Wine 101: Chardonnay Five Ways

You may wonder why wine lovers make such a fuss about wines from certain regions. Is there really that much of a difference? We invite you to do a taste test on your own. We think that you, too, will find that different varietals will develop noticeably different aromas, flavors and textures when grown in different regions. Still others are crafted as layered blends, creating depth and complexity as they showcase the best of many regions.

Kendall-Jackson Avant ChardonnayChardonnay is an excellent example of how one varietal will develop quite differently when planted in different regions. We have estate vineyards in each of the growing areas featured below. All receive a measure of maritime cooling influence, which slows the ripening process and keeps the fruit on the vines longer, intensifying aromas and flavors. In addition to temperature moderation, each area’s unique soil type and sun exposure will further affect how the grapes develop.

Each of these well-known winegrowing regions produces Chardonnay of exceptional quality and classic varietal character – yet all are noticeably different. This is the root of the French concept of terroir.

Check out this chart below and think about it the next time you’re tasting some Chardonnay. Before long, you’ll be able to start picking out different characteristics of California’s wine growing areas.

Wine Region Typical Climate Classic Chardonnay Flavor Profile
Anderson Valley
Mendocino County
Steeply elevated vineyards cooled by strong ocean influence from adjacent Pacific coastline. Green apple, high acidity
Russian River Valley
Sonoma County
Lingering fog intrusions that creep up the Russian River from the Pacific cloak the vines daily and keep evenings cool. Ripe pear, apple, citrus flavors, richness and structure
Napa and Sonoma Counties
Consistent breezes from the San Pablo Bay cool temperatures on the rolling hillside vineyards. Citrus and peach aromas, delicate, balanced acidity
Santa Maria Bench,
Santa Barbara County
An east-west running valley funnels cool maritime influences into the Valley, moderating otherwise warm temperatures. Tropical fruit flavors, lively acidity
Arroyo Seco,
Monterey County
Persistent ocean wind and fog moderates temperatures in the vineyards, keeping fruit on the vines and extending the maturation process. Ripe lemon and lime, creamy texture