Recently Tasted Glorious Chardonnays
2015 Evening Land La Source Seven Springs Estate Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay
13.0% alc., $75. This wine
is a good example of the excitement around Oregon
Chardonnay these days. Large once-used puncheons were
employed in this vintage that yielded limited quantities.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Flat-out
enchanting aromas of green apple, iron, and considerable
stony minerality. Crisp flavors of green apple, apple butter, citrus and
honey combine to elate the palate. The wine is clean, almost crunchy
and quenching like a cold, cut apple. The fruit is enlivened by bright but
complimentary acidity that lifts the mouthwatering, lengthy finish. There
is plenty of “minerality” to excite even the most finicky Chardonnay
2015 Gary Farrell Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay
12.7% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.71, 245 cases,
$65. Released October 2017. Old Went selection planted in rocky, volcanic soils. Harvest Brix 21.5º. Whole
cluster pressed and transferred to 35% new French oak barrels and 500-L puncheons for native fermentation
and 8 months of barrel aging. Racked once off the primary lees just before bottling.
Moderate golden yellow
color in the glass. Leading off an impressive offering are aromas of lemon zest, cut apple white nectarine,
warm biscuit and slate. Richly flavored and somewhat weighty in the mouth, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit,
banana and honey. Crisp in character, with taut acidity on the finish that leaves a fresh citrus impression.
2015 La Follette North Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., $24, screw cap. A combination of barrel
and tank fermentation and aging on the lees.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of
lemon, buttery brioche and poached pear leap from the glass upon opening. Bright citrus flavors
with hints of honey, pear, persimmon and blonde caramel offer a highly flavorful experience.
Commendable balance with a good cut of acidity on the finish.
2015 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alc, $38. Clusters picked earliest date ever
(September 14) and pressed straight to barrel without cold settling, with the lees in contact with the
wine throughout the aging process.
Light golden yellow color with a tinge of green in the glass. Hitone
lemon creme aroma with some reductive slate addition. Pretentious charge of lemon-infused
pleasure on entry with a bit of pineapple accent. The fruit really saturates the palate. Slight viscosity
with a lemon drop, uplifting finish. This is a wine for fans of boisterous Chardonnay yet there is
enough restraint to remind one of a great Meursault.
2014 la pitchoune Pratt Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., 50 cases, $58.
yellow with the slightest green caste and the slightest haze
in the glass. Strong and persistent aromas of lemon-lime,
orchard fruits, buttery brioche and wet stone. Luscious
flavors of lemon, pineapple, apple, pear and spice merge in
a wondrous melange of pleasure. The wine also sports
welcome viscosity, impeccable balance, submissive oak, and a flat-out
great finish infused with layers of fruit goodness. This wine is all about
California sunshine and the Pratt Vineyard that is fast becoming one of
California’s treasured Chardonnay sites. Lovers of lean, hi-acid,
mineral-driven Chardonnay should stay away ( leaving more for me). I
just had to buy this wine for my cellar.
2015 Pfendler Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.3% alc., 250 cases, $38. Estate grown. Clones 4 and Hyde-
Wente. Whole cluster bladder press, inoculated for primary, aggressive lees stirring at the beginning, lightening
up and finishing off in January when native secondary finished. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40%
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, cut apple, spice and caramel. Richly fruited,
yet bright in demeanor, with flavors of grilled lemon, grapefruit, baked apple and peach. Sound acidity brings
the finish up to a quenching climax.
2015 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley Chardonnay
12.5% alc., $50 (500 ml).
yellow color in the glass. A taut, acid-driven wine, leading off with aromas of apple, slate, lemon creme and a
hint of spice. Flavors of lemon, grapefruit and kiwi are lifted by vivacious acidity, leading to a bright finish that
offers both refreshing lift and satisfying fruit richness.
2014 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cru Mountains Chardonnay
13.6% alc., $50 (500 ml). 3.5 acres
planted to Wente, Hyde and Mt. Eden clones. 1,450 to 1,500 feet elevation.
Moderate golden yellow color in
the glass. Enviable aromas of grilled lemon, honey, buttery brioche, nut oil and caramelized custard. Rich
flavors of lemon, pear, golden baked apple, honey, caramelized nuts and buttered toast. A decadent and ripely
fruited offering with a very lengthy finish replete with lemony goodness. A completely different wine than the
2015 version that is much less ripe and more acid driven. I prefer this one where the acidity is fully integrated.
