Wine Time: Wild Horse Unbridled Chardonnay 2010, Santa Maria Valley

COST: $23-25


WHAT: A lot of white wine drinkers will tell you they drink ABC – anything but Chardonnay. If you are one of them, give the Wild Horse Unbridled Chardonnay 2010 from Santa Maria Valley a chance. It just might change your mind.

Wild Horse gets intense flavors from the fruit in its Bien Nacido Vineyard on the Santa Barbara coast. There are beautiful notes of green apple, pear and lemon with lots of crisp acidity and minerality.

The key is everything is in balance. The oak adds just the right nuance, the flavor is a bit buttery without being cloying, and the acidity keeps it lively and fresh, a perfect combination for summer sipping.

The grapes were gently pressed and fermented in 100 percent French oak barrels. The wine was stirred weekly for three months to enhance mouth feel and to draw out sediment. The wine then was aged for 12 months in 35 percent new French oak and the rest in 1- to 2-year-old oak.

I understand the aversion to Chardonnay because so much bad Chardonnay has been foisted on American wine drinkers since the grape became popular. Some winemakers cut corners, using inferior grapes or too much oak or oak chips. That sent some of us scurrying to Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel, which gives the wine a flinty, sharp quality.

But with the right grapes, and proper techniques, good winemakers get incredible Chardonnay such as this Wild Horse Unbridled.

Wild Horse also makes a fine Central Coast Chardonnay for about $7 less. It’s not as memorable as the Unbridled, but it delivers a great taste at a moderate price. You can’t go wrong with either wine.

WINERY: Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards has been exploring California’s Central Coast, experimenting with new growing and winemaking methods since its inception in 1981. The name comes from the wild mustangs that once roamed the hills east of the vineyard estate in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles.

While they concentrate on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, they source grapes from 16 diverse appellations and more than 50 vineyards throughout California’s Central Coast region.

For many wines they ferment individual lots from different terroirs and then blend them into complex wines with a multi-layered finish.

The winery’s small lot experimentation has led to production of some rare varieties such as Malvasia Bianca, Verdelho, Negrette and Blaufrankisch. Most of those small production wines are available only at the winery.

The diversity of soils and climates along the Central Coast also allows the winemakers to work with virtually any grape variety they wish. In 1999, for instance, Wild Horse crushed 30 different varieties.

The winery’s motto is “Live Naturally, Enjoy Wildly.”

GOES WITH: We had the Unbridled with homemade chicken soup and it was delightful. The lush fruit and crisp acidity cut nicely through the flavorful chicken fat. It would also be an ideal wine to pair with sauteed scallops, fried or steamed shrimp or something with a tangier flavor, such as rosemary roasted chicken.

I think the Unbridled will be fine in the cellar for another three to four years. Serve slightly chilled.


MAY 10
Wine and tapas tasting,
5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99; (706) 722-4805

MAY 11
Wine tasting,
6 p.m., at the home of Mary Alice and Bear Woodrum in North Augusta; $20 Tasters Guild members, $26 nonmembers; participants are asked to bring an appetizer to this informal event in the garden; reservations, (803) 279-9522

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

MAY 12
Wine and beer tasting,
1-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

MAY 16
Wine dinner,
6:30-9 p.m., Calvert’s, 475 Highland Ave., Surrey Center; Burly wines, $65; reservations, (706) 724-1442

MAY 17
Wine tasting,
5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines, three reds, cheeses; $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of one of the featured wines; (803) 279-9522

MAY 18
Wine tasting seminar,
7 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; wines of Bordeaux with Jean-Pierre Chambas, $20; reservations, (803) 279-9522

MAY 20
Wine dinner,
6 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; Rutherford wines matched to Chef Heinz’s food; price to be announced; reservations, (706) 722-4805

MAY 23
Wine tasting,
6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; $10, limited to 16 people; each person in the tasting will purchase one wine they consider to be the best at the Vineyard. Each wine will be covered and tasted blind and scored. Whichever wine comes out on top will earn the contestant a $50 gift certificate to the Vineyard. Reservations, (706) 922-9463

MAY 24
Wine tasting and wine cruise planning meeting,
4:30-6:30 p.m., 5 O’Clock Bistro, 2111 Kings Way; presentations from Travel Planners and AMA Waterways; $8, reservations required; (706) 394-8952 and (706) 736-7999