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Dragon Chardonnay Inspired by a day’s worth of tasting top-notch domestic wines in the beautiful digs of Bluxome Street Winery, it was on to San Francisco’s bottle shops to shake things up. A sunny afternoon in March encouraged an armful of white wines from all over Italy and France.

Among them we opened a couple bottles that shared country of origin (Italy), but little else. The first wine’s healthy progression—I had marveled over it (and reviewed it last) in 2012—lingered still. The other wine was from a surging “natural wine” producer in Sicily—Occhipinti—crafting an overachieving bianco.

OcchiOnce we had a cheese board prepped it was time to enter the dragon. Buadana’s 2011 Chardonnay, “Dragon,” from the Langhe had been aging gracefully with a nose still fresh of white apricot, lemon curd and green apple. Golden-hued in the glass, with medium-plus body, almost unctuous, it wielded medium-plus acidity leading to a dry and mouth-watering finish. Intense purity on the palate, it hadn’t lost a step, exhibiting green apple, peach, wet rocks, lemon peel and white flowers that had improved on a well-etched memory. A cappella…great, and a definite match for the gooey truffle Brie.

The 2012 Occhipinti [ock-ee-pin-ti] SP68 Terre Siciliane Bianco was a blend of Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) and Albanello—an indigenous varietal that was once used for making sweet wines in Sicily—bore no resemblance to a sweet wine. We were transitioning from a robust Chardonnay to wine that brought to mind Sherry Fino. Dark gold in the glass, developing aromas roared forth with medium-plus intensity, suggestive of chamomile tea and orange Jell-O (floral but peculiar) most prominently. On the tongue it was medium-bodied with acids to match leaving a lingering finish of baked golden apple and yellow plum that were supported by a chorus of tea, herbs and dried flowers that hummed like a tuning fork.

From the handsome lot of wines at IPOB—In Pursuit of Balance—to the leisurely porch sipping of two distinct Italian white wines there was a common thread—balance. It drummed loudly, but not at all obnoxiously, as the two wines were poised and nothing appeared out of place. I can’t wait to see what those other purchases (French wines) have in store.

BlindA vintage change was the only thing different about the Luigi Buadana Chardonnay hailing from the Langhe in Piemonte that I sipped and spat at a Tuesday Chardonnay tasting, rediscovering a wine that had been good to me in the past. I had last tasted the 2010 vintage with the importer at my retail post, finding it particularly attractive for its freshness and bright flavor profile, before experiencing the latest release (2011) in a blind trial with my group.

Buadana It rounded the table cloaked in a double paper bag, deep in the lineup (number five of seven Chardonnay we would taste), that immediately struck me with its vibrancy of fruit on the nose and palate. Chardonnay isn’t an aromatic varietal, but this Italian white was bordering on medium-plus intensity with a youthful bouquet of lemon curd, citrus blossoms, tropical nuance and underlying salinity (mineral quality). From the perfume to the palate the wine was exciting and it made me break form, asking if the rest of the group was similarly affected. Met with a stoic response, I carried out penning my notes—possessing a medium body, medium alcohol (well integrated), medium-plus acidity, medium-plus flavor intensity that followed the tantalizing scent, carrying long (medium-plus finish) with its strong aromatic presence.

While we tasted many nice examples of Chardonnay, globetrotting from New to Old World benchmarks, I was astounded, again, by the quality and liveliness of Luigi Buadana’s Chardonnay. Best yet, was that it was in the blind tasting setting, free from influence of label or region, that the wine conveyed its merit. Hands down my favorite Chardonnay of the night.

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