Too many winemakers are in love with oak. So much so that they would probably bottle it on its own if they could. Some Chardonnays have so much oak in them, you run the risk of getting splinters in your tongue. Don't get me wrong—oak has its place, but it should provide texture and add to the flavors, not overwhelm them. On the bright side, a few brave wineries have decided to forgo the wood route all together, creating bright and fruity Chardonnays that are a refreshing pleasure. Here are our top picks.
2001 Alois Lageder Chardonnay, Alto Adige, 14.99
Delicate aromas of light honey and white peach backed by touches of kiwi, anise, herbs and clover. The peach and kiwi carry through on the palate in this charming wine with a tangy, citrus finish. Italy's Lageder also makes outstanding Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco with the same emphasis on the purity of the fruit.
2002 Mad Fish Chardonnay, 12.99
A product of Western Australia, Howard Park Wines' Mad Fish Chardonnay opens with aromas of apple, lime, pineapple and grapefruit. Nice mouth feel with soft, tropical fruit up front, crisp citrus and green apple at the center, and a long, lively finish. A great choice to serve with seafood and lighter summer fare.
2003 Yalumba Chardonnay, $9.49
Another entry from down under, this time from South Australia, the aromas are all red apple and ripe peach, with subtle honey, vanilla and fig. There's a nice creaminess to this wine with sweet peach flavors in a very well balanced wine that finishes clean and crisp. At $9.49 a bottle, the Yalumba is the bargain of the trio.
This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kathleen Neville, The Milkyway; Keith Nyquist, Wild West Wines and Spirits; Greg Sandvig, Grape Escape; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.