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Recent Tasting of 2016, 2017 & 2018 Willamette Valley Chardonnay


As the Willamette Valley enters its 55th year of growing Chardonnay, the interest in Chardonnay has come full circle. David Lett originally planted more Chardonnay than Pinot Noir and plantings of Chardonnay reached a nadir of 38 percent of acreage by 1981. Today, there is a renewed interest in Oregon Chardonnay and although Chardonnay acreage only represented 6 percent of Oregon plantings, the percentage of Chardonnay acreage is on the rise. Oregon Chardonnay planted acres are significantly less than Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but it is only a matter of time before Chardonnay overtakes Pinot Gris as the interest in Pinot Gris dwindles.

The majority of Willamette Valley Chardonnays fall into the middle ground between the often ripe, fruity and oak-driven California Chardonnays and the more austere and acid-driven French white Burgundies. This is what one would expect as the majority of Willamette Valley Chardonnays are based on Dijon clones (95, 96 and 76) while the overwhelming majority of California Chardonnays are fueled by Wente selections.

I still find more California Chardonnays that rock my boat, but I find the Oregon Chardonnays, with their lower alcohol levels and higher natural acidity, to be intriguing and satisfying but not as hedonistic and even too austere in some cases.

The Walter Scott Chardonnays, in particular, show reductive winemaking. Reductive is a term used to describe a style of vinification and refers to the relative absence of oxygen during winemaking. This technique is aimed at preserving fresh fruit flavors. Many Chardonnay enthusiasts relish the matchstick or flinty aromas and flavors that accompany reduction as long as it is not overdone when it is combined with some influence of oxygen to maintain the stability of the wine. Oxygen is more desirable in red winemaking since it helps the evolution of color and tannin. Decanting can usually cure Chardonnay wines of reductive notes.


2017 Walter Scott X Novo Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., $65. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. An array of citrus fruit aromas are shadowed with a hint of flint. Rich and full on the palate, with fresh, juicy flavors of lemon, pineapple, tarte tatin and graphite. A sophisticated offering with a pleasing arrow of acidity and a lip smacking finish that seems to go on and on and on. A very special wine. Score: 95

2017 Walter Scott Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., $65. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil, iron and flint. Graceful and satisfying, offering the essence of lemon complimented by bashful oak. Bright acidity propels the wine to a long, lemony finish that has a hint of graphite. This wine has a regal quality and is as comforting as silk sheets. Score: 94

2017 Big Table Farm The Elusive Queen Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.1% alc., 102 cases, $85, $195 magnum. Released April 15, 2019. The best Chardonnay from the winery’s 2017 vintage. Unfined and unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Clean aromas of lemon, white peach, apple, white flower blossom, petrichor, beach sand and brioche. Delicious flavors of lemon, pineapple, and pear in a sleek and harmonious style with a saline edge. This beauty urges you to take another sip. Score: 93

2017 Morgen Long Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., pH 3.26, TA 0.65, RS 1.4 g/L, 67 cases, $60. Dijon clones 95 and 76 planted in Jory and Nekia volcanic soils. After whole cluster pressing, the juice was lightly chaptalized and underwent native fermentation, 100% MLF. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 33% new, then transferred to stainless steel for a second winter on the lees. After six months in steel, a light fining with bentonite was followed by bottling unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Harmonious aromas of lemon zest, brioche and caramel. Noticeably viscosity on the palate, with flavors of poached pear, lemon-lime, Golden Delicious apples and a hint of vanilla. Classy juice that has plenty of welcome acidity and length of flavor. Score: 93

2017 Walter Scott Freedom Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., $ Sold out. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of white peach and shaved oak. The essence of lemon shines through and is complimented by a grounded earthy component. Tremendous lemony grip on the very long finish. Exquisite balance and very gracious acidity. This wine goes down like mother’s milk. Score: 93

2016 Keeler Estate Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

12.5% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.54, 128 cases, $40. Released October 20, 2018. Dijon clones 96 and 76 (biodynamic). Harvest Brix 20.4º. Aged 14 months on the lees in 75% French oak barrels, 30% new and 25% in stainless steel. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Delightful aromas of lemon oil, butter, baked yellow apple and pineapple on the grill. Effusive flavors of ripe pear, pineapple, yellow apple and banana. Oily in texture with a ripe fruited finish. Not an acid-driven style, but still has good spirit. Score: 92

