Recently, one of my friends asked me for "cheap Chardonnay" recommendations for a BBQ she was planning. After first letting her know that friends don't let friends drink cheap Chardonnay, I offered some suggestions.
First, none of the wines on my list are actually Chardonnay. To a lot of people, Chardonnay is sort of synonymous with white wine. Given Chardonnay's widespread availability, that's not hard to understand. I have nothing against Chardonnay. Really. It's just cheap Chardonnay I have a problem with. Cheap Chardonnays tend to rely on some really bad things for flavor - like oak chips instead of aging in an actual oak barrel. Ugh. If you are looking for wine that's between $10 and $20, Chardonnay is not a good way to spend your money.
Here are some wines that are clean, crisp and wonderful for summer BBQs and any other summer events. Or even just every day.
Ballentine Vineyards Napa Valley Old Vines Chenin Blanc (2007)
I have been getting this at Costco for about $11 a bottle. It's a nice, dry, crisp wine.
Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc (2007)
This is also at my Costco - about $11 a bottle. A very nice, dependable wine. If you don't like the juniper berry (aka cat pee) aspect to Sauvignon Blanc this is the wine for you.
Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc (2007)
I get this at Trader Joe's for about $8 a bottle. Really good deal, nice wine, very dependable year after year and widely available. If you are having a party and need a bunch of well-priced wine and you want it to actually taste good, this is your wine!
Kunde Estate, Magnolia Lane, Sonoma Valley (2008)
About $9.50 a bottle. This is a Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of Viognier in it.
Melville Verna's Santa Barbara Viognier (2008, 2007 was good too)
About $19 a bottle. I love Viognier and this is a great, well-priced find.
Paco & Lola Albarino (2007)
About $14.50 a bottle. I am loving this wine this year! It's a Spanish white wine with a really fun black and white polka dot label. It's a clean, crisp wine. I have been bringing it to every dinner party we go to and serving it whenever we entertain to introduce more people to it.
NOTE: Prices are approximate and represent what I pay in Sonoma County. Prices, availability and vintages in your area may vary.