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New Times / Cuisine

The following article was posted on May 14th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [] - Volume 28, Issue 42

Chardonnay, please: The Chardonnay Symposium brings educational tasting event to Dolphin Bay


During the symposium's grand tasting, 36 small, exclusive wineries will offer an array of fine chardonnays to educate your palate, and your buying power.

Are you the type of person who walks into a bar or a restaurant and simply orders chardonnay without asking who produced it? That’s a scenario I witness constantly, yet there’s something far worse that happens more often. When dining out I frequently hear people ask their server which wines they serve by the glass and he or she replies, “Chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet.” Not only does the brand not appear important to the server, they are typically surprised when you ask who made it and they have to go look at the bottle to find out.

If either of those descriptions fits you, the good news is that there is a simple cure. I highly recommend attending The Chardonnay Symposium (TCS) at the Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach, taking place May 16 through 18, for the quality of its educational tasting experiences. The event coordinators and wineries who organize this excellent series of chardonnay wine tastings and dinners do it primarily to educate tasters, whether they are new to wine appreciation or are wine industry professionals. 

Chardonnay, after all, remains America’s most often chosen white wine variety. According to, nearly one in five wines sold in the U.S. by both volume and value are chardonnays. To my surprise their analysis showed red Bordeaux blends as the most searched for wine, accounting for more than one in five searches on their webpage. Interestingly, chardonnay is more popular in the mass market for value-priced wines.

Of course, that’s not the reason you should participate in the educational tastings at TCS. It’s not about the mass-produced chardonnays sold on supermarket and drug store shelves. It’s focused on small, mostly family owned and operated wineries that strive for quality. It begins in the vineyard with precise farming, and throughout the production of their fine wines.

In other words, it showcases winemakers who put their heart and soul into making chardonnays that can be compared to the finest versions made around the world. You’ll discover many fine chardonnay producers by attending TCS. And you won’t want to miss out on this exclusive opportunity to taste those exclusive wines. 

New venue

Celebrating its fifth year, for the first time since its inaugural tasting in Santa Maria Valley in 2010, TCS will be held at the Dolphin Bay Resort the weekend of May 16 through 18. According to Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards, a consultant for the symposium, local wineries fully support this event.

“We strongly believe in keeping this event alive, and expanding the scope of wines represented,” he explained.

TCS is managed by A Full Glass Production, and Dolphin Bay is the host for this year’s upcoming events. Not surprisingly, the first day’s events sold out immediately. Fortunately, two excellent events are still available to the public at the last minute. 

The Grand Chardonnay Tasting

The beautiful Dolphin Bay Resort makes a stunning new venue for The Chardonnay Symposium.

This chardonnay tasting takes place Saturday, May 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Dolphin Bay, at $80 per person. You can also get VIP entry to the tasting at 12:30 p.m. if you arrive early enough to buy tickets at the door, which cost $95 per person. This valuable tasting typically provides multiple chardonnays from each of 36 winery participants. The wineries range as far away as Napa Valley to Santa Barbara, plus French Chablis and a New Zealand producer.

While you wander alongside the Pacific Ocean coastline sipping these excellent wines, you’ll have wide array of gourmet foods to keep you sated. 

Lido’s executive chef Jacob Moss and chef Maegen Loring, will prepare a wealth of delicious hors d’oeuvres that are perfect for pairing with chardonnay. Morro Bay Oyster Company owner Neal Maloney will be shucking his freshly harvested oysters at the event.

Share your 
Chard Party!

If you’re familiar with a Paulée celebration, a feast of food and wine offered in grand style just as it’s done in France, you’ll love this tasteful dinner event. This chardonnay-focused dinner party will be held at Tolosa Winery in the middle of the spectacular Edna Valley. Fitting isn’t it? You simply bring along a bottle of your favorite chardonnay to share, but do leave those value-priced supermarket versions at home. After all, you might find yourself sitting down to eat beside Tolosa winemaker Larry Brooks, Talley Vineyards owner Brian Talley, or Sinor LaVallee owner and winemaker Mike Sinor. You wouldn’t want to find yourself getting all red in the face over snapping the screwcap off a bottle of Yellowtail chardonnay, now would you? The participating winemakers always bring along special bottlings, many likely to be library wines, to share with the guests around them. Don’t be afraid to walk around to get some sips from your favorite winemakers, and share with them. 

The downright scrumptious menu, created and prepared by a popular local chef Maegen Loring, is all about chard-friendly foods. You’ll have scallops with béarnaise, cowboy chowder with shrimp, pisseladiere (bacon pie), Spanish chicken and chorizo estofado (stew), plus appetizers and dessert. After the feast you can dance off some of those calories to the good music of local band, Hayburner. The cost is $65 per person.

A portion of ticket proceeds benefits the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program. To get more details about both events, or to buy tickets in advance, visit


Contact Cuisine columnist Kathy Marcks Hardesty at