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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived April 4, 2018
Originally Published March 21, 2018

Chardonnay – Clones and Climate
Part 2 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 3)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

I begin today’s review column with some information I share each year relating to clones of Chardonnay and the history of such in the U.S. 

The pursuit of complex, enjoyable Chardonnay at an affordable price has been a major enterprise of the American wine industry for at least six decades. UC Davis originally classified and propagated Chardonnay clones suited for the warm California growing season, recommending the Wente Clone (2A), Clone 4 (Martini clone), Davis (UCD) 108 and others. These clones are mid to late-ripening and are not especially suited to cool climates like Oregon or the coastal valleys of California. 

In 1974, David Adelsheim went to Burgundy to discover the secrets of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production there and came away realizing that Oregon needed new Chardonnay clones more suited to the cool, western Oregon growing season.  In 1977, clones selected by Raymond Bernard of the Dijon office of the French Ministry of Agriculture were imported to Oregon for evaluation under quarantine.  It would not be until the early 1990s that these “Dijon” clones were accepted as a distinct improvement and widespread planting begun. 

We enjoyed Pollo a la Brasa from San Fernando restaurant in Lynnwood, Washington.  Delicious birds marinated in Peruvian herbs and spices then rotisserie cooked to perfection.  

Gran Moraine
2015 Chardonnay
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

The prestigious Gran Moraine Vineyard – five miles west of Carlton, Oregon - was planted in 2005 to several different Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This wine is a fantastic testament to the potential of Oregon Chardonnay, offering aromas of stone fruits, tropical citrus and brioche followed by rich flavors of pear and apricot with mineral and crisp acidity on the finish. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2014 Chardonnay, Reserve
Willamette Valley AVA|

Winemaker Luisa Ponzi takes advantage of more than 30 years of winery research to craft this deliciously Oregon wine from 100% Dijon clone grapes. Use of 10% new French oak adds an American touch of richness and toasty vanilla to the core of citrus, figs, apple and spicy anise, finishing with zesty acidity to pair with your favorite springtime fare. 

Adelsheim Vineyard
2015 Chardonnay, Caitlin’s Reserve
Willamette Valley AVA

This wine is one of many from Adelsheim Vineyard featuring a female portrait on the label created by winery co-founder Ginny Adelsheim. Ginny captured the likenesses of family and friends to give the early wines a distinctive touch. This vintage of reserve Chardonnay impressed my tasters with its complexity and balance. Delicate stone fruits, floral perfume and vanilla greet the nose and are followed by rich flavors of pear, fig, lemon curd and hints of toasty oak. 

Elk Cove Vineyards
2015 Chardonnay, Goodrich Vineyard
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Elk Cove’s Goodrich Chardonnay is another classic from Oregon that challenges white Burgundy in a uniquely Oregon way. Elk Cove recently returned Chardonnay to the wine lineup, in the interim concentrating on Pinot Noir and the other varieties that gave the winery its reputation. My tasters are glad they did! Look for aromas and flavors of Asian pear, orchard blossom, lemongrass and crisp flinty mineral. 

2016 Chardonnay
Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho

This delicious Idaho wine features a classic fishing fly on the label, honoring the Sawtooth Mountains – source of the sparkling river waters that have made the area a fly fisher’s paradise. The wine is a celebration of tropical fruits, vanilla and toasty barrel spice – but with a vein of classic lemony acidity that brings the wine back to the dinner table to pair with your finest light meals. 

Three Rivers Winery
2015 Chardonnay, Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

Last week, I teased the linksters among my readers by describing the three pitch and putt golf holes on Three Rivers’ property near the winery. My bad. The winery informs me that the greensward has been reconfigured to be a more multipurpose “park-like oasis.” My tasters recommend that your picnic-on-the-oasis include this rich Chardonnay with aromas and flavors of floral perfume, lemon cream, spicy pear, baked apple and brioche. 

