Tag Archives: chardonnay

Chardonnay from Oregon is crazy good

Living in the Pacific Northwest gives me total access to the Willamette Valley wine country and after living here for over a year, I can say I've visited… twice. Yes, tis sad. I blame it on my travel, my husband's travel and a baby (who is now a toddler). It just has not happened near as often as I'd like. Luckily, a colleague's visit last week was the impetus to get us out the door and down to some wineries. Instead of dragging you through each visit and what we tasted, I'm going to do what I like to call the tasting takeaway – in other words, Oregon Chardonnay rocks.

We visited Adelsheim, where we tasted through the lineup in their lovely new tasting room (best bathrooms ever!). Though I have always been a fan of their Pinot Gris and Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir, I came away loving their Chardonnay, too. Though I know many dislike this comparison, it really was Burgundian in style – luscious and round, yet crisp and light on the palate. Made with 100% Dijon clone and no malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was mineral-driven yet textured. Duly impressed.

At this point I'm liking Chardonnay, but not swooning. Till I reach Shea Vineyard. Hands down, my favorite wine was their Chardonnay. And to be honest, we tasted some pretty amazing wines out of barrel that day. But I could not help going back to the Chardonnay – it was the best Oregon Chardonnay I'd ever tasted, and one of the best Chardonnays from anywhere I'd tasted (in a while at least). I've also loved the offerings from Argyle (Nuthouse Chardonnay is excellent) and Domaine Drouhin, but it's been a while since I've tasted those and I just see so much more Oregon Pinot Gris.

Why aren't more people talking about Oregon Chardonnay? Maybe the are and I'm missing it. Yes, Pinot Gris can be delicious, but when you think of Oregon's climate and it's ability to create amazing Pinot Noir, why do we so often also think of Pinot Gris instead of Chardonnay? Burgundy, Carneros, Russian River – most great Pinot Noir growing regions make great Chardonnay as well. Like every great region, there will be some Chardonnay not worth the effort, but the potential here I think is stellar.

So when it comes to white wine from Oregon, what do you gravitate towards and why?

Mmmm… Carmenere

So I've taken a week to hang out with my folks in the DC area so that they can spend time hanging out with their granddaughter and I can get some work done. One of the benefits of this trip is going through the few cases of wine I sent them the week before.

One of these cases included the a few Chilean wines from our Support Chile program, where every case sold donates $100 to the relief effort in Chile.

Two of these wines were tasted over the weekend, both from Errazuriz -the Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere and the Wild Ferment Chardonnay. I've tasted both before, but I loved re-tasting them because they were even better!

First, the Carmenere – if you aren't sure about Carmenere or have never tried it before, this is the bottle to try! Ripe, rich fruits are supported by lots of spice and hints of smoke. Great structure and balance between that fruit and spice. You can tell it's Carmenere from the flavors, but there are no bell pepper or green notes, something that occurs in Carmenere if the grapes are not ripened enough. I can assure you that the grapes used for Errazuriz ripened enough. I don't have a scale, nor do I rate wines, but I will say that this is the best example of Carmenere I have yet tasted.

Next up, the Wild Ferment Chardonnay – I drank this with my dad as he is not a fan of big, buttery, over-oaked Chardonnay. And while this is not big or over-oaked, the nose certainly gives away it's Chardonnay, and one that used oak. New oak. So if you are not a fan of any oak, this is not the wine for you. But if you like a wine that is balanced with oak, you will enjoy this bottling. There are ripe, tropical fruits, baked apples, a bit of vanilla spice, roasted nuts and toast. But on the palate this is all well-balanced by bright acidity and the finish is quite long. Don't get me wrong – this is a creamy, luscious Chardonnay. But a well-done one for a nice price.

Don't forget to support Chile with us here at Wine.com! You have now till the end of March to use your Chilean wine habit to do good! Go here for more info.

What is your favorite Chilean wine & why? 

