Red wine envy?

"Chardonnay is a white variety that wants to be a red," says Tom Montgomery, winemaker of Glen Ellen's B.R. Cohn Winery. "It shines with oak aging and can produce complex, extracted wines with depth and richness."

Montgomery is the man behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the B.R. Cohn Silver Label, 2011 North Coast Chardonnay at $15.

This is a surprisingly good chardonnay for the price. It's rich, with a seamless texture, and toasty, with notes of ripe apple, melon and spice.

Montgomery says vintner Bruce Cohn brings his sensibility to all aspects of winemaking. Cohn is best known for his tenure managing the California rock band the Doobie Brothers.

"Bruce fosters creativity and the love of land and lifestyle that we all have become endeared with," Montgomery says. "He gives me independence with all winemaking, but is very involved in every step from grapegrowing to sales. Winegrowing has been his passion for decades."

Here's the back story of why this wine is such a steal: "Our margin on it is negligible," Montgomery says. "It's not produced to garner a big profit, but rather to give our national sales a value white to accompany our very successful Silver Label Cabernet."

Montgomery studied enology and viticulture at Fresno State University and started working in the Napa Valley under Aaron Mosley, who was vintner Mike

Grgich's assistant at Chateau Montelena when the winery won the historic Paris Tasting of 1976 with its chardonnay.

The winemaker, a 10-year veteran of B.R. Cohn, fell for wine when he was just a teenager.

"In high school, when most kids hung out behind the liquor store looking for someone to buy them beer, we were at a wine shop finding someone to buy us a First Growth," Montgomery says. "Our parents drank wine — it was all their doing. I learned at an early age, you can travel the world in a bottle of wine, each unique, representing a different geography, a different terroir."

<em> Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.</em>

<strong>Wine of the Week: Scouting for the tastiest chardonnays</strong>

Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of chardonnays, from lean to lush. Our wine-of-the-week winner is the B.R. Cohn, 2011 North Coast Silver Label Chardonnay at the budget-savvy price of $15.

<strong>TOP PICK: B.R. Cohn Silver Label</strong>

<strong>B.R. Cohn Silver Label, 2011 North Coast Chardonnay,</strong> 13.5 percent alcohol, $15. Four stars. This is a surprisingly good chardonnay for $15. It's rich, with a seamless texture, and toasty, with notes of ripe apple, melon and spice. Lovely.

<strong>Others worth mentioning:</strong>

<strong>Arrowood, 2011 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.5 percent,</strong> $20. Four stars. This is a layered chardonnay with exotic flavors. Notes of nectarine, white peach and cr?e brulee. Complex. Nice length. At $20, this is also a steal for the quality.

<strong>Frank Family Vineyards, 2012 Napa Valley Carneros Chardonnay,</strong> 14.4 percent, $35. Four stars. A tropical chardonnay with notes of pineapple and honeysuckle. Toasty, with a creamy texture. Bright, with crisp acidity. Bravo.

<strong>Loring Wine Company, 2012 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Chardonnay,</strong> 14.9 percent, $42. Four stars. A rich, lush chardonnay with concentrated fruit. Rich notes of ripe apple, herbs and a butterscotch finish. Striking.

<strong>Gundlach Bundschu, 2011 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay,</strong> 13.7 percent, $27. Three and a 1/2 stars. A chardonnay with ripe apple as the dominate flavor, with an underpinning of lemon, herbs and toffee. Lingering finish.