Apex Cellars
2016 Chardonnay, Reserve, Bacchus Vineyard
Columbia Valley AVA

This classic Columbia Valley Chardonnay features fruit from one of the region’s oldest vineyards and a winemaking style that gets nods from some of the region’s oldest wine tasters. Fans of the big buttery style of Chardonnay will find plenty to like here but will also enjoy a thread of stone fruits, mineral and citrus on the palate. 

Tsillan Cellars
2016 Chardonnay, Estate
Lake Chelan AVA

Tsillan Cellars was designed to be a memorable destination winery and hospitality center on the shores of Lake Chelan (Tsillan is an early native American spelling of Chelan). The stunning Italian architecture creates a dramatic wine-touring setting. Enjoy this Estate Chardonnay aged in 100% new French oak for aromas and flavors of Asian pear, lemon, crème brûlée, vanilla and flinty mineral. 

Ste. Chapelle Vineyards
2016 Chardonnay, Skyline Vineyard
Snake River Valley AVA

Founded in 1976, Ste. Chapelle winery was named after the beautiful La Sainte Chapelle in Paris which was built by Louis IX as the court chapel during the 13th century. Today, visitors can appreciate the chapel-like architecture of the winery when they visit. This New World Chardonnay features aromas and flavors of vanilla, pear and spice with nuances of toasty oak and caramel. 

Canoe Ridge Vineyard
2016 Chardonnay
Horse Heaven Hills AVA- $15.00

This value-priced Chardonnay is from “The Expedition” series from Canoe Ridge Vineyards. The winery name is inspired from the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1805 who believed the ridge above the Columbia River looked like an overturned canoe. Enjoy aromas and flavors of ripe white peach, apple and apricot with notes of pear and honeydew melon. 

Seven Falls
2016 Chardonnay, Shaw Vineyard, GPS
Wahluke Slope AVA

Seven Falls wines are crafted from grapes grown on the Wahluke Slope and the GPS coordinates of select vineyard blocks are included on each single-vineyard wine. This tempting reserve-style Chardonnay offers aromas and flavors of ripe tropical fruit, Braeburn apples and notes of vanilla, toasted brioche and a vein of citrusy mineral for balance.

Wines from other areas

Cakebread Family Vineyard
2015 Chardonnay, Reserve
Napa - Carneros

As my wine tasters have discovered with past vintages, Cakebread winemaker Julianne Laks does a superb job creating an elegant, food-friendly Chardonnay from the Carneros region of the Napa Valley. Complexity and balance are the hallmarks of this wine, featuring aromas of apple, melon, crème brûlée and anise spice, leading to a rich palate of peach, apple and citrus with hints of vanilla and caramel. 

Falcone Family Vineyard
2016 Chardonnay
Santa Barbara County

John and Helen Falcone enjoyed winemaking careers in the Napa Valley before relocating to the Central Coast. They appreciate the climate for growing Chardonnay with the cool nights and influence from ocean breezes. This wine hails from the Santa Maria Valley at the Sierra Madre Vineyard. On the nose, you’ll find citrus blossom, mineral, grapefruit and pear. The palate reveals flavors of crisp apple, Meyer lemon and light caramel on the finish. 

Robert Mondavi Winery
2015 Chardonnay
Napa Valley

This classic Chardonnay blend uses grapes from Los Carneros in the south of Napa and smaller amounts from Stag’s Leap District, Russian River Valley and Yountville. The wine was 70% barrel fermented in French oak (16% new) with the balance fermented in stainless steel. Each lot was aged sur lie for nine months and hand stirred regularly. Look for aromas and flavors of bright tropical pineapple and Asian pear with baked apple, vanilla and hazelnut nuances. 

Black Opal
2016 Chardonnay
South Eastern Australia

Black Opal wines are sourced from vineyards in South Australia along the Limestone Coast, at Langhorne Creek, and in the famous Barossa Valley. This classic Aussie Chardonnay has a loyal following who revel in the round and unctuous flavors of stone fruits, melon and citrus with hints of vanilla and mineral on the finish.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



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