2017 Morgen Long Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.624, RS 1.3 g/L, 50 cases, $120. White label A selection of two and a half barrels from Seven Springs Vineyard that benefited from twice the lees and more frequent stirring during aging. Clones 95 and 76 planted in Jory and Nekia volcanic soils. The whole cluster pressed juice was lightly chaptalized and fermented with native yeasts. 100% MLF. Aged one year in French oak barrels, 44% new, and then blended in stainless steel for a second winter on the lees. A light fining with bentonite led to bottling unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil, apple pastry and nutty oak lead to a satisfying wine that is crisp and bright due to hi-strung acidity.. Flavors of lemon-lime, apple, honey and vanilla culminate in a boisterous finish that attracts another sip. Very similar to the Black label bottling but a step above. Score: 92

2017 Walter Scott Justice Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., $55. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Shy and reductive nose. Very good richness of lemon, pineapple, spice, graphite, flint and dirty oak flavors with a touch of matchstick. Very suave in the mouth, with a trace of tannins and some length to the refreshing finish. Score: 92

2017 Morgen Long Willamette Valley Chardonnay

12.75% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.64, RS 0.5 g/L, 172 cases, $25. Black label. 25% each Seven Springs, Durant, AlexEli and Yamhill vineyards. Dijon 95, 76, and 34 to 37-year-old clone 108. Native yeast fermentation, full MLF. Aged 6 months in French oak barrels, 10% new and transferred to stainless steel for six months. Lightly fined with bentonite before a gentle lenticular filtration. Black label. · Very light golden yellow color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of baked apple, spice, white flower blossom and toast lead to a bright, fresh and clean-styled wine that is citrus driven and shot through with an arrow of acidity. There is an appealing steely and briny quality to the wine and a cleansing, dry finish. Score: 91

2017 Big Table Farm The Wild Bee Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.1% alc., 525 cases, $28. Combination of six sites. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of white peach and wood shop. Driven by vigorous lemon flavors and a tremendous lemony grip on a very long finish. Exquisite balance with dreamy acidity and a grounded earthy component. Score: 91

2016 LUMOS Wren Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay

12.5% alc., 107 cases, $35. Released October 2018. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. A striking aroma of honey is augmented with notes of chalk dust and bruised apple. Flavors of honey, lemon, and golden apple in a discretely rich style with a luscious, silken texture. A bit of oak-driven flavors of nuts, toast and vanilla chime in. Score: 90

2016 Open Claim Vineyards Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., 80 cases, $75. Released May 2019. Dijon clones 95 and 76. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. A range of aromas including lemon, apple, warm biscuit and hazelnut cream. Somewhat austere in an acid-driven style, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit, pear and vanilla, finishing upbeat and quenching with a lemon-lime flourish. Score: 90

2018 Chehalem INOX™ Unoaked Willamette Valley Chardonnay

12.9% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.68, $20, screw cap. Sourced from two estate vineyards. · Very light golden yellow color in the glass. The nose reminds of Pinot Gris with aromas of lychee, white peach and grass. Flavors of lemon-lime, cantaloupe, green apple and a slight grassy note underlain with guarded acidity. I like the wine for its fruitiness, but not as a Chardonnay, for it could easily be mistaken for a Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Score: 88

2017 Geødesy Chehalem Mountains Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.20, TA 0.60, 59 cases, $75. Native yeast fermentation, native MLF, barrel fermented, aged 15 months in French oak barrels, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very shy nose with faint aromas of wax and yeast. More expressive on the palate, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit, pear and honey. Gentle and refined with vibrant acidity and a lip-smacking finish. Quite agreeable, but I wanted more fruit. Score: 89

2018 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

12.5% alc., pH 3.18, TA 0.68, $28, screw cap. Unoaked. A mix of all the Chardonnay clones on the estate property. · Light golden yellow color with a little spritz in the glass. Aromas of tropical citrus, spiced pear, white peach, tequila and mulch. Slightly creamy on the palate, with flavors of pear, white peach, lemon and honeydew melon. The finish is zippy with quenching natural acidity. Score: 89

2017 Walter Scott Cuvée Anne Willamette Valley Chardonna

13.0% alc., $40. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. The nose is quite reductive with aromas of matchstick, Bartlett pear, butter and a hint of toast. Slightly viscous and soothing in the mouth, with a lemon-lime core accented with toasty oak and a bit of flint. The lemon-driven finish has some length. Score: 89

2017 Geødesy Eola Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.7% alc., pH 3.25, TA 0.60, 47 cases, $75. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with native yeast, native MLF, aged 15 months on the lees, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Reserved aromas of white nectarine, ocean breeze and botanical notes. Rather austere, with demure flavors of lemon, grapefruit and pear with no noticeable oak input. Less acid-driven than the Chehalem Mountains Vineyard bottling. Easygoing, but might put you to sleep. Score: 88


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