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Affordable Chardonnay


When it comes to white wine, Chardonnay rules. Despite the backlash of the ABC club (Anything But Chardonnay), it remains America's number one wine pick. It's a highly adaptable grape grown in most every wine region in the world. Whether you like yours big and oaky or lean and crisp, there's a bottle of Chardonnay out there that's sure to please. And you don't have to spend a fortune to score a descent glass of Chard. We tried a bunch priced under 10 bucks and found a number of good choices. Here's the panel's top three picks, all three from value conscious, California wineries:

2002 Painter Bridge Chardonnay, $6.99

A combination of stainless steel and oak barrel fermentation makes for a balanced wine with the emphasis on smooth, fresh fruit. Very clean aromas of floral white peach and apricot with touches of toast and butter. Nice rich mouth feel with just the right amount of oak backing the crisp peach flavors. The finish is long and supple, showing hints of caramel, vanilla and spice.

2002 Pepperwood Grove, $8.49

Opens with ripe peach and sweet tropical fruit aromas. Has a bit more oak than the Painter Bridge, but it carries it well, balanced with racy peach and tropical fruit flavors. A very user-friendly style with a tangy finish that's complemented by light toast and soft oak.

2002 Round Hill Chardonnay, $6.99

A surprisingly rich and complex wine for the money, with buttery aromas that combine crisp citrus with sweet peach, vanilla, toast and caramel. Creamy peach and apple fruit dominates, but layers of flavor unfold in the glass revealing lightly toasted oak, soft vanilla, almond, butter and dried apricot. The finish is long and smooth with a light earthiness to add interest. A deceptively inexpensive Chardonnay. :

This week's panel: Trisha Elrod, Moon River Distributing; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Patrick Sawyer, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Joel Shaber, Richard's.