by Fred McMillin
for September 28, 1998


Age Whites?


Regarding white wines, some California Chardonnays age well.

...Frank Prial, New York Times

Age deepens a wine's personality.

...Bob Thompson, San Francisco Examiner

90% of table wine purchased in the U.S.A. is poured within hours.

...Robert Lawrence Balzer, prominent wine critic

The Rest of the Story

White wines from 23 wineries were evaluted in my latest S.F. State University (Extended Learning) course. I noticed that three of the top four had all spent a year or more in my cellar. They had NOT been poured in a matter of hours after purchase. So, I checked the background of the winner. Sure enough, it was a Chardonnay, the California white most suitable for aging. It went on sale about two years ago, August 1996. Clearly, the time in my cellar had given it a "deeper personality"...i.e., the tartness was reduced, the aroma was increased, and there were toasty, warm flavors not in the bottle tasted two years ago. Here it is. J. Lohr

The Wine

1995 J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay
Appellation—Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, CA.
When Bottled?—July 23, 1996. Released the next month.
Food Pairing—Delicious with Yucatan (striking red spices) chicken tacos, Cafe Marimba, San Francisco Marina District
Contact—Office of Marketing Director Mark Dirickson, (408) 288-5057
Price—$14 range


We've been discussing aging in the bottle. However, this wine also benefited from aging in oak barrels BEFORE bottling. What effects does barrel aging have on the wine? Expert Alexis Bespaloff answers in the Wine Enthusiast: The white wine tends to lose some of the fruit flavors, but acquires depth and complexity. Also, it picks up from the wood a slight toasty element that adds another layer of flavor. Conclusion: Buy two bottles of the latest Lohr Chardonnay. Pour one now and one in the year 2000 to taste the grace of age.

Note—Our Winery of the Week on Sept. 5, 1997 was J. Lohr. See " Lohr's Scores."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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