While I haven’t really met a wine I wouldn’t drink (hey,when I was a student studying abroad in Madrid, I even drank box-wine!), I definitely have my preferences. When it comes to white, I’m a fan of chardonnays; and I know I’m in good company, since every wine menu on the planet—even those with only a couple reds and a couple whites—inevitably offers a chard.
I lean towards buying organic, biodynamic and local wines (ideally trekking out to a winter so I can ask the winemakers how they are treating their grapes); I’m currently based in Western Oregon in the Coast Range Mountains—prime pinot noir-growing territory. Luckily I am (literally) surrounded by vineyards, and in my time here have learned much more about American wine than I had before. I grew up in New York, so it was less expensive, and, turns out, lower impact on the planet to drink European wines when I was living there—and travelling on the Continent.
So, I am still definitely learning about wines, especially on the West Coast, but here are three inexpensive chardonnays that I love, perfect for parties and gatherings when you need to make a bunch of random people happy with a few wines of each type.
Badger Mountain’s 2013 Chardonnay is a very refreshing take on the classic, with just a bit of oaky undertones, in a light, relaxed way—not heavy at all (like, for example Clos du Bois tends to be). It’s also a teensy bit carbonated, which is fun and makes it a great before-dinner or party wine. No sulfites are added to this vino (though there might be a bit of naturally occurring ones), and it’s made in the Columbia Valley of Washington State, so a solid regional wine for me.
Located at the head of the Russian River in Mendocino County, California, Frey Vineyards is the first maker of biodynamic wine in the United States, and has been in business for 30 years. (Also, their buildings look adorable and I want to visit!). I love that they are family-owned, too. Their Chardonnay is medium-bodied and refreshing, with a hint of spice, and a mild oak (again, this one is stainless-steel fermented, and only exposed to a bit of oak in the process). This vineyard’s attention to detail and longevity really comes out in its lovely (and award-winning) flavor, which makes it worth the slightly higher price tag (it’s closer to $15.00 a bottle than $10). Frey is also a vegan wine!
Natura is Banfi Vineyard’s organic line, and it’s a solid, budget-friendly option. Their Chilean chardonnay is super-tangy and fruity, not oaky at all (it’s aged in stainless steel barrels), so if you are into an easy-drinking white with no woody flavor but lots of just-chardonnay-grape going on, this is a great one and a wine that I actually prefer to drink with food, rather than just sipping on its own. Not a regional wine, but one of my favorite go-tos when I’m in the mood for a clean, acid-leaning chard.
What is your favorite organic chardonnay, and why? Let me know in the comments; we are always open to suggestions!