Regardless of grape variety, I don’t look for or particularly enjoy a heavy oak footprint — flavors of raw wood, vanilla, etc. That’s particularly true of chardonnay. Oaky chardonnay tends to not play well with the foods I like to eat.

The middle ground between buttery oak bombs and steely unoakaed chardonnay can be hard to navigate. It’s sometimes hard to tell, just by looking at a label, just how oaky or not a chardonnay will be. I tend to prefer wines that reside in that middle groud — wines made using older, neutral oak barrels that allow for air transfer (which softens the wines and improves their mouthfeel without adding flavors) hit my personal sweet spot. But again, it’s not easy to know which wines are made that way.

Coffee Pot Cellars 2013 Chardonnay ($20) doesn’t make it obvious on the label either, but it deftly hits that sweet spot. Coffee Pot Cellars’ co-owner and winemaker Adam Suprenant – who is also the longtime winemaker at Osprey’s Dominion — fermented this appley, citrusy chardonnay in neutral oak barrels and strictly avoided malolactic fermentation, which keeps it fresh and lively.

The aromas begin with green apple and juicy lemon, but there is a subtle nutty note from extended sur lees aging – contact with dead yeast cells. Mouth-filling and rich – but also greatly balanced by juicy, mouth-watering acidity.

Producer: Coffee Pot Cellars
North for of Long Island
ABV: 13%
100% chardonnay
Price: $20 (sample)
Rating: 89