Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay

shaferredshoulderranchA couple weeks ago, I attended a blind tasting of California Chardonnays. Because it was a work function, I’m not going to get into the real details of all six of the wines that we sampled. After all, this tasting wasn’t ever meant to be on the record, and I would hate for it to ever be construed that way. The event was intended for educational purposes only, but the results were still quite intriguing for anyone who likes Chardonnay. Therefore, I do wish to divulge just one key piece of information, and that’s the real point of this entry: the outright, hands-down, run-away winner of the tasting was the 2006 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch.

Among 24 winery employees, a resounding nine people listed the Shafer RSR as their favorite of the flight. Mull that one over for a minute: that’s nine number one votes among a field of six very respectable Chardonnays. Considering that tastes are completely subjective, having this many people agree on one wine says quite a bit. Given these results, I’m pretty sure that the Shafer would’ve probably taken a fair number of second-place votes as well. However, we were only asked to rank a favorite and a least favorite in this tasting, so I can only speculate about the runner-up votes.

The Shafer Chardonnay was just a phenomenal wine, and at $47 per bottle, it was also one of the least expensive (the prices ranged from $42 to $65 — again, the field was strong). I marked the Shafer as the early favorite in my notes, and I remember that it completely grabbed my attention. Ultimately, it continued to stand out as I revisited the flight a second and third time. I’m not a big proponent of flavor descriptors, but the Shafer struck me as overtly tropical, and it was probably the best Chardonnay that I’ve had in recent memory.

As for the other five wines, there was also a clear loser of the bunch. I’m really tempted to list it as a public service, but I won’t. The four Chardonnays that comprised the middle of the pack were all very good in their own right, but they were just a bit outclassed when compared to the Shafer. For the record, I happened to rank the two “house wines” third and fifth, but like I said, it all felt pretty arbitrary among that middle group of four. There was a clear winner, a clear loser, and after that, it was pretty much splitting hairs.

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