Chardonnay is one of the most polarizing wine varieties out there. Some people love it, whereas others claim to be “team ABC” (anything but chardonnay). Once upon a time, I fell into the latter camp. But then, I discovered the best Chardonnay wine out there for my personal palate – the Ram’s Gate Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2015. It was life-changing.
Once I discovered that “gateway” Chardonnay, it opened a whole new world for me. I realized that Chardonnay comes in a wide range of styles – decadent and buttery, crisp and fruity, even bubbly!
In this post, we’ll explore the best bottles of Chardonnay wine for any budget… and any palate! Be sure to check out these recommendations below, and let me know your personal favorites (or personal Chardonnay style!) below!
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Best Chardonnay Wine
Best Chardonnay Under $20
Kendall-Jackson produces the best Chardonnay under $20. It’s an affordable favorite and a classic choice – It’s also one I find on a lot of wine menus in restaurants and can confidently order knowing it’s always going to be delicious.
It has a creamy texture full of tropical fruit notes. A hint of toasted oak and butter rounds out the long, lingering finish.
Wente is responsible for many of the Chardonnay vines in the United States.
This iconic Chardonnay is bursting with aromatics of citrus and green apple complemented by hints of toasty oak and vanilla, this wine is balanced by a lingering minerality and natural acidity to create a beautiful wine.
If you’re looking for the best cheap Chardonnay, look no further!
At this price point, you’ll want to look for a big winery name – someone who has the structure behind them to access high-quality vineyards but offer a low price point.
Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington is a powerhouse, and this Chardonnay speaks to their commitment to craft beautiful wines. On the palate, it opens sharp and spicy, with light buy juicy fruit. Flavors of clean apple and pear run into hints of peach, then resolve with a creamy finish.
Best Chardonnay Under $30
Known lovingly as “GunBun”, Gundlach Bundschu is one of my favorite Sonoma wineries. It’s a fun and friendly destination.
This wine is crafted from chardonnay grapes grown on the Sonoma Coast, creating an aromatic and inviting wine that’s fresh and vibrant, but rooted in the “old world” Burgundian style Chardonnay.
Rich minerality with floral aromas and notes of fresh-cut pineapple lead to bright flavors of honeydew melon and lemon curd.
This Duckhorn Chardonnay hails from Napa Valley. It’s fruity and expressive with a full body. Flavors include layered aromas of peach, citrus zest, and creme brulee. A crisp finish provides a good balance to the upfront richness.
This Chardonnay from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is beautiful. Tropical fruit notes of pineapple and a hint of white peach in a restrained yet powerful style are followed by a palate that has gorgeous precision, purity, and ripeness. It is elegant and subtle.
Best Chardonnay Under $50
Trefethen is one of my favorite Napa Chardonnays (and favorite wineries in Napa Valley!) This family-owned winery is a national historic landmark and the only wooden gravity-flow winery in the Napa Valley.
The Trefethen Estate Chardonnay is fresh and vibrant with aromas and flavors of green apple, white peach, and puff pastry. While this Chardonnay does see oak barrels, it’s well-balanced and not overly oaky.
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Located in California’s Cienega Valley, Central Coast, this Chardonnay is well-balanced and highly delicious. In the glass, you’ll find notes of fresh earth, ripe apples, and dried leaves.
Eden Rift is one of the oldest continually operating estates in the US and is home to some of the earliest New World Pinot Noir plantings in 1861.
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California’s Sonoma Coast produces some of the most deliciously complex and highly sought-after Chardonnays in the world – and this medium-bodied Chardonnay from Flowers perfectly exemplifies why.
Amidst the cold and rugged conditions, Flowers Chardonnay enlightens with a stunningly pure and vibrant character. Tasting notes include sliced lemon, green apple, white flowers, and hints of honeysuckle.
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Best Luxury Chardonnay
Gary Farrell produces some of my favorite wines of all time. They specialize in single-vineyard productions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma.
This Olivet Lane Chardonnay offers enticing, complex aromas of Meyer lemon, stone fruit, graphite, honeysuckle, lemongrass and baked pear tart.
The first sip is succulent and tangy, while the mid- palate is zesty and oily with lots of verve. It’s fresh and vibrant. You can check out all Gary Farrell wines here.
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This is THE Chardonnay that changed my life (although back then they were on the 2015 vintage) – before trying it, I was team ABC (anything but chardonnay). Now I’m obsessed.
It has delicious toffee and crunchy popcorn flavors, followed by ripe apricots, honeysuckle, and orange blossoms. There is no malolactic fermentation, preserving the purity on the palate. A rich, intense, and lace-like mouthfeel shines through.
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Bacigalupi Vineyards are iconic in the wine world – it’s thanks to their deliciously-grown Chardonnay grapes that Napa and Sonoma are what they are today. Their fruit beat out French wines in the famous Judgement of Paris tasting.
This bottle here commemorates that and offers its own delicious take on Chardonnay. Taste a piece of history in this wine.
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Best Buttery Chardonnay
Related: Check out our complete guide to Buttery Chardonnay here, including more recommendations!
If you’re in love with big, bold, buttery Chardonnays, Rombauer’s is the prime choice. It’s my vote for the best buttery Chardonnay out there.
It’s also lovingly referred to as “cougar juice” and it’s sure to bewitch anyone with a palate for a big, buttery, and oaky California Chardonnay.
It’s a wickedly rich wine with layers of tropical fruit, peaches, and pears. The fruit opens up into creamy textures of apples and pears that glide across the palate. Hints of citrus and rich oak tones highlight the wine’s lingering finish.
In case you’re planning a trip to Napa, be sure to check out my Budget-friendly Napa guide. Rombauer is one of my favorite stops for their delicious wines, affordable prices, and beautiful views.
With a name like “butter”, you know what you’re in for. Butter Chardonnay has the aromas of apple pie and a rich creaminess that surrounds you at each sip. Aged in French oak, this wine sees brightness, complexity, and creamy depth.
Cheers to Retail Therapy: Fun Chardonnay Inspired Items
Is Chardonnay sweet or dry?
Most Chardonnay is dry. While the style of the wine can vary greatly based on winemaking practices and growing conditions, for the most part Chardonnay is a dry white wine with a medium to full body, moderate acidity, and moderate alcohol.
Occasionally you will find a sweet or dessert Chardonnay, but these are usually very limited in production and will be marked clearly on the label as such.
Can Chardonnay be Used for Cooking?
Cooking with Chardonnay is an absolutely wonderful idea! If you’re planning on cooking with your wine, I recommend looking for one with low-oak contact, as oak can be overpowering when paired with food.
Cooking with Chardonnay will impart a richness to your food that’s not found with other white wines. It’s best in heavy cream dishes, such as gravy or cream sauce for pasta. In these dishes, it will balance out the acidity while bringing out its flavors. I also love it on scallops with a butter/wine sauce.