Chardonnay Revisited

ABC – Anything but Chardonnay. You may have heard it from a few wine drinkers along the road. Fed up with the over-oaked, big butter, creamed-corn style Chardonnays that were coming out of California about 10 years ago, many wine lovers swore off the grape, particularly California style. I still talk to people who tell me they just don’t like Chardonnay (which is when I have them taste Chablis). While I did not have  an adamant hatred of the grape, I certainly would choose a slew of other wines before ordering or drinking a California Chardonnay. But recently, this changed.

It all started when I wasnewton chard vines categorizing some wines into our “style of wine” categories on Wine.com. A few wines I had not yet tried, and so instead of throwing all California Chardonnay into “rich and creamy,” I carefully read through the tasting notes offered by the winemaker and even ordered a few of which I was unsure. As I read note after note, even those that were rich and creamy, with notes of butterscotch, fig and crème brulee, I started craving a California Chardonnay. Enough with grassy, acidic Sauvignon Blanc, or my go-to Rose for summer. No more cool Torrontes or Gruner Veltliner. Not even my favorite Chablis would do the trick. I wanted Chardonnay. Not the buttery oak bombs of yesteryear, but the delicious fruit & oak balance with a creamy finish that these wine notes promised. I was salivating.

I ordered a few Chardonnays to taste and also had the pleasure of tasting a few at the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend over Labor Day. I am officially a Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley Chardonnay girl. Sip after sip, I re-introduced my palate to California Chardonnay and am happy to say that they will once again have a place in my wine-drinking repertoire.

Here are the wines I found to quench my California Chardonnay thirst:

Davis Bynum Russian River Chardonnay – I remember stopping by this winery in 2003, before I’d ever heard of them (I was younger then, and living on the east cost). Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir got two thumbs up, and we packed some up in our luggage to bring home. I got to re-taste these delicious wines at the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend and once again, gave them all two thumbs up. About $24.

anabaAnaba Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – a fairly new winery producing a red and white Rhone blend as well as this Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Wow. This was an excellent wine and a perfect example of what cool-climate Chardonnay can do. Clean, crisp, with lovely ripe fruit balanced by a creamy texture and subtle vanilla oak flavors. Really lovely. Winemaker, Jennifer Marion, knows her stuff, too. Young and eager, she is doing some great things here…  $25.

Landmark Overlook Chardonnay – mmmmm… this is one of those full-bodied wines that while rich, have a nice backbone of crisp acid and citrus to back up the tropical fruit & oak. The '2007 vintage is $26

Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay – An all time favorite. It’s expensive, but if you have the opportunity to taste it, do so. Apple, toast, spice and a long finish make this a wine to savor. See Newton Vineyard pictured above. The ‘06 vintage is on sale for $53.

Au Bon Climat Chardonnay – Jim Clendenen shows us what California Chardonnay should be. From a warmer climate, the ABC combines bright donkey and goatfruit and lush vanilla and oak into a Chardonnay that is definitely California, but the way it should be. This is a Chardonnay I truly enjoy AND it’s at $20.

A Donkey and Goat Chardonnay – Small boutique winery in Berkeley, CA, Jared and Tracy Brandt get their Chardonnay fruit from the Chalone appellation, which is a bit warmer, but they do this wine well. Again, the balance is excellent. They actually blend in some of the ver jus to heighten acidity and lower alcohol. The result is fantastic! $40.

My favorite non-California Chardonnay picks are these, and they are great, easy-drinking Chardonnays, almost all at $20 or less.

Catena Chardonnay – From Argentina. A perfectly balanced Chardonnay. Always a crowd pleaser. $20

Meerlust Chardonnay – Excellent South African Chardonnay – good balance and structure. Also $20

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay – Rich and delectable, this has got layers of complexity, great balance and a wonderfully long finish. Great for the price!!! $18

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay – Always a winner from the left coast of Australia. Classic Chardonnay style. $20

Tell us – what are your favorite Chardonnays?