My anecdotal experience is that there is greater interest, among the media and foodies in California, for white wines other than Chardonnay. We’ve all heard of an anti-Chardonnay movement among sommeliers and restaurateurs seeking leaner, drier, higher acid and more minerally white wines to pair with their food. We see the same sort of reaction among critics. I, myself, recently headlined a story in Wine Enthusiast “Getting Serious About Sauvignon Blanc.” In it, I noted a turn toward Graves-style wines from producers such as Mondavi, Chalk Hill, Brander, Illumination, Dutton Estate and Gainey.
Along more factual lines, you may find it hard to believe that in 2009, there were fewer bearing acres of Chardonnay planted in California than there were in the year 2001. But it’s true.
I've noted a similar thing in Virginia where Viognier has become the ascendant white over the last few years while fewer wineries are even bothering to make a Chardonnay. I think this is partly to do with climate, Viognier simply does much better here in Virginia so it is easier to grow and experiment with that varietal, but I also think it has to do with changing tastes.
It is very rare that I attend a dinner party where someone offers me a Chardonnay, or suggests we order one. That may be due to the fact that I am in a self-select group of non-Chardonnay drinkers, but I think it is more likely that there is just less interest in Chardonnay. I think Steve has the right idea, I will check to see how much Chardonnay Virginia has planted compared to several years ago.