River Road Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2019, California
River Road Chardonnay Reserve 2018, Russian River Valley

Cost: $14-18
I love great wines in all price ranges. With wine you generally get what you pay for.
When you spend at least $20 for a bottle of wine you can expect it to be a good representation of the varietal on the label. The more you spend the more complex the wine is, most times.
But I get really excited when I can find great wines for under $20. That’s what we’re looking at today: two chardonnays for less than $20 each.
Both of these fine chardonnays are produced by River Road Wines, a part of Ron Rubin Brands headquartered in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma.
The first is River Road Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2019, California ($14). It is a bright, fresh wine with a light body and crisp acidity. It is a pale straw yellow in the glass, with fresh citrus aromas. I picked up apple and pear flavors.
It was perfect with chicken soup, not overpowered by the savory flavors in the rich soup. Teri and I love chardonnay with chicken soup, and the River Road Un-Oaked is a wonderful chardonnay. At this price it is a steal.
The wine has a bright, fresh, clean taste, reflective of its spending no time in oak. All fermentation is in stainless steel.
Winemaker Joe Freeman, who has been with the winery since 2004, is dedicated to a winemaking philosophy that is all about balance. He is committed to crafting high quality wines at great prices.
He wants to make vibrant, fruit-forward wines that capture the unique personalities of the varietals. These wines offer distinctive styles that embody the character and versatility of the regions and vineyards.
The Reserve Chardonnay is another great example of that. Priced at only $18, it gets a little more attention than the un-oaked. The grapes are from the Russian River Valley, a great cool-climate region that is perfect for producing great chardonnay.
The grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. The lots that undergo barrel fermentation also see sur lie aging, giving the wine some extra butter and vanilla flavors.
The reserve also is a pale yellow in the glass, but it is a deeper yellow than the un-oaked. Sipping the wine shows flavors of pear and vanilla. It has its share of full-bodied butter flavors, without being over the top. This wine also is good with food, especially seafood, chicken and fish that have a little bolder flavors.
Both of these wines come with Stelvin twist-off caps, which makes it even easier to carry them on picnics or boat trips.
Winery: River Road is part of Ron Rubin Brands, which includes Ron Rubin Wines, River Road Wines and The Republic of Tea bottled teas.
Ron Rubin dreamed of starting his own winery when he was studying viticulture and enology at UC Davis in 1971, but his career took a few turns before he got into the wine business.
In 1972 he joined his family-owned and operated business, Central Wholesale Liquor Co. in Mount Vernon, Illinois. He was an innovator, introducing several line extensions into the beverage portfolio.
After 22 years with the company he started his own venture. In 1994 Ron read The Republic of Tea, a book about the story and philosophy behind the groundbreaking tea company. Rubin was so inspired he ended up buying the company. Since then, Rubin has been on a mission to find the most exquisite teas from world premier tea gardens, making them accessible to everyone.
Forty years after dreaming about having his own winery, his dreams came true. He purchased River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, in the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, in the heart of California’s Sonoma County. Finding himself in the prestigious Green Valley made this “dream come true” even more meaningful.
The North Bay Business Journal named Ron Rubin the Innovator of the Year in 2016.
The winery is located in the heart of the Russian River Valley, 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Cool, foggy air rolling in from the ocean makes the area perfect for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
Goes with: Teri and I had these beautiful wines on two separate nights a few weeks ago. We had the Un-Oaked Chardonnay with chicken soup and the Reserve Chardonnay a few nights later with friend shrimp.
The soup and wine were perfect on a slightly chilly evening. The chicken soup is one of the lighter soups I make, but it has plenty of chicken with hints of thyme and parsley. While the wine is on the lighter side, it had enough body to hold its own with the chicken.
The reserve chardonnay was great with fried shrimp. I soaked the shrimp in milk and gave them more batter than usual by dredging them through a Zatarain’s mix. I love Zatarain’s mixes because you get real New Orleans flavors on fish and shrimp without having to mix a lot of herbs and spices. They’re all in the package already.
I fried the shrimp at about 350 degrees for five minutes and they came out crunchy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside.
The rich flavors of the wine were a great match for the spices in the shrimp.
The reserve also would pair well with broiled pork chops and applesauce, with creamy dishes, meaty fish, seasoned pork and seasoned poultry.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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