Hit the Oregon Trail for Quality Chardonnay


Once known only for its potent Pinot Noir, the state’s Chardonnays are rising stars.

The Eola Amity Hills AVA is bragging approximately 30 wineries and over 100 vineyards, many of which are focused on small production and sustainability. The AVA is defined by its sea breezes and is named after an Aeolian or Aeolian harp. Vinifera grapes were planted here in the hills of Eola-Amity in 1971 – Amity Vineyards was the first commercial winery in the region to cultivate vines and in 1976 the first to become linked. It was among the first groups of six recognized nested AVAs, earning its AVA designation in 2006.

Argyle “Nuthouse” 2018, Eola-Amity. Round and fleshy apple and grilled caramel, wood of spices. Fruit from the orchard is in advance, so you don’t have to look for it. Textured on the palate, but still offers a lean, clean profile.

Byrn Mawr Estate Chardonnay 2018, Eola-Amity Hills. Pale yellow in color, the nose expresses clean notes of pear and apple, some honeycomb and brioche – notes that linger on the palate, with some creamy notes of lees, some salted anise.

Bryn Mawr Estate Grown Chardonnay 2018, Eola-Amity Hills. This is a good Chablis impostor with a nice nose (smoky and gunflint), lifted with clean, mineral green apple, lemon zest; lively and refreshing. 325 cases made.

The AVA Dundee Hills This is where most of the first grapes in the Willamette Valley were grown: the AVA’s motto is “It started here for a reason.” It’s the epicenter of pinot noir, but, like in other AVAs, the chardonnay catches up with the varietal’s Burgundian expressions and helps reinvent what American chardonnay could be. The AVA is home to over 50 vineyards and wineries, with some of the state’s early pioneers settling here – Eyrie (David Lett), Erath and Sokol Blosser in the 1960s and 70s, followed by the Burgundian Drouhin family in 1987. Friendly fact: there are more B-Corp certified vineyards in the Dundee Hills than any other AVA in the world.

Estate Serene “Evenstad Reserve” 2018, Dundee Hills. Made from Dijon clones in a top-notch vineyard. The nose is pleasant with curdled lemon, herbaceous notes and a hint of oak spice. Followed by a not-quite-full-bodied structure on the palate – slightly glycerol, round, textured and satisfying with ripe pear, yellow and green apple. Nice integration of oak, acid and fruit. Gourmet, elegant, refined. **

Domaine Roy & Fils “Incline” Dundee Hills Estate Chardonnay 2019, Iron Filbert Vineyard. Super anise on the nose, followed on the palate, with a bit of tart green apple. A little astringent at first, but fades by day two. Good Tuesday night wine.

Lange Estate Chardonnay “Classic” 2018, Dundee Hills. A round Burgundy-style wine with silky textures, ripