Recently Tasted California & Oregon Chardonnay To Swoon Over
Chardonnay continues to be America’s most popular wine. It is easy to find respectable value priced
Chardonnay most everywhere wine is sold, but the premium Chardonnays reviewed here are clearly several
notches above and well worth the extra tab, even if it means emptying your wallet.
2014 Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.3% alc., pH 3.40,
TA 0.60, 212 cases, $48. Wente clone. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Rather subdued but pleasant aromas of lemon-lime, chalk dust and
crushed rock. Not as boisterous as the Gap’s Crown and more imbued with salty green apple notes to
accompany the flavors of lemon, white peach and caramel. Very smooth on the palate and slightly creamy on
2014 Black Kite Cellars Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.40, TA
0.62, 264 cases, $48. Wente clone. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light golden
yellow color and clear in the glass. Clean aromas of lemon oil, citrus blossom, vanilla and marzipan. An
abundance of citrus spearheads the flavor profile, complimented by notes of pain grille, caramel, butter brickle
and pear. Pinpoint balance with a juicy finish that offers a hint of salinity.
2014 Black Kite Cellars Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.62, 201 cases, $48.
Dijon 76, 95 and 96. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the
glass. Highly aromatic with a perfume that sustains over a
lengthy time in the glass, featuring lemon cake, pear, nutty
pastry creme and clarified butter. This wine comes at you with a
flavor stick, exploding on the palate with flavors of lemon, pineapple,
peach, pear and a hint of spice and vanilla. Impressive harmony, with a
slightly viscous demeanor, and a really long, lip-smacking finish.
The Domaine Serene Chardonnays are very fresh and pristine and not encumbered with oak characters. They
are impeccably balanced with pure fruit flavors and lively acidity. Domaine Serene is one of Oregon’s
Chardonnay pioneers, crafting the wine long before it has reached its current resurgence and popularity among
2013 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
13.3% alc., 1,504 cases, $55.
Dijon clones sourced from vineyards in the Dundee Hills. This wine is blended for consistency from vintage to
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Engaging perfume of fresh apple, peach, spice,
lees and nutty oak. Very polished and slightly creamy on the palate, with vibrant flavors of lemon, apricot and
apple that persist through a finish awash in citrus goodness. A very giving wine with plenty of fruit.
2013 Domaine Serene Clos du Soleil Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
13.3% alc., 127 cases,
$75. Estate grown, produced and bottled. This vineyard is one of seven estate vineyards. It consists of 4 acres
that are dry-farmed and is close planted to Dijon clones in Jory soil at 650 to 700 feet elevation. Fermented and
aged on the lees in French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The aromas of
apple, baking spice, lemon curd and nut spread draw you into the glass. Fresh and possessing noticeable
bounce, with a delicious blend of apple, pear and citrus flavors underpinned with steeliness and salinity.
Beautifully balanced, clean and bright, with a refreshingly juicy finish. I like this wine for its freshness. It seems
to call out, “Drink me!”
2013 Domaine Serene Etoile Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
13.1% alc., 124 cases, $75. Estate grown, produced and
bottled. This wine is from a 3-acre, west-facing, hilltop vineyard site at
750 to 800 feet elevation planted to Dijon clones in Jory soils. Fermented
and aged on the lees in French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow
color and clear in the glass. The aromas arrive gradually over time,
offering a fruit mix of citrus, apple and peach, with a compliment of oak.
Generous presence on the palate with vivid flavors of lemon, pineapple
and apple fruits that arrive in waves. Beautifully composed with steely
acidity, a top note of nutty oak, and a lip-smacking finish. A unique wine
in that it has almost an ephemeral texture borrowed from Pinot Noir.
2013 Domaine Serene Côte Sud Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
13.3% alc., 155 cases, $75.
Estate grown, produced and bottled. This vineyard is a top the Dundee Hills and is one of seven estate
vineyards. Nearly 6 acres, the vineyard is dry-farmed, south-facing, and situated at 600 to 680 feet elevation.
The Dijon clones are closely planted in Jory soils. Fermented and aged on the lees in French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The nose is dreamy, offering scents of lemon creme,
Asian pear and wet crushed rocks. Silky smooth on the palate and citrus driven, with the slightest oak in the
background. Good crispness with a fresh personality, this wine becomes more enchanting over time in the
glass and develops almost a velvety mouthfeel.