2015 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
12.9% alc., $50 (500 ml).
golden yellow color in the glass. Soaring aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, marzipan, vanilla creme and steely
resolve. Very bright acidity cuts through the lemon-lime, grapefruit, pear and white nectarine flavors like an
arrow. The wine finishes with tart, even somewhat puckering acidity as well as a slight herbal note. For acid
2015 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
13.0% alc., $79.
Moderately dark golden
yellow color in the glass. Slight reduction upon opening with added aromas of circus fruits, lychee and savory
earth. A searching, somewhat austere wine that demands the drinker’s attention. Mid weight flavors of lemonlime,
pear and white peach are well-balanced by bracing acidity. Clean and spirited, with a cleansing texture.
This wine shows the most “minerality” of the three Rhys Chardonnays tasted here.
2016 Screen Door Cellars Asern Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $25.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. The aromatic profile is
somewhat unusual yet attractive, featuring prominent floral scents of white blossoms including
jasmine along with honeydew melon, pineapple and French toast. Discreet fullness and weight,
with flavors of lemon, tropical fruits and Christmas spices with a hint of caramel. Clean and crisp
with a quenching, barely sweetened finish. Not what one usually expects from Chardonnay, but
nevertheless quite enjoyable in a free-spirited style.
2015 Soléna Domaine Danielle Laurent Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.1% alc., pH 3.30, RS,
190 cases, $55. Released September 2017. Harvest Brix 20.0º. Fermented and aged 18 months in French oak
barrels. Dijon clones.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of Granny Smith apple, honey,
and marzipan. Well-balanced and gracious in a refreshingly styled wine featuring flavors of salted apple,
honeycomb, pear and orchard fruits. Slightly creamy in the mouth, with an uplifting, dry finish.
2016 Walter Scott La Combe Verte Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., 340 cases, $28
(sold out). Released September 2017. Sourced from Clos des Oiseaux, Freedom Hill, Sojourner,
X Novo, Vojtilla and Witness Tree vineyards. Lightly fined and filtered.
Moderate golden yellow
color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil, grilled peach, grapefruit and slate. Attacking flavors of
green apple, lemon-lime, grapefruit and nectarine in a bright, lifted styled wine with a slightly
creamy mouthfeel and a citric finish that never gives up. A superb Willamette Valley cuvée.
2015 Tongue Dancer Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.58,
RS <1 g/L, $50. Wax top. Inaugural release September 6, 2017. Old Went clone. Harvest Brix 23.2º. Whole
cluster pressed to barrel. Native yeast fermentation lees stirring once weekly through primary fermentation
only. Barrel fermented and aged 15 months sur lie in French oak barrels, 25% new. Bottled unfixed and
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, chalk, slate and coffee along
with subtle burnt match reduction. Richly flavored with lemon, golden apple, honeyed pear and blonde caramel.
Lush and creamy mouthfeel with a modest mantle of oak. The heady flavors continue through the finish
highlighting salted apple.
2013 Velvet Bee Rita’s Crown and Radian Vineyards Star. Rita Hills Chardonnay
201 cases, $28. Released November 1, 2015. 64% Rita’s Crown Vineyard (Dijon 76) and 36%
Radian Vineyard (Dijon 95). Rita’s Crown: stainless steel ferment, no malolactic fermentation.
Radian: French oak barrel fermented, 20% new, 100% malolactic fermentation.Harvest Brix 22.6º
(Rita’s Crown) and 25.0º (Radian).
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of citrus,
clay, white flower blossom, stony resolve and a hint of nuttiness. Some richness on the palate with
refreshing core of citrus, yellow apple, lychee, and caramel flavors with background notes of nuts
and salinity. Clean and balanced with a satiny texture.
2014 Velvet Bee Rita’s Crown Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
14.45% alc., 84 cases,
$28. Released November 1, 2017. Dijon clone 76. Harvest Brix 22.4º. Barrel fermented, malolactic
Moderately light golden yellow color and apparently unfiltered. Aromas of apple,
citrus, slate and salty air emerge on the nose with resolve. Modest creaminess in the mouth, with
flavors of lemon, topical fruits (passion fruit) and caramel. Quite sophisticated in a poised, fresh
and seamless style. The mouthfeel is particularly appealing.
2016 Soléna Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.1% alc., pH 3.24, TA 0.54, RS 1.7 g/L, 1,900
cases, $20, screw cap. Harvest Brix average 23.2º. Very light gold color with a pinkish tinge and
slight carbonation upon pouring.
Highly engaging aromas of pear, golden delicious apple, kiwi and
spice. Clean, juicy and dry, with uplifting flavors of apple, honey and Asian pear. The pillowy
texture is quite charming. A very impressive offering and one of the best Pinot Gris wines I have
had in recent memory.