2014 St. Clement Chardonnay, Napa Valley

A $10 Real Deal Chardonnay from the High Rent District of Napa – and TJs!

Fast facts:

  • 2014 St. Clement Chardonnay, Napa Valley $9.99 (@Trader Joe’s; California)
2014 St. Clement Chardonnay, Napa Valley
The right grape, the right appellation, and the right price.  But would the 2014 vintage pass our taste test?
St. Clement in St. Helena (Napa Valley)
Classic wine country architecture, and former tasting room for St. Clement in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

For a brief, but wonderful, several years in my wine career I was fortunate to spend a fair amount of time working in and around the Napa Valley.  Wine (and food for that matter) don’t get much better than they do in Napa, and for me it felt like they came together most perfectly in the sleepy little village of of St. Helena.  Especially memorable meals were the ones my wife and I had at Mustards Grill  http://mustardsgrill.com/

My “commute” to “work” would often take me past the St. Clement winery and that lovely Victorian house that you see pictured above. Their wines had a reputation for being a bit old fashioned and behind the times.  In an area where most wine producers had embraced the massive, over-oaked and over-extracted style of the day, St. Clement had held onto a more restrained, food-friendly style that was favored before everyone started chasing big points from the likes of Robert Parker.

But stylistic considerations aside, it is still a rare thing to find a branded wine from a legacy Napa winery on a retail store shelf for under $10. Which is why I did a double take when I spied it at Trader Joe’s last week…

The only thing that gave me pause about this wine was the vintage. It is, after all, a four year old white wine, which can be problematic for most white varieties. But well-built Napa Chardonnays can age for years, sometimes decades, so I thought this was worth a shot.  It was.

Unlike most Chardonnays at this price point, this wine is the real deal. It tastes of real oak casks (not the sawmill notes imparted by oak chips) and features a lovely melange of flavors that include distinct vanilla notes as well as tropical fruit, apple and hints of lemon.  We enjoyed it with roasted half chickens on a bed of white beans and kale one night, and grilled halibut the next.

My guess given the vintage is that the new owner of St. Clement (the Australian behemoth Treasury Wine Estates) is liquidating some older inventory – at steep discounts – to get caught up to the current 2016-2017 vintages.  Their loss is your gain.  If you are a fan of “Chard” this one is worth taking a test drive for $10.


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