This month in a nod to Washington’s non-existent spring, we take a look at five Chardonnay under fifteen dollars (Note: Summer is scheduled to begin July 5th).

Chardonnay was, somewhat surprisingly, Washington’s most produced grape in 2009, edging out Riesling. I say surprising because I generally find a lot Washington Chardonnay to be somewhat non-descript. Not bad but not particularly interesting or unique. Surely, there are some excellent bottles out there from wineries such as Forgeron Cellars, Woodward Canyon, Abeja, and Buty to name a few. However, there are many wines that neither seem particularly distinct or distinctly Washington.

Chardonnay, like many white wines, is reasonably unforgiving. It is not particularly aromatic. Leave out the oak and it can come off as somewhat sharp and lean. Put too much oak on and it is easily clobbered. Walk the fine line and it can be delicious. The wines sampled here are at various points along that spectrum.

Dusted Valley Vintners is a Walla Walla Valley producer. Boomtown is the winery’s entry level label, which consistently provides high quality and value (see review of Cabernet Sauvignon here). The 2008 Boomtown Chardonnay is a well-made crowd pleaser and was my favorite of this group. Dusted Valley was one of several wineries featured in a recent post on alternative closures.

Columbia Crest makes wines across a variety of price points from the value-focused Two Vines to the Grand Estates series, H3 series (named after the Horse Heaven Hills), and their reserve wines. Columbia Crest’s wines consistently outperform their price point, as perhaps best indicated by Wine Spectator naming the winery’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as their ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2009. I found the H3 wine sampled here to be a very enjoyable Chardonnay. The Grand Estates wine swung the balance on the oak a bit too far.

Snoqualmie was founded in 1984. The winery, located in Prosser, is a Ste. Michelle Wine Estates holding. The winery’s ‘Naked’ series is made from organically grown grapes. Joy Andersen serves as winemaker, a position she has held for the last nineteen years. While the 2008 Naked Chardonnay is labeled Columbia Valley, fruit comes from vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills. I found this wine to be enjoyable, but a bit unusual for a Chardonnay, showing a lot more fruit flavors than most show.

The Snipes Gap Vineyards ‘Seeing White’ Chardonnay is an offering from the Cartel Wine Group. The group was founded by Josh Klakring and Jason Baldwin in 2009 with the goal to ‘under-price and over-deliver’ on value-priced wines. Klakring and Baldwin buy juice leftover after wineries have completed blending and blend the wines to create non-vintage offerings. Cartel also offers the ‘Seeing Red’ Cabernet Sauvignon and ‘The Surveyor’ Red Wine.

Dusted Valley Vintners Boomtown Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 $14
Rating: + (Good) A reasonably quiet but pleasing nose with apples, mineral, and spice. Palate on this wine is straight down the fairway showing beautiful fruit and balance for a wine at this price point. 100% Chardonnay. 13.7% alcohol. Recommended

Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $15
Rating: + (Good) Initially quite quiet on the nose. As it opens up, shows grass, mineral, an buttery notes. A pleasing, straightforward palate on an enjoyable, varietally correct wine. 100% Chardonnay. 70% aged in American and French oak (40% new) and 30% aged in stainless steel. 13.5% alcohol.

Snoqualmie Naked Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 $12
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Pale lemon yellow. Very quiet on the nose. Over time it opens up to reveal melon and light spices. Taste is round and full with tinges of lemon and mineral. An enjoyable wine that shows a lot more fruit than many Chardonnay. 100% organically grown Chardonnay. 13.5% alcohol.

Snipes Gap Vineyards Seeing White Chardonnay Columbia Valley NV $10
Rating: . (Decent) A subtle, restrained nose with lemon and lime aromas along with light floral notes. Palate has lots of lemon flavors along with green apple. Comes off as a bit sour at times but, overall, very enjoyable for the price point. Chardonnay with small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. 13.6% alcohol.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 $13
Rating: . (Decent) Nose is marked by abundant buttery aromas along with grass. Taste comes off as a bit overloaded with oak flavors. 70% aged in new and used French and American oak; 30% aged in stainless steel. 13.5% alcohol.