Just Released: West Coast Chardonnay Lovers Alert!

In spite of the fact that some wine snobs continue to try to merlot-ize West Coast chardonnays as being too big, too oaky, too alcoholic, too... too... everything, the wines continue to flourish and defy the criticisms. Thank you, Bacchus!

Here are five new releases of West Coast chardonnays (Chile-on-the-Pacific counts as West Coast, doesn't it?), including three from different branches of the Mondavi clan.

I've always liked Robert Mondavi chardonnays, back then and still today. The 2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley chardonnay ($20) has excellent green-fruit flavors of apples and of just-ripe bananas and has good acidity, yet it feels soft and semi-lush on the palate. Yet the overall effect is of a svelt wine with no cutting edges. It would go very well with raw oysters.

The pricier 2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley reserve chardonnay ($40) is firmer, oakier, more complex, earthier — a terroir wine. I would have it with any roasted birds (chicken, quail) served with the crisp skins still on.

Marc Mondavi is Peter Sr.'s son and Robert's nephew, and he is adept — so we are told — with a water witch. Which has absolutely nothing to do with his 2010 The Divining Rod Santa Lucia Highlands chardonnay ($16), except for the name. The wine itself had mild, apple-tinged, lightly spicy flavors but could use some work on its structure. It also comes across as a tad sweet. A suitable bar wine.

The 2010 Jordan Russian River chardonnay ($29) is a beautiful wine — lovely fruit, mild oak aromas, excellent structure. Although it's fairly creamy and toasty, it is essentially a rather lean food wine with herbal and corn-oil notes common with chardonnays. It could pair with a number of foods, but especially with juicy poultry.

Finally, the 2011 Lapostolle "Casa" Casablanca Valley chardonnay ($11) is a complex bottle — golden apple and banana flavors with some buttery oak and a kick of petillance in the finish. Good for white fish dishes that are not overly spiced or heavily sauced.