2011 Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Chardonnay

Quite the surprise!

We threw a party last weekend and our usually pitch line is bring your own booze. Most of the booze that arrives at our house this way is Bud Light, Heineken Light (yuks) and other sorts of beers. Another significant share is hard liquors like Candian Club and stuff…it’s a grad student party, so hey.

Occasionally, though, someone brings a bottle of wine, and I do jump right onto those when they come. I want to taste and experience what others drink and bring. This bottle was brought by our friends who also attended the Michigan vs. Mosel Riesling Tasting. They were the ones that first introduced me to Chateau Grand Traverse wines earlier this year. In short, I trust them.

But when I looked at the label and saw that it was a chardonnay, I cringed. I am not a very big fan of this ubiquitous grape. All too often, especially in this hemisphere, you get a buttery, over-oaked heavy weight that has nothing in common with its lighter, fresher, crisper cousins from Burgundy. But even those just never feel overly interesting to me. The grape is solid, and so are the wines, but they lack interest for me. And then a late harvest? I wasn’t so sure. But I trust my friends, so I was willing to give it a try.

And, boy, what a surprise. The wine had 10.5% ABV and 4.2 BRIX of residual sugar, which, if I am not mistaken, should translate to about 40 grams of residual sugar/liter (please, my American friends and experts, correct me if that is wrong…I am still struggling big time with this BRIX thing!). Upon pouring, a light golden, very inviting colored wine presented itself. On the nose, I got tropical fruits (in a chardonnay, seriously!!), very fruity, and it did remind me of a riesling nose. Nothing of the usual chardonnay aromas at all. On the tongue, it was nicely fruity as well, with a good spätlese texture, friendly sweetness and enough acidity to go around. It was such a surprise. I cannot recall ever trying a chardonnay that was that yummy. There are winemakers in Germany making chardonnay, sometimes as spätlese, but they tend to make dry wines out of it. This wine presented a side of chardonnay that I was not aware of, and I am really happy I got to meet chardonnay this way. I will try to pick up another bottle sometime soon to re-taste it and see whether my tastebuds were already tainted from the Bud Lights and PBRs I had had, but if this holds up, that would have been THE surprise of my August tastings…

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11 thoughts on “2011 Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Chardonnay

  1. Nick says:

    I also cringed when I saw ‘Late Harvest’ Chardonnay. I will look out for it.

  2. beatitudesofmylife says:

    I think you’d like the Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay as well, if you can find it. I’m an anti-Chardonnay person but thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of this last spring. I’d also suggest trying the Reserve Chardonnay from James River Cellars Winery (where I work) in Glen Allen, VA. It’s stellar!

  3. foxress says:

    It sounds realy interesting.

  4. Given your affinity for your native German wines, might you have been seduced by the sweetness? What if everything you describe was there except the residual sugar. Would you have still been as enthralled with this wine? Just curious…

    • I think that question is really hard to answer, because in my view sweetness shapes the taste to a degree. I think these primary aromas might not have been there without the sugar, or not as prominent.

      If you described a wine like this to me (texture, aromas) and mentioned it was not sweet at all, I would be intrigued, because I don’t think I have experienced a wine like that…so, kinda hard.

      I think what got me in this wine was the surprise factor. I just did not expect a chardonnay to have these aromas in the first place.

  5. What I like most about wine today–when makers bust the cliches about what any grape has to be. As long as they do it with class, of course.

    In my book, class and good taste are synonymous.

    • To me, it is also blancs de noirs (whites made from red grapes) that have done a lot to bust cliches. These wines have been around for a long time (think champagne, that is mostly made from red grapes), but they have become more prominent and more easily accessible. I love it when conceptions are challenged in a tasty way!

  6. Sounds fantastic! There are a few wineries in Oregon and Washington that are making some pretty good unoaked Chards, crisp and fruity – I like them a lot. But I’m with you, those oaky butter-bombs don’t do it for me.

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