Chardonnay is king in Washington state

From the Seattle PI:

Once again, Chardonnay is the king of Washington wine -- at least for now.

Last fall, grape growers crushed 33,400 tons of Chardonnay, the most ever in Washington. This pushed the famous white wine grape ahead of Riesling, which was the top Washington grape in 2008.

Chardonnay, made famous in France's Burgundy region, is the No. 1 white grape in California, too, where it often is made in a big, bold, buttery style.

Washington Chardonnay cannot necessarily be defined in any particular way. It can be rich like California or bright and crisp like Chablis (the French version, not the faux California plonk that isn't actually Chardonnay).

Buttery styles of Chardonnay typically are fermented in oak barrels and aged sur lie, meaning the spent yeast and other sediment are left in the barrel and periodically stirred. This provides a certain level of richness on the palate.

Brighter, crisper styles of chardonnay now are in fashion because of a consumer backlash to the buttery versions. Often, these are aged in stainless steel tanks for just a few months before being bottled and sent to store shelves.

[Go here for the blog's recommended Washington Chardonnays.]

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