Let Your Palate Pick What’s Fit to Savor

It’s important to trust your palate when it comes to wine. Recommendations from so-called experts and friends are helpful, of course, but should never be the final word because sometimes reviewers disagree. Take, for example, Grgich’s 2002 Chardonnay. A national specialized wine magazine gave it an average score, 76, earlier in the year, but I’ve tasted it twice recently and thought it was terrific. I’ve always loved Grgich’s style of Chardonnay, more restrained with vibrant acidity, and I suspect the divergent opinions stem more from preference than from inherent quality. Another explanation may be that the additional time in bottle, even a few months, allowed its .avors to develop. Originally from Croatia, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich (pronounced gerr-gitch) studied enology in Zagreb and made wine for a variety of California producers before founding his winery in Napa Valley almost 30 years ago. He’s always had a magic touch with Chardonnay. While winemaker at Chateau Montelena, he made its stunning 1973 Chardonnay that, in 1976, wowed French and America critics in a comparative tasting in which it was favored over France’s .nest white Burgundies. All of Grgich’s wines are estate grown. They come exclusively from his vineyards, which means he has total control, from grape growing to wine making. Although he ferments the juice in oak barrels – a common practice that has the potential to result in overly heavy wines – he blocks malolactic fermentation. This prevents the conversion of malic acid, the biting acid present in fruit, to the softer, creamy lactic acid, present in milk. As a result, the tangy edge makes the wine vivacious and balances the engaging nutty flavors. Not as opulent or butterscotchy as many California Chardonnays, Grgich’s 2002 is a wine to drink, not just to taste. Buy a couple of other similarly priced California chardonnays, gather a few friends to spread the cost around, boil some lobsters or grill some fish, and decide for yourself what to buy the next time you consider spending this kind of money for a bottle of Chardonnay. Grgich, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2002. About $45. Distributed by Classic Wine Imports, 781-352-1100.

July 28, 2005.