Gil Kulers’ wine pick: 2009 Buried Cane

We got a fair amount of response to my recent chardonnay smackdown.

“Love your column, Gil. But do you have to be so mean to chardonnay drinkers? I love any wine, just as long as it is chardonnay!” Diane from Stone Mountain said.

“What about wines from Chablis for summertime drinking?” suggested Jeff from Decatur. “I love Chablis, when I can afford them.” Jeff then went on a lengthy jag about inflated Chablis prices, from which I will spare you.

Now let’s be clear, I adore and respect the noble chardonnay grape. For me, it resides in the Houses of the Holy Grape Varieties, along with cabernet sauvignon, riesling and pinot noir. But Jeff’s comment got me thinking. There are chardonnays out there with summertime appeal.

Wine from Chablis -- the quaint town some 60-plus miles north of Burgundy proper -- features chardonnay grapes. Their approach, however, is quite different than their brother and sister winemakers to the south. Where wines from Puligny and Meursault lavish chardonnay with brand-new, $800 oak barrels, Chablis winemakers use virtually no oak. This leaves chardonnay naked, free to express its flavors and mineral-like aromas it gets from Chablis’ Kimmeridgean limestone soils. As Jeff suggests, the lip-smacking acidity and focused, bright fruit flavors make it a bit more refreshing for summer sipping.

More domestic winemakers are seeing the wisdom of freeing chardonnay from the vanilla, buttery bonds placed on it by extended time in new oak barrels. Un-oaked chards, like Mer Soleil Silver, Four Vines and Buried Cane, are fine tributes to Chablis, where the grape, not the winemaker, is the star. For more fun info on chardonnays without oak, check out, a charming site produced by the husband-and-wife team of Tom and Meg Gerrish of Miami.

2009 Buried Cane, No Oak Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Wash.


Two Thumbs Up

Pleasant, fresh aromas of gardenias, lemons, green apples, pears and green melon. Bright citrus flavors abound with touches of melon, apricot and an interesting clove/ginger spiciness.

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.

Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a wine consultant for Tower Beer Wine Spirits. You can reach him at