2013 Domaine Serene Clos de Lune Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
13.1% alc., 120 cases,
$70. Estate grown, produced and bottled. From a 6-acre, dry-farmed, south and west-facing vineyard situated
at 800 to 900 feet elevation and closely planted to Dijon clones in Jory soils. Fermented and aged on the less
in French oak barrels.
Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Pristine aromas of fresh
citrus and sweet nutty oak lead to a discreetly rich palate of citrus, apple, peach, pineapple and vanilla flavors.
A crisp wine, with welcome fruit intensity on a finish sporting a robust cut of acidity.
2012 Domaine Serene Récolte Grand Cru Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 144 cases, $125. Estate
grown, produced and bottled. Récolte is the French word for
“harvest.” A tribute to white Burgundy and is the pinnacle of the
Domaine Serene Chardonnay program. Dry-farmed Dijon clones
grown at high elevation in Jory soils. Barrel fermented and aged
on lees in French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and
clear in the glass. This wine is clearly different from the other Domaine
Serene Chardonnays because of its complexity and serious intentions.
Multiple aromas emerge from the alluring nose, including citrus,
nectarine, cantaloupe, marzipan, garrigue, flint and lemon-infused oak.
Richly flavored on the palate, with notes of lemon pie filling, pineapple,
grapefruit, lees, toasty marshmallow, and more. Impeccable mouthfeel with pinpoint balance between focused
fruit and steely resolve. A special wine that reveals itself slowly over time in the glass, and a keeper that will
cellar beautifully long term.
2014 Knudsen Vineyards Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.63, 275 cases, $45,
screwcap. This vineyard is home to the oldest plantings of Dijon
Chardonnay clones in Oregon dating back to 1990. That year,
Allen Holstein, the vineyard manager, established over 8 acres
of Dijon clones 76 and 96 in Jory soil in the Dundee Hills. This
wine is a blend of Dijon clones 76 and 95 planted in 1995. Aged
6 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Light golden yellow color and
clear in the glass. Inviting aromas of white peach, lemon oil, shaved oak
and floral goodness lead to a discreetly concentrated and thoroughly
satisfying citrus-driven wine offering considerable complexity. Additional
fruit flavors of pear and apple mix amicably with subtle oak driven notes
of vanilla and spice. The lemon-infused finish is driven by a bright cut of
acidity as the wine literally slides off the back of the palate. One of Oregon’s finest Chardonnays.
2014 Fogline Vineyards Zephyr’s Block Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.23, TA 0.66, 145
cases, $38. Sourced from the estate vineyard located at an 850 foot elevation at the fogline in the Petaluma
Gap region. Old Wente and Dijon 76 clones.
Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The nose offers
aromas of apple, pear, caramel and scrub brush. Nicely composed, with juicy flavors of apple, lemon wafer,
pear, peach, mango and butterscotch budini. Slightly creamy on the palate with some length and an inviting cut
on the finish.
2013 Stony Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., pH 3.30,
TA 0.69, RS 0.25, 1,852 cases, $45.This wine comes from one
of Napa Valley’s most iconic wineries that has farmed
Chardonnay since 1947. It is grown, produced and bottled 600
feet above the floor of the Napa Valley. Vines are 22 to 31 years
old. Aged 10 months in neutral French oak barrels. A non-oaky,
non-malolactic style Chardonnay.
Light golden yellow color and
clear in the glass. Plenty to like in this complex wine including clean
aromas of green apple, lemon, peach, yellow cake, nuts, poppyseed and
crushed chalk, and vivid fruit flavors of lemon, pineapple, and peach
framed by refreshing acidity. Silky smooth on the palate with impeccable
balance, featuring a grip of “stony” acidity on the uplifting finish. This is
Chardonnay in its purest form, not gussied up with oak.
Stony Hill Vineyard
Stony Hill Vineyard is located in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley. It is a property of extraordinary
history and character. Fred and Eleanor McCrea first planted vines here in 1947, and the McCrea family
continues to manage the property to this day. The vines have been dry-farmed for the past 65 years, causing
the roots to reach deep into the limestone rock within the vineyard!s volcanic mountain soils. The high
elevation, fog and morning sunlight create a cool climate environment ideal for Chardonnay with bright acidity.
Winemaker Mike Chelini continues his conservative winemaking practices that he began when he took on the
role in 1973. The map below outlines the dates that the vines were planted.
I first met with Stony Hill Chardonnay back in the early 1980s while dining at the Imperial Dynasty in Hanford,
California. The Imperial Dynasty had a Wine Spectator Grand Award Wine List compiled by chef Richard Wing,
and was one of the first restaurant accounts for Stony Hill Vineyard.