One of my most memorable wine moments from my time living in Napa happened shortly after I moved there in 2010.

I was invited to have lunch at Redd, the now-closed iconic restaurant in Yountville owned by superstar chef Richard Reddington. The invitation came from a few winemakers, winery owners and fellow sommeliers I would be working with in the valley. This was huge—the equivalent of a Los Angeles newbie being invited out with Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt. I was in the big leagues now!

The wine list was presented, and the discussion of what bottle(s) to order immediately commenced. I was practically jumping out of my seat with anticipation. Here I was, joined by some of the most respected people in the wine world, and I got to experience what they wanted to drink! What kind of unknown, super-geeky, cerebral wine would they order? An Austrian white? A Romanian red? A blend from the Canary Islands? Oohh, it was gonna be good!

After only a few minutes of deliberating, one of them turned to me and asked me if I had ever tried “Ceritas.” Tried it? I’d never heard of it. So with a shake of my head, the wine was ordered: “We’ll do the Ceritas Trout Gulch chardonnay, please.”

Chardonnay? CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAY?! This was the epic wine we were going to have for lunch? A huge wave of disappointment washed over me, and I sank into my chair. This is why you should never meet your heroes.

I was convinced I knew exactly what this wine was going to taste like. After all, chardonnay from California all tastes the same, right? It was going to be full of fat toasted oak and syrupy butterscotch, with that signature creamy texture and movie-theater buttered popcorn flavor. Tried one, tried ’em all.

The wine was poured, and we raised our glasses for a toast. Trying to conceal my internal eye-rolling, I took that inaugural sip, and … what in the hell is this? This isn’t chardonnay. Where is the butter? Where is the fat toasted oak and syrupy butterscotch? We clearly had been given the wrong wine, and all the experts at the table missed it.

Of course, I was the one who was wrong.

I, too, had been consumed by the “ABC” wine trend du jour—anything but chardonnay. In my naiveté, I thought California chardonnay was a one trick pony. Sure, I was familiar with how clean, crisp and vibrant some French chardonnays are, but I had never experienced anything like this from California.

This mind-blowing moment was brought to me courtesy of a winery called Ceritas, located in Healdsburg. This is a tiny production winery, specializing in single-vineyard expressions of chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Their wines are highly allocated and available only through their mailing list. That’s why these are the most incredible wines you’ve never heard of.

Chardonnay is malleable and easily manipulated by winemakers. So all that oak, butter and cream that we associate with chardonnay was put there.

The Trout Gulch vineyard is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a mere 3.5 miles from the ocean. The marine life in the soils, the dense fog that rolls in and the cold ocean air all contribute to the electric acidity and minerality in this chardonnay. It was like lightning in a bottle, and it turned everything I thought I knew about California chardonnay on its head.

Chardonnay is a true chameleon of a grape. The reason it was chosen as the white grape of Burgundy is because of its ability to absorb and highlight where it’s grown. The Cistercian monks realized hundreds of years ago that each little plot of land in Burgundy is different, and chardonnay is a grape that’s neutral enough to act as a catalyst to showcase the differences in each of those little squares of dirt. They somehow knew that this was a grape that could create a wine that would taste completely different based on where it was grown.

Because of its neutrality, chardonnay is malleable and easily manipulated by winemakers with a heavy hand or a certain style they’re trying to achieve. So all that oak, butter and cream that we associate with chardonnay was put there. It’s not inherent to the grape; it’s not the grape’s fault. Chardonnay does not naturally taste like that.

When people tell me they don’t like chardonnay, I get it. I’ll pour customers a zippy and bright style, and they’ll tell me, “Oh, I like this, because it doesn’t taste like a real chardonnay!” In fact, it’s quite the opposite: This is exactly what “real chardonnay” should taste like—clean, fresh and bright. What they mean is they don’t like a particular style of chardonnay. And like me, before my Ceritas awakening, they don’t realize that it’s not a one-size-fits-all wine.

So hear me, all you ABC folks: Don’t give up on chardonnay. You do like it. You just haven’t tasted it yet.

Vine Social: If You Think All California Chardonnays Taste the Same, You’re Very, Very Wrong is a story from Coachella Valley Independent, the Coachella Valley’s alternative news source.