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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

Italian Varietals Come
to America

A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2014

Merlot and Malbec
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2014

Oyster and Mussel Wines
A 4-Part Series
Published Sept & Oct 2014

Red Rhone Varietals
and Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2014

Pinot Noir & Salmon
A 4-Part Series

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal


































Wines of the Week
Published April 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Chardonnay – Part 4
Part Four of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)  (See Part 2)  (See Part 3)
By Chuck Hill

I finish my Chardonnay evaluation for 2015 with a selection of wines that offer inviting food friendliness and yet in a variety of styles that demonstrates the grape’s versatility.  Whether the wine is austere and a challenge to the palate, or voluptuous and hedonistic, each winemaker is to be admired. 

J. Christopher
2013 Chardonnay, Cuvee Lunatique
Willamette Valley AVA

“When Jay (Somers) first produced this fresh, clean Chardonnay with no oak or malolactic fermentation, some called him a lunatic.  Local popularity proves that he wasn’t so crazy after all.”   I agree with the J. Christopher website.  There are some wines that just grab you, and they move to the top of the rankings.  Look for white peach and green apple, dusty mineral and citrus on the finish – great with seafood or other lighter meals. 

Alta Cellars
2012 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

Commercial fisherman and winemaker Jay Pedersen uses his time off from fishing the Bering Sea to craft wines with his wife Karen at their cozy winery in Woodinville.  Their tasty Chardonnay offers appealing aromas of stone fruits, pear and mineral, leading to flavors of pear and zesty grapefruit. 

DaMa Wines
2012 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

Mary Derby founded DaMa wines with Dawn Kammer in 2007 in a partnership that promised great things from women-in-Washington wine.  Dawn moved away in 2013 and winemaker Ali Mayfield joined the team.  DaMa’s 2012 Chardonnay was crafted from grapes grown at Sagemoor and Conner Lee vineyards and shows ripe pear and Mandarin orange zest on the nose, followed by rich flavors of yellow apple, citrus and dusty mineral with notes of vanilla. 

Sigillo Cellars
2013 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

Ryan and Mike Seal joined with their golfing buddy Steve Bailey to make some wine in 2005 and were so successful that they founded Sigillo Cellars in 2009 in the Cascade foothills town of Snoqualmie.  Their 2013 Chardonnay was crafted from grapes grown at the venerable Bacchus and Dionysus Vineyards north of Pasco, Washington.  Look for melon and citrus aromas and flavors with complementary flavors of tropical fruits and earthy sur lie character. 

Maryhill Winery
2013 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

Spring has sprung early in Washington’s Columbia Gorge and visitors are already making their way to Maryhill Winery for the wines, the views and the fun.  Enjoy the ambiance with a taste of their Columbia Valley Chardonnay, lightly oaked and offering peach, pineapple, pear and citrus with notes of honeysuckle and vanilla.  You can even buy a bottle to enjoy with your picnic or game of bocce on their world-class bocce courts.

Array Cellars
2012 Chardonnay, Dijon Clone
Yakima Valley AVA

Array Cellars proprietor Henry Smilowicz works closely with winemakers Brian Carter and Robert Takahashi to craft only Chardonnay wines from select vineyard sites in Washington State.  His Dijon-clone Chardonnay comes from Otis Vineyard in the central Yakima Valley – perhaps the oldest Dijon clone vines in the state.  This latest vintage offers earthy forest-floor notes that yield to aromas of tropical fruits, butterscotch and baked apple.  The palate resolves the buttery apple goodness to include crisp apple and citrus flavors. 



Seven of Hearts
2013 Chardonnay, Gran Moraine Vineyard
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Byron Dooley crafts this Chardonnay from grapes grown in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on soils comprised of ancient ocean sediments. Gran Moraine Vineyard is planted to Dijon clone 76 which according to Byron seems to be a perfect match for the terroir.  The wine shows an elegant expression of mineral, acidity and fruit, with earthy flint stabbing gently at tropical fruit and peach, while citrus and light vanilla balance the palate. 


14 Hands
2013 Chardonnay, The Reserve
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This wine was crafted from two vineyard sites in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington State. One site was near the Columbia River’s cooling influence and the other was in a warmer, interior location.  The combination yielded an exceptional wine showing ripe pear and apple fruit, buttery oak and notes of coconut and vanilla.  Railbird Alert!  The Kentucky Derby is May 2 and 14 Hands recently released a tasty Kentucky Derby Red Blend – my tasters put a double-sawbuck on it to be in the winner’s circle. 

Patterson Cellars
2013 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

Patterson Cellars is most famous for their superb blended wines, but talented winemaker John Patterson crafted this varietal Chardonnay from grapes grown at SageCliffe Vineyard.  Aromas of toasty apple and pear mingle with hints of lemon zest and lead to ripe peach and apple flavors with a crisp acid finish – great food wine. 

Chateau Ste. Michelle
2013 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

This classic Columbia Valley Chardonnay gets plenty of points from tasters for its bright apple and citrus fruit, spicy palate and elegant, complex finish.  When you add in the value price factor, it soars up the chart to be a bestseller.  Serve with crab, poultry or salmon; enjoy it with friends old or new! 

Wines from other areas:

Banfi Fontanelle
2012 Chardonnay
Toscana IGT

The grapes for this wine come from the calcareous soils of the Banfi Estate in the southern part of Montalcino.  The grapes are chilled and whole-cluster pressed for fermentation in French oak barriques (75%) and stainless steel (25%).  Look for bright tropical fruit aromas with notes of vanilla, leading to a rich palate of apple and complex stone fruits – excellent with seafood. 

2013 Chardonnay

HandCraft Wines’ proprietor Cheryl Indelicato works with senior winemaker Alicia Ysais to create this excellent value-priced Chardonnay.  Aromas of honey and floral perfume mingle with lemony vanilla, apple and pear, while the palate offers crisp flavors of stone fruits, pear and hints of creamy marshmallow. 

NV Chardonnay

Barefoot wines make their mark for consistently good quality at a value price. The wine offers aromas and flavors of peach and apple with light notes of citrus, toast and vanilla on the finish.  Take advantage of the inexpensive price to sip a decent Chardonnay after work or with friends on the weekend.

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©  April, 2015  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 04/11/2015