Wine Time: Liberty School Chardonnay 2010, California

PRICE: $11-13


WHAT: The Liberty School wines are among the best values in the wine industry. While the Cabernet Sauvignon has been a standard for many years, I particularly like the Chardonnay because it is so fresh and lively.

It’s difficult to find a Chardonnay this good at this price. It starts with a brilliant pale lemon color in the glass, with citrus and apple aromas. By blending wine fermented in oak with wine aged in stainless steel, you get a great combination of crisp, clean acidity with a touch of lushness.

The initial flavors are apples, limes and butterscotch followed by a long, creamy finish with a touch of pineapple.

The wine is 94 percent Chardonnay and 6 percent Viognier. Seventy-five percent of the wine is barrel fermented in both American and French oak barrels, 10 percent of which are new. The other 25 percent is aged in stainless steel. Primary blending occurs after six months and then the wine rests in tanks for another three months before bottling.

Serve this wine chilled, but not cold.

WINERY: When the Hope family moved to Paso Robles, Calif., in 1978 to grow grapes, they made farming quality fruit a top priority. They became one of a handful of pioneering families who helped shape the region that has gained widespread recognition for quality.

At first their fruit was bought mainly by wineries outside the region. Then in the early 1990s, the family began producing estate wines under the Hope Family Farms label. They decided that Paso Robles was better suited to produce bold red wines that can compete on an international level.

The Liberty School label and reputation for quality go back decades. The wine was originally named by Charlie Wagner, who founded Caymus Vineyards in 1972. The family created the Liberty School label a few years later and bottled Cabernet Sauvignon with excess fruit from Napa Valley that didn’t make it into Caymus Cabernet.

Charlie Wagner had attended Liberty School as a child, and later he and his wife built their new home using wood from the original school structure.

The Paso Robles region caught the attention of Charlie Wagner’s son Chuck as a source for good quality, value-priced Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The Wagners met the Hopes in the 1980s and the Hopes became the primary growers for Liberty School.

The Hopes acquired the label in 1996. Chuck’s son Austin is president and winemaker of Hope Family Farms and buys fruit from more than 50 family-owned and operated vineyards in the region.

Liberty School later added Chardonnay and Cuvee to the Cabernet.

The Hopes’ other high-quality labels are Austin Hope, Treana, Candor and Troublemaker.

GOES WITH: I enjoyed this wine with a rotisserie chicken made with herbs. It also would go well with grilled white fish, veal piccata, salmon or turkey, or can just be sipped by the fire.


JAN. 5

Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m., Veritas at La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99

JAN. 6

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; six wines and a selection of cheeses; $5 with $3 rebate on one bottle of featured wine

JAN. 15

Wine-pairing dinner, 5:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; featuring Truchard and Dr. Loosen Wines; seven-course dinner; $80 plus tax and gratuity; (706) 722-4805