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Dining Out with Bonterra Chardonnay 1999
Chelle Christy for

It is all well and good to have a wine review that helps you select a bottle from the store to take home. But what if you don’t drink wine at home? What if you only drink wine when out at dinner at a restaurant? How do you choose a wine without ever having tasted it or at least had access to tasting notes? Some of those restaurant wine lists can be quite daunting in both variety and price. And, because of the markup required to cover corkage, the liquor license etc, it would be unfortunate to pay all that money for a wine you ultimately don’t like.

I would like to help remedy that problem by reviewing wines from time to time that are available only in some of our island’s restaurants.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of dining at Firefly Bistro (see recent review of their scrumptious food). I was impressed with their selection of fine wine and decided some of them deserved writing about. Here is the first of a selection currently available.

1999 Bonterra Chardonnay

Some of you may be lucky enough to be familiar with California’s Bonterra Winery and/or its products. Geographically, this is a great area (about 90 miles north of San Francisco surrounded by mountains and redwoods), which affords great soil and excellent climate perfect for the production of fine wines.One aspect of this winery of particular note is that Bonterra (meaning ‘good earth’) produces organic wine; that is, wine that is produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers. That in itself is a good enough reason to support this vineyard.

Unlike most chardonnays, the yellow hue is surprisingly pale, almost insipid. But looks can be deceiving. Although the aroma of fruits, such as apple and melon, are quite faint, they are well balanced with the soft buttery scent of vanilla. There is nothing strong or overpowering about this wine, not even the noticeable spicy American oak flavors brought about by eight months in oak barrels. However, the feeling of soft fullness over the entire palate gives this wine an elegant and gentle demeanor. Apart from the apple and vanilla revealed in the bouquet, a small medley of butter, melon and a hint of citrus

Overall, the 1999 Bonterra Chardonnay can be described as a harmonious blend that produces a smooth, easy drinking wine, surprising light for a 13.8% alcohol content. I enjoyed the wine, and it paired very well with the pumpkin soup and spicy tuna poke we were consuming at the time. This wine would compliment simple grilled fish and light creamy pastas very well indeed.


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