By Rick Riozza

We are currently drinking, enjoying, and talking about the refreshing whites of summer. Last week we souped-up on Sauvignon Blanc and now we’re checking out Chardonnays.

Gone are the days when protesters rallied around the supermarkets with their off-colored ABC signs: Anything But Chardonnay. Apparently this schism of wine enthusiasts had a lot of time on their hands and they wanted the world—or at least the wine shops in town (and any poor soul who would give a listen) to know they were as mad as hell and they’re not going to drink Chardonnay anymore. Sheesh!

Hey—we’ve all had bad days, but really there’s a “new” fantastic world of Chardonnay out there: One doesn’t have to endure those really buttery, really oaky, really thick—full-bodied “Chards”. Especially in summertime, bring on a snappy one!

Although!—California can really come up to the plate with these type of heavy-hitting Chardonnays. Yes—they’re full bodied but the craft in their winemaking is stellar. The butter, vanilla, oak etc. in the hands of an accomplished vintner can produce world class wine.

I haven’t had a Newton Chardonnay in some time. But I remember those fat babies could take down a goose—in a good way. There was honey suckle on the nose, with the richness of a Sauterne. Fruit aromas of fig and melon were followed by more complex notes of honey and brown sugar. Baking spices with hints of vanilla and almond trailed as caramelized sugar notes added to the voluptuous depth of aromas. On the palate, grilled pineapple flavors offered fresh acidity while creaminess was balanced. Cream and brioche lingered while the freshness of fruit remained onward. Dreamy—huh?

We’ll talk about those type of Chards come Thanksgiving & Christmastime. Right now, in hot haven, we’re as mad as hell and we want our Chardonnay refreshing!

So what do Morton’s The Steakhouse, Zin American Bistro, Clementine Gourmet Marketplace & Café, Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro, Ristorante Mama Gina, Indian Wells Golf Resort, La Quinta Hotel, Figue Mediterranean, and the L.A. Wine Company all have in common? Check their wine list: Morgan Chardonnay.

Here is a name, vineyard, and winery that should be on everyone’s playlist. With more than thirty years’ experience, Dan Lee and the Morgan label have been synonymous with artisan, vineyard-centric wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey.

Those of you who know the area can understand why the vineyards do so well. With mountain range locales overlooking the Salinas River Valley, the vines glean the morning sunshine before the afternoon maritime winds cause the crop to slowly ripen so the grapes develop full “terroir” flavor. The fog and ocean breezes off nearby Monterey Bay funnel south creating a cool region—that brings great fresh acidity to the fruit.

The 2012 Morgan Metallico is an un-oaked Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highland and the Arroyo Seco AVA. It’s Chardonnay in its purest form; no oak—no nothing, just intense fruit character and bright acidity that come from three months in stainless steel barrels—Metallico for sure!

For you Sauvignon Blanc fans, it would almost be a test to discern the two different noses. They both have that great green apple and lemon-lime brightness. The Metallico, however, continues further with aromas of pear and nectarine.

Continuing right along with a striking savory profile of peach and citrus, it finishes with a light-musky honeysuckle. Yes—we’re talking of a very crisp refreshing wine with flavor oomph. This is why Chardonnay is the number one selling wine in the world. So much can go on in the bottle—oaked or un-oaked! Last year, this wine was voted Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines with a 91 point score.

Morgan Metallico is a treat; enjoy it for lunch, patio parties, and onto light dinners. Cool down and relish.

The 2011 Morgan Highland is an excellent and elegant wine. Immediately upon pouring a glass, the wafting aromas struck me with a sense that brought me back to times of sitting and enjoying a wonderful dinner at a fabulous restaurant. It’s that impressive—it’s fine dining in a glass.

The Chardonnay is sourced from both the famed Double L Vineyard and the aforementioned Highlands. It is aged in 100% French oak for about 8 months. Partial malo-lactic fermentation (a second sort of fermentation where the grape’s harsher “appley” acids are converted into softer lactic “milky” acids) ensures the wine’s creamy richness that’s balanced by bright fruit acidity.

Enough science already—what about the sensational flavor profile: A wonderful aroma mélange of tangerine, nectarine, and almond. What gives it an elegant sensation is the bouquet that hints of Sauternes. The wine is rich with a light touch of toasty oak that remains refreshing per the bright citrus acidity.

For you Chardonnay fans, this one will remind you of a pleasing combination of the lighter, more complex Burgundy-style approach along with great California fruit. Kind of French at heart and Pacific Coast in the belly. All of the classic Chard taste-notes are present in this silky and smooth quaffer.

And to those of you ready to try a superb Chardonnay again, this wine will pair scrumptiously with cheeses, cream soups, chicken, fish, pork, scallops, shellfish, and veal.

The above line-up of restaurants and wine shops are a pretty good reflection on how the proprietors believe Morgan wine is a standout! Both wines are great values and available now. CHEERS!

Rick is your sommelier-about-town conducting & entertaining at wine tastings & events. Contact