The Best American Chardonnays By Region (Plus HG)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, is “Chardonnay Day. It is also my son’s birthday. The two are not connected in any way. However, I do know why May 21 is Henry George’s birthday. I just don’t know why it’s also “Chardonnay Day.

Chardonnay is America’s favorite varietal wine. Annually it sells more than 30 million cases, according to Nielsen. (There is, however, only one Henry George, making him a far more valuable commodity on a bottle v. baby basis)

On the occasion of “Chardonnay Day” I thought it might be interesting to try to determine which American region makes the most esteemed Chardonnays. So, I went to one of the most prolific and authoritative sources of review: Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. I wondered, which American wine growing region had the highest percentage of wines ranked 91 points or above for the 2014 and 2015 vintages? I looked for regions that had 50 or more Chardonnays reviewed for these two vintages in the Wine Advocate (Henry George was not submitted for review).

Here are the results

Sonoma Coast 60.92%
Russian River Valley: 60.08%
Santa Barbara County: 55.56%
Monterey Country: 53.42%
Willamette Valley: 48.85%
Santa Rita Hills: 47.95%
Napa Valley 36.91%
Carneros (Napa): 36.19%
Columbia Valley: 22.22%

What’s interesting to me is that if I had been presented with these 9 regions and asked to rank them in order of best chardonnays, the only difference from the above list is that I would have put Willamette Valley third and Santa Rita Hills fourth.

It would be further interesting to compare this ranking to scores given to Chablis and Burgundy. It would be even more interesting to see if there is much of a difference between the rankings of Chardonnay from these regions if you looked at The Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Vinous.

This is my contribution to the celebration of Chardonnay Day. It’s short because I have a more pressing celebration upon which to focus. For the record, though Henry George has not been submitted for review anywhere, I would rate him 95 (He’s still a little thin).

4 Responses

  1. Tommy G. - May 21, 2019

    Happy Birthday to Master Henry George!

  2. Ana Keller - May 22, 2019

    Happy to see Sonoma coast at the top, yet I wonder: how much of that perception is actually a love for Petaluma Gap that is still under the radar?

  3. Tom Wark - May 22, 2019


    As we know, the “Sonoma Coast” AVA is a vast region. However, it was among the only ones in the state that saw 50+ Charadonnays reviewed from the 2014 & 2015 vintages. But you are right. The great chardonnays from the Sonoma Coast are originating from places like the Petaluma Gap, the far Sonoma Coast and other specific areas inside the vast “Sonoma Coast” AVA. So good to hear from you.


  4. Helene - June 4, 2019

    Happy Birthday to Henry George, a wee bit late…

    Good bit of simplistic stats from a single source, Tom. I might have raised up Willamette also and possibly had Russian River just piping Sonoma Coast at the post (in horse racing parlance). Napa is way down my list.

    An interesting conundrum, but we judges (at European competitions) regularly find that the wines from Sonoma are simply more elegant than those from Napa, even Carneros…

    Be fun to do similar with Pinot Noir, where-I suspect-their list, and certainly mine, would have had a slightly different look…

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