in the best sense of the word.

And before I stop this fawn-fest, let me hit you with another positive. This wine is $36 at BevMo in the US and only $42 up here (and even cheaper in Alberta), which makes it that ultra-rare bottle of Cali wine that’s cheaper up here. Sold and sold.