Now, I can’t speak for the men out there, but there’s a thing about chardonnay with the ladies – they either only go for chardonnay (usually the oaky California butter bombs) or they abide by the law of ABC. As in, Anything But Chardonnay. Fortunately, Oregon comes to the rescue. The Willamette Valley’s cool climate chardonnay retains juicy acid and winemakers go easy on the new oak, favoring neutral oak barrels and sometimes eschewing the oak altogether. The following wines are listed in order of oak influence and represent a wide range of price points. Cheers to forgetting the ABC’s!
A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay 2014
(Willamette Valley; $15)
This downright affordable Oregon chardonnay has a tagline: “The Essence of Oregon.” No oak barrels are used. The winemaker believes showcasing Oregon fruit via stainless steel is the best way to convey Oregon to the nose and palate of consumers. It starts with a tropical “notice me” nose showcasing passionfruit, nectarine, and green apple. This is a gateway chardonnay for cheap sauvignon blanc drinkers (you know who you are) used to lime zest and acidity. Easy to drink on its own, my research partner and I think it would pair nicely with a white sauce-based pizza or flatbread.
Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2014
(Willamette Valley; $30)
Bang! A huge nose of ripe melon, lemon verbena, and starfruit with a whiff of vanilla make big promises that are delivered in spicy citrus finish. Because of its fruitiness, this could easily be paired with Indian food, especially with Mulligatawny soup. My Latin American taster countered with arroz con pollo. Apparently, this wine begs for rice.
Crowley Chardonnay 2014
(Willamette Valley; $25)
At Crowley, they like to let nature speak for herself – minimal filtration, native yeasts, that sort of thing. Nature is speaking with her inside voice on the nose of this dainty chardonnay. The bouquet is delicate giving off aromas of pear and minerals. There is spice and white peach on the palate with a surprisingly assertive finish. Pair this classic chardonnay with white fish and a nice beurre blanc sauce.
Adelsheim Vineyards Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay 2014
(Willamette Valley; $45)
Sometimes price corresponds to quality and in this case it is right on the money. Caitlin’s Reserve was the stand out among this group of chardonnays due to the obvious skill in balancing acid with flavor and artfully handling oak. The aromatic bouquet is beautiful and full of tropical star fruit and honeysuckle with a touch of grapefruit on the palate. It is easy to drink all on its own but would also be smashing with scallops and citrus cream sauce.
Stoller Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2013
(Willamette Valley; $35)
If big scores are your think, this pulled in a 93 from Wine Enthusiast. The nose reflects the musky influence of French oak along with Asian pear, apple pie and a little creamy banana. She is an elegant lady with a long, refined finish.
Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Chardonnay 2014
(Willamette Valley; $38)
One of the valley’s oldest wineries, Sokol Blosser is also dedicated to sustainable production methods. French oak barrels heavily influenced the stony, floral and pear aromas. This wine is the least fruity of the set but with great acid that could stand up to a