From The Wine Rack – 2008 Fritz Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Lunch Date Lemon Chicken

This is a follow-up post to last week’s Lunch Date Lemon Chicken, which was made all the more delicious because of the wine we drank with it.  Below, Andy describes the wine, how it’s made, and why it goes so well with this particular recipe.  The wine is still available from Fritz Underground Winery for $25 per bottle, as well as other online wine retailers.  Now, I realize that not everyone is keen on buying their wine online and some might rather pop into their local wine shop.  I say go for it.  Check out the description below ask your wine merchant for some other recommendations.  Hopefully you’ll end up with something delicious!

2008 Fritz Russian River Valley Chardonnay

by Andy

If I remember correctly, the wine I paired for our very first Lunch Date Lemon Chicken was a 2008 Chardonnay from Fritz Underground Winery.   The wine proved itself a perfect pairing because, although full of bright lemon flavor, the chicken was still a rich dish that demanded a wine with substantial palate weight.   Chardonnay’s wheelhouse.

This particular wine hails from my favorite region in California for Chardonnay – the Russian River Valley.  The Valley and the river run east-to-west in close proximity to the sea in northern Sonoma County. What makes this place so special for Chardonnay, you ask?  Isn’t Napa the undisputed king of California Chardonnays?   Haven’t you seen that movie?  Maybe market share and promotional clout count for everything in some parts of the wine world, but there are places that are quietly doing things very right with what they have.

Fritz Underground Winery

In Russian River Valley they have fog, reliably present in the growing season from late evening through mid-morning, every day.  Winemakers here depend on the fog to give their wines a characteristic razor sharp balance of fruit with minerality, ripeness with acidity.  In warmer micro-climates (Napa, per se) Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can yield richly layered but imbalanced wines, because without the immediate cooling effect of a foggy marine layer, the ripening process can continue well into the night and kickstart into high gear as temperatures in summer quickly escalate early in the day. In Russian River Valley however, the grapes receive the marvelous blessing of regular cool stabilization, as they are effectively coaxed to the ripeness“ finish line” at an even pace throughout the growing season.

Fog in the Russian River Valley

The result is a wine like this.  The 2008 Fritz Chardonnay displays immediate aromas of lemon zest, cantaloupe melon, and sweet white flowers.  However, unlike many California Chardonnays, the fruits and florals are underscored by subtle chalky notes of limestone, found most often in the austere wines of Chablis.  The aromatic features translate fully to the palate, with the added bonus of light vanilla crème brulee on the finish, a sign of modest oak barrel aging.  The structure and texture are expertly balanced: the natural weight and richness of Chardonnay braced firmly with a crisp acidic frame that remains present throughout the duration of the bottle.  Voila, you have a wine that can stand up to thick pan juices and cut through them to add another level of zing to an already brightly flavored dish.  It retails for $25 on the winery’s website.


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