Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2017

Deep gold color; tropical fruit, yellow apple, pear, toasted oak on the nose; crème brûlée, pear, baked apple, butter, butterscotch, oak on the palate.

Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2017

Medium sweet; rich and buttery—made in the lush style that generally has gone out of style. Harken notes: “We think that’s crazy. So we brought it back.” Barrel aged 100%. Seven months in oak, 80% American, 20% French. Full malolactic fermentation. The style comes across as sweet even if the residual sugar is .85, not flagrant, but you will experience sweetness from sugar and floridly ripe grapes. There is candied pineapple note on the finish that adds interest and an additional bit of sweetness.

I admit approaching this effort with trepidation. Oaky, buttery, big ripe fruit chardonnay is not a favored style for me. It usually makes it hard to work as a food wine, but this has 3.58 pH acidity to help out in that regard. Full body and opulence does mean it can work well as a “cocktail hour” pour. The 14.5% ABV helps there, too.

There are people who love this style. It has been some time since I sampled something like this. I did so with nostalgia. So 20th century. So oak monster. So stick of butter. It will not become a new favorite of mine, but it is more than drinkable. I am certain there are sippers who will love this effort from winemaker Adam Popp.

Harken winemaker Adam Popp

Popp has an interesting journey to winemaker. He earned a bachelor of arts in psychology at Cal State-Long Beach, then a master of science in clinical psychology at Cal State-Fullerton. He had, however, been infected with the wine bug. He worked at Peachey Canyon Winery and Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles. The website notes: “When he’s not making wine, Adam enjoys backpacking, surfing, fly fishing and running with his wife and labradoodles.”

The glory of wine, and especially chardonnay, is that it is almost infinitely versatile. Wine can treat you so many different ways, you gotta love at least one of them. I enjoy way more than one style of wine. I like to think I can see what is pleasing in a wine to someone even when it is not so pleasing to me. That is this wine. This style is not a favorite of mine, but it is well done for what it is. I drank two glasses, including one with food. If you enjoy sweeter wine with oak and butter, no question you should give this a try.

Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2017 is throwback to the glorious days of yesteryear when oak, butter and big fruit were the West Coast wave to ride. There is no doubt this has appeal, especially if you are into softer, sweeter, very easy drinking wine. Nothing wrong with that. The ability for chardonnay to deliver to a variety of palates is one of its greatest attributes. Good solo, also will go with salty foods; fried chicken; strawberry-infused cream cheese over smoked salmon topped with caviar; pan-seared scallops with wine-garlic cream sauce. You see the drift: creamy, rich food flavor will pair with the creamy, bold, full body flavors of this wine. $14-17

Harken Wines website

Harken vineyard