I've had my head down with work and family recently, so I'm grateful to Christopher Watkins over on Ridge's 4488 blog for drawing my attention to Laurie Daniel's piece on California Chardonnay. I found it a little odd that while writing for the San Jose Mercury she managed to cite examples of good Chardonnay from all over the state with the exception of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hardly anyone here is making the "cookie cutter" buttered toast style she was complaining about, and most of them are very reasonably priced.
Now obviously the region boasts two of the finest producers in the world in Mount Eden and Ridge. In the $30-$40 range I'll put Varner and Windy Oaks up against anything else the state can produce. Sarah's Vineyard have two nice examples, one from the Santa Cruz Mountains and another from Santa Clara Valley. Storrs, Fogarty and Beauregard make a range of interesting Chardonnays in the $20-$35 range. Cooper Garrod's Gravel Ridge can often be found around the $16 mark. My local Safeway currently has J Lohr's Riverstone for $9 and Clos LaChance's unoaked Emerald Throated Hummingbird for a little over $6. And all that is just off the top of my head.
So is Californian Chardonnay in a sad state? Not as far as I can see. Maybe you're just tasting the wrong wines.