Santa Barbara has a way with Chardonnay, as does Richard Sanford, a dude who figured out more than 40 years ago that the central coast California county had the right stuff to make Chardonnay that stands apart from the rest of the world. Sanford’s ALMA ROSA Chardonnay is a go-to Chardonnay if there ever was one, and it most definitely stands out among the under-$20 crowd. It’s classy and friendly, sophisticated and casual. Nothing to get pretentious about, but impressive and leaving an impression, especially if you’re entertaining people you don’t want to go cheap on but also don’t want to be overly generous with. The 2014 bottling is an easygoing breeze—bright citrus and stony minerality driving it forward and rounded out with juicy red apple and subtle sweet honey notes, all supported by a well-structured backbone. The quality of the fruit is the essence here, not showy, somewhat understated and really easy to like. Classy stuff. We already said that. It’s worth saying again, and this is Chardonnay you’ll want to go back to again. –J.M.
Great Wine: Cruse Wine Co. Chardonnay