Summertime and the living is easy; it's also easy to find a couple quality chardonnays to sip out on the patio while you're firing up the grill and passing around appetizers. Here's two North Coast chardonnays that have all the bells and whistles but won't break the bank.
Franciscan Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2011 ($15.99) and La Crema Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2011 ($19.99): Creamy and dreamy chardonnays shouldn't be left out of the summer sipping picture. Both of these wines have a sense of sweetness that comes from picking the grapes very ripe in a cool climate region; in the winery, that sense is heightened by fermenting and aging the wine in fire toasted oak barrels.
The Franciscan has a toasty nose of oak, nutmeg and sweet brown baking spices combined with yellow apple fruit. More apple, pear and citrus on the palate comes through bolstered by vanilla and clove in this medium-bodied but rich and creamy offering. It fits the archetypal image of what delicious Napa Valley chardonnay should be.
La Crema, also sourced from a cooler-climate region, shows lemon oil and yellow apple along with a dollop of butterscotch on the nose. It's dense, though not ponderous, with flavors of apple, lemon curd and vanilla custard/yogurt plus hints of pineapple and mango while also very rich and creamy. Fresh, concentrated and layered, it's supple and entertaining with a sweet spot on mid palate that makes a lengthy impact on the upbeat finish.