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Review of the Cougar 2009 Chardonnay from Temecula Valley



Wine: Cougar 2009 Chardonnay
Appellation: Temecula Valley
Alc.: 11.5%
Haydn gives this wine: 88pts
Price: $20
You can buy this wine: at

The California landscape is dotted with more Chardonnays than CHP cars. It seems that one can toss a dart onto a wine map and inevitably find a Chardonnay-producing winery. The flavor notes are as scattered on the wine wheel as the grapes are in any particular AVA (wine region). Stainless steel, new French oak, used French oak, Hungarian oak (ok, for the record I’ve yet to see a Chardonnay touch Hungarian Oak, but I just never know), a mixture of oak and steel, and on and on the list continues. There’s the ABC club, or anything but Chardonnay, and the Le Crema fan club (one of the more oakey Chards).

Then we have the 2009 Cougar Chardonnay from Temecula. With colors that resemble a Savignon Blanc and an alcohol percentage that is unheard of in California (11.5%) in the Chardonnay world, this wine is way off the charted characteristics of what and how a Chardonnay should behave and act.

With this Chardonnay, you’re going to get hints of tropical fruits, going all the way into the guava and coconut arena. If by now you’re saying that’s madness, well, you’re partially right. Thankfully the wine rebounds with additions of Chardonnay characteristics with a little bit of acidity mixed in with a few bartlett pears. The secret to the notes of this Chardonnay is in the way it is produced—the wine never touched an oak barrel, new or used, at all.

The 2009 Cougar Chardonnay is a great wine pre-dinner. The low alcohol is a pleasant welcome to the Chardonnay arena, which means you can enjoy a glass or two and still follow your dinner recipe if need be. The lightness of alcohol makes this wine rub elbows with the Riesling world, in terms of an un-heavy wine when it hits the mid-palate.

For food, the lighter the better. Being a distant 5th cousin to Riesling, the Chardonnay here could possibly be paired with a non-spicy Thai dish (it’s not potent enough to remove the spice from your mouth) or maybe crab cakes.

For a new take on an old California standard, have a look, and a taste of the Cougar 2009 Chardonnay from Temecula Valley. At $20, it’s well look a few looks, um, tastes.

Haydn Adams is the author of the book, Wineries Beyond Napa Valley: Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, an insider’s tasting guide to the hidden gems region. He also contributes to the Beyond Napa Valley Wine Blog, writes for, and can be found roaming the hills of Sonoma County looking for the next hidden gems. You can contact him at