- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Chateau Souverain, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, 2002, $16

This full-flavored but at the same time impeccably balanced white wine from the ever-reliable Chateau Souverain winery is a stunning value. Although some prestigious California chardonnays cost two or three times as much, they don’t taste any better, or even as good.

Chateau Souverain started as a boutique Napa Valley winery under the watchful eye of a vintner named Lee Stewart, legendary for his meticulous eye for detail. It then was sold to corporate interests and moved to the Alexander Valley in Sonoma.

After still more ownership changes and considerable expansion, it now is part of the Beringer-Blass wine group. For the past decade, the wines have been made by Ed Killian, a soft-spoken but extremely talented winemaker who, like Mr. Stewart years ago, is passionate about his craft. The wines he makes repeatedly outperform their competition.

Mr. Killian’s cabernets, merlots and zinfandels are all first-rate, but his chardonnays may be his finest wines. They consistently offer rich, ripe flavors without seeming fat, flabby or overly oaky. In 2002, an extremely strong vintage, Souverain chardonnay offers an extra level of everything — flavor as well as structure, bouquet as well as balance. For fans of California chardonnay, America’s most popular varietal wine, it’s a must buy.

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