By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
This final round of Chardonnays features many wines under $20 and some very special wines for special occasions.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
This complex and flavorful Chardonnay was created from grapes grown at three vineyards owned or controlled by Willamette Valley Vineyards: Estate Vineyard near Salem, Tualatin Vineyard near Forest Grove, and Elton Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The wine offers aromas and flavors of lemon and pear with hints of minerality and earth – great with lighter meats and seafood.
This popular Chardonnay from Charles Smith Wines was recently part of an acquisition by Constellation Brands – a global producer and marketer of wines and spirits. The wine is the same high quality, and the price remains low. Look for bright aromas and flavors of orchard blossom, citrus, tropical guava and stone fruits.
Browne Family Vineyards
Browne Family Vineyards was “inspired by the greatness of one man: William Bitner Browne, grandfather of proprietor Andrew Browne.” Integrity and excellence are also Andrew’s keys to success as owner of Precept Brands. This reserve-style Chardonnay bursts with tropical fruits and oodles of toasty vanilla, coconut and a finish of mineral and citrus zest.
Waterbrook traces its history back to the mid-1980s when the winery was founded in the western Walla Walla Valley. Today, an expansive visitor center and winery are right along Highway 12, offering elegant grounds and a great tasting-room welcome. Enjoy the value-priced 2015 Chardonnay for aromas and flavors of pear and white peach with vanilla and baking spice.
Left Coast Cellars
Left Coast Cellars of Rickreall, Oregon - on the border between the northern and southern Willamette Valley - is committed to sustainability and the land. Visitors enjoy their 360-acre estate, gardens and café. Truffle Hill Chardonnay combines ripe Chardonnay flavors of pear, apple and stone fruits with notes of toasty oak, vanilla and spice.
Fifteen thousand years ago – near the end of the last Ice Age – glacial dams broke loose and unleashed a series of epic floods that scoured Eastern Washington, creating the Drumheller Channels, part of a dramatic landscape recently named a National Natural Landmark. Enjoy Drumheller Chardonnay for its flood of mango, melon and floral notes with smoky mineral and hints of vanilla.
This stainless steel Chardonnay represents a cuvee of 32 lots from around Oregon fermented and aged to showcase pure Chardonnay fruit and nuances of the variety. It makes a great food pairing with its juicy palate of floral and citrus flavors and a finish of mineral and lemon zest.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard
The name of this value brand from Precept Wines was inspired originally by the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1805, who thought the ridge above the Columbia River (now the Horse Heaven Hills AVA) resembled an overturned canoe. The wine offers reserve qualities of pear and melon wrapped in toasty notes of butterscotch, vanilla and hints of coconut.
Premium vineyard sites from across the Willamette Valley were sourced to produce this elegant and age-worthy Chardonnay from Rex Hill. Aged for 11 months in French oak – 23% new, the wine offers a complex nose of lemon curd, honeysuckle and pear with toasty notes of brioche, burnt crème and vanilla. The palate embraces the tropical fruits with bracing acidity and flinty mineral as counterpoints.
Ste. Chapelle Vineyards
The wines of Idaho seem to be hidden in the avalanche of brands found in American grocery stores and wine shops. It's a shame more consumers don’t take on the task of seeking them out. A bargain from the Snake River Valley AVA, Ste. Chapelle Chardonnay offers pear, apple and pineapple with notes of lemony vanilla and coconut on the finish.
Wines from other areas
Luminus is a single-vineyard Chardonnay from Beringer’s Big Ranch Vineyard in the Oak Knoll AVA. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed, and the juice fermented in French oak barrels – 20% new. The most exciting discovery for fans of Old World Chardonnay is its robust acidity and complexity featuring bright citrus and tropical components – nice to contemplate, nice with a meal!
Dry Creek Vineyard
The cool Russian River Valley has become a go-to location for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Sonoma County. A warm growing season brought in an early harvest for Dry Creek’s Estate Block 10 with slightly lower yields, but very high quality. Look for baked pear and apple with butterscotch on the nose with a mouth-filling palate adding baking spice and hints of stone fruits.
William Hill Estate
Grapes from premium vineyards in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties were whole-cluster pressed and fermented partly in barrel and partly in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation and sur lie aging added dimension and a creamy mouthfeel to the wine. Enjoy this wine with your favorite light meats or poultry to savor aromas and flavors of Crenshaw melon, stone fruits, orchard blossom and notes of spicy oak and vanilla.
This Tuscan Chardonnay comes from Castello Banfi’s estate in the southern part of Montalcino. The wine is delicate with a lower alcohol content and distinctive tropical fruit and vanilla notes on the nose. The palate is dry, featuring flavors of apple, peach and apricot. Enjoy with lighter meats or fish from the grill.
The same year that Mr. Ferris was revealing his wheel at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1893, workers were blasting the wine caves and crafting the first vintage of Stags’ Leap in the Napa Valley. Today, you can enjoy Stags’ Leap Chardonnay for its apple and citrus flavors with complex lemon curd, floral notes, anise and hazelnut finish.
To find contact information for most of the wineries
in the above text,
May, 2017 Chuck Hill
May, 2017 Chuck Hill