I’ve had a serious thing for Chardonnay lately, homing in on that multi-faceted grape, especially its many different faces found in California. And the grape has been making advances back. I was recently wooed by the salinity (minerality) of the Sandhi Chardonnay before I departed for vacation. With that success I was inclined to pick up a bottle of Central Coast Atonement Chardonnay, upon return, to recapture the moment.

While passing up the usual lineup of So Cal Chardonnays, I stumbled upon the bottle and was instantly charmed by the packaging, a label that was intriguing and a price tag not staggering—combining in a blog-worthy candidate. Knowing relatively little about the wine, I prayed for rain.

A little research brought to light the winemaker—Curt Schachlin of Sans Liege—whose project I was familiar with only by name. The winemaker had blended 80% Chardonnay with the balance going to Rhône favorite, Roussane from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

On a mellow Southern California evening, an opportunity to open the bottle with friends presented itself. The mild weather was perfectly suited for a chilled white wine though my company (almost always) preferred red wine. We pulled the bottle from the fridge, scoring the foil and drawing the cork from its curvaceous frame. My friends gathered near questioning, playing the good inquisitive crowd, for which I had no answers. I simply told them that we would be experimenting.

Without the mineral tinge of the Sandhi Chardonnay, the Central Coast Chardonnay was starting off on a different foot. A soft golden shimmer in my burgundy stemware, bearing expressive notes of white citrus blossoms, mango and apple that followed on my first sip. The texture was a little fuller, a sinewy body that wasn’t without acid but definitely rounded out, most likely from the Roussane.

Eyes were wide when I surveyed the room; astonished, everyone had downed the contents and the Chardonnay barely lasted an hour between the four of us. A gamble that paid dividends, despite not packing a razor blade sharpness or intense seashell chalkiness—it was perfect for the moment. Entirely different from the Sandhi Chardonnay but equally delicious, it provided a fitting break and another nuance to Chardonnay… clearly a hit for all. I’m going back to buy more.