They say that you never forget your first and Iām probably no exception. Iāll admit it freely that I do really like them when the mood is right. The flavours and aromas hold something special that I canāt quite put into words. And these days when things get busy, itās really a special occasion when I get to enjoy its pleasure for a long time. Ā
For some reason, Chardonnay has fallen out of favour and Iām not quite sure why. It went from being the life of the party to the blacklist in less than a decade. True, it got a little overblown with wines that tasted like buttered vanilla with a tiny bit of wine added. Then the pendulum swung the other way and we were given the options of un-oaked chards that were high acid lemon-bombs ā not exactly unique since there are plenty of other wines in that category like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc. But times have changed and importantly, so have our winemakers. Those people who make the wine you drink have also learned a lot over the last decade.
While conducting tastings at various events or functions, I have had people cover their glass and refuse a wine when they learn that it is Chardonnay. I totally understand that reaction ā I used to hate Doritos and refused to eat them. But then something happened: I turned 14 and decided to try something new. Amazing! And, I liked it ā even more amazing! I challenged my taste buds with something that I thought I didnāt like and learned something at the same time.
One of the best culinary traditions that Iāve really enjoyed since moving to BC is salmon cooked on a cedar plank. To me, nothing says Pacific Northwest more than this. (Oh, and sushi, but thatās for another post…) I have always loved salmon but the cedar plank thing just sends me over the moon. So what goes great with salmon on a cedar plank? For me, Chardonnay from BC does it every time. Even salmon on its own, or with a dill hollandaise sauce, goes great with the vibrant acidity and, yes, modest oak aging that we have here in BC. For my recent salmon dinner, the Andrew Peller Private Reserve Chardonnay 2009 was the one that fit perfectly.
It tasted a bit like what I used to call a āfence-sitterā chardonnay. A crowd pleaser, if you will. The amount of oak in the flavour of this wine will satisfy the people who expect to find it and not offend the people who donāt want it. It tries to please everyone. I used to find that kind of chardonnay annoying since it really didnāt please anyone. But Iāve come to decide over the past few years that this is what matches well with the food that we eat here. That alone merits chardonnayās legitimacy because of the way it pairs with our local food traditions like planked salmon. Most āclassicā wine regions in Europe have their own āclassicā wine pairings with local foods and why should we be any different? BC is a much younger wine growing region and there is lots of room to evaluate how our local wines fit into our ātraditionalā cuisine. There could be some undiscovered new āclassic matchā for BC wine out there waiting to be discovered.
So hereās the challenge this week: Try a BC Chardonnay, such as the Peller Private Reserve Chardonnay. I think you will be pleasantly surprised what has happened to this grape variety lately. You can be proud that BC is producing some great ones out there. The styles are still varied from richly oaked to crispy un-oaked, but it is still an agreeable, sensual wine that still deserves to be invited to the party.
Cheers from wine country!