William Shatner Picks His Favorite Wines

Unoaked or oaked? Sauvignon blanc or chardonnay? William Shatner, host of ‘Brown Bag Wine Tasting,’ on why he’s so fascinated by wine.

I have been fascinated by wine for many years and sometimes intimidated by wine. The terms used to describe wine can be baffling at times, but I enjoy listening to others talk about wine and learning from the conversation. Over the years I have had a desire to demystify wines for myself and others. I had the idea to have people taste wine and describe it in terms of their profession. To a ballplayer a bold Cabernet Sauvignon with a long finish and balanced tannins might be a “grand slam home run with a long standing ovation.”

With this idea, “Brown Bag Wine Tasting” began. Video clips with wine tasted by anyone who can describe the wine in terms of their own profession. Our Sommelier, Michael Horn, prepares the wines and we taste them, we, being myself and our guest taster in each “Brown Bag” segment.

And so I enjoy good wines from time to time. I love Red Wines but recently have discovered some excellent Chardonnays. I go to dinner with family and friends and enjoy a fine glass of wine. Over the last year I have dined with our Brown Bag Sommelier and he has prepared some tastings for our dining group. We usually taste two to three Chardonnays and are asked to select our favorite. Here are some of my favorites:

It began with the William Selyem 2010 Russian River Valley Unoaked Chardonnay. Unoaked, I loved it and said it was my favorite Chardonnay ever. A good clean crisp balanced Chardonnay with notes of apple and pear. The quality continued through the 2011 vintage but, I noticed, while I still enjoyed The William Seylem Unoaked Chardonnay with an appetizer and cheese, I began to miss the “rounded” taste of an oaked Chardonnay. (The wine is aged in oak barrels; unoaked Chardonnay in steel tanks).

So I began to enjoy the William Seylem Allen Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay. Just enough oak to balance the acids and remove the “pucker” from the clean taste of the Unoaked Chardonnay. There is more of a buttery and smooth taste profile with this wine.

Then we tasted the Kosta Browne 2011 and later the 2012 “One Sixteen” Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Clean, good acid, great balance with the oak rounding the edges of the wine and producing a long finish on the back end of the palate. This wine became my new favorite. It is important to note that in enjoying wine there are no right or wrong answers. Your favorite wine is the wine you pick to enjoy. And your palate will change as you have new experiences and new selections in the wine world.

Later we enjoyed tasting The Lucia 2011 Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands. This wine from the famed Pisoni Vineyards. Oak, great balance and a good finish with stone fruits and just enough oak to round the wine to a silky smooth feel on the palate. I have had vintages from 2009 to the current 2012 release. This is an excellent wine.

I discovered that while many wine drinkers say “I do not like oaked Chardonnay ,” what they really mean is “I do not like OVER OAKED Chardonnay.” The time the wine spends on oak in the barrel is important to the balance of the wine. Too much time in barrel equals a woody tasting, overly buttery, finish. Just enough time in barrel means a balanced excellent wine with great acid and structure to “round out” the taste in the mouth.

The amazing part of these “blind’ wine tastings was that after each taste, without knowing the wines, I would always come back to the Kosta Browne Chardonnay. Taste after taste brought me back to this wine. I discovered I had developed my own taste profile for Chardonnay.

Have fun with your family and friends and select different versions of the same varietal (in my case it was Chardonnay). Find out about your taste profile.

Finally, it is summer and one other wine to enjoy outside around the barbeque would be the Tobin James Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, citrus notes, an easy wine to enjoy all summer long. Have fun and discover your favorite Sunday wine. For help, enjoy our “Brown Bag Wine Tastings” on ORA TV.