- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cycles Gladiator, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, 2008, $10

This has to be one of the best value-priced chardonnays on the market today. A platinum medal winner at the Critics Challenge competition in San Diego last month, it displays rich melon and tropical fruit flavors, with a hint of oak, and a crisp, satisfying finish. Most impressive, the wine exhibits excellent balance, with no one component overpowering the others. As a result, the first sip will leave you eager for the next.

Many chardonnays, especially those priced at the $10 level, taste and feel too heavy. This may be because the grapes come from overly hot vineyards with excessively high yields, or because the winemaker has used too much oak (often in the form of chips or planks), or fermented the wine at too high a temperature. Whatever the reason, these wines frequently disappoint. More appealing chardonnays usually cost at least $20. It’s a real pleasure, then, to recommend this youthful offering from Cycles Gladiator.

In addition to being a good choice for sipping with poultry and seafood dishes (crab cakes come to mind), this wine seems perfect for summer parties and entertaining. It outperforms its price tag so it will delight guests without taking a big financial bite. For much the same reason, restaurateurs looking for a chardonnay to pour by the glass should take note.

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