I have been exploring Chardonnay in high volume lately, and while that grape can be found with at least moderate success in many nearby regions, I have limited my scope to examples hailing from Burgundy and few local expressions found in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast. My thesis is finding wines that share the best of the varietal, downplay the oak as a taste factor and skirting the malolactic notes (butter, cheese and yogurt) altogether in favor of a brighter Chardonnay, preserving the Granny-Smith-apple-acidity and leaving my mouth chockablock with minerals and lasting flavors of ripe Comice pears. Not too much to ask for! In staging my latest dinner party I planned a vegetarian-friendly menu centered on a couple different bottles of Chardonnay from producers I was eager to learn more about.

In the early stages I set up a cheese plate representing an array of different textures, though all the cheeses were bovine. I had peppadews and olives to break from the moo-juice based items and to keep the palate excited. Instead of going domestic in the first round, I broke the wax seal of a bottle of Domaine Savary Chablis “Vieilles Vignes” to demonstrate an important function in wine.

There are a few things that make Chablis very special but one of the most exciting elements for my money is the preservation of acidity that comes with the terroir. It is cold in Chablis—the northernmost vineyard area of Burgundy—, which translates to grapes that can struggle to ripen. The harvested grapes are often vinified in steel or neutral barrels to encourage the natural expressions of the fruit. In addition to the sometimes intense mineral flavors that come from the Kimmeridgian Limestone soils, the Chardonnay that exemplifies this appellation is lean, age-worthy and powerful, but, most of all, food-friendly.

I wanted everyone in attendance to bear witness, trying the Chablis with the D’Affoinois Brie to affirm the magical. We grabbed our scoop-vehicles (crackers) for moving the spreadable cheese, consuming them carefully and trying to allow the cream to saturate our mouths while raising our stemware to our lips to complete the demonstration. Once the transaction had completed, eyebrows perked and mouths were curiously refreshed. There was no sign of cream lingering on the palate, in its place, fresh green apples with a squeeze of lemon and a hint of chalky mineral tap-danced atop the taste buds. It was an elegant event, seamless and mystical, a surefire way to illustrate the racy acidity. And it warranted repeat trials.

Post cheese plate, we assembled the vegetarian dinner, each of us working on different facets of the meal to complete the recipes. They were simple and tasty. We traded in our second wine, a domestic Chardonnay for an Italian red, forgoing the compare and contrast part of dinner. Though I was interested in seeing what the Sandhi Chardonnay had to offer, the dinner was great and the Italian red worked well. However, for me there was nothing finer than showcasing the defining attributes of the vieilles vignes Chablis.