Wine: Howl with surprise

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From the March 6, 2014 edition

This 2010 Howling Moon chardonnay is unoaked — but you won’t discover that until reading the back label closely.

Which means if you take a sip expecting that characteristic buttery, solidly oaky “chardonnay” flavor, you’ll get a bit of buttery and the opposite of oaky. Instead, lemon, pineapple and maybe even grapefruit lend a strong acidity and slight sweetness that leaves the tongue a bit tingly. Surprise!

Most vineyards label a chardonnay as “unoaked” front-and-center on the label — as a selling point as well as to simply distinguish. In my case, the surprise was pleasant, but it might not be for others — and of course, if you had this bottle ($10 at Blacklick Wine & Spirits) in mind for a meal pairing, it would change everything.

But then, the point of the “pretty bottles”-themed wine column is to discover what those often-enticing-looking bottles you see on store shelves are really like (i.e., “Don’t judge a book by its cover”). This Lodi, California, option brings something a bit different than what meets the eye, which, otherwise, is an illustration of some tiny birds sailing past a moon.

It would be delicious with a cheese platter, and could really complement a breaded, lemon-juice-sprinkled chicken breast or fish fillet.

If you’re an unoaked-Chardonnay lover or simply in the mood for something that tastes as bright and citrusy as summer, for $10, this is the bottle.

Photo by Meghan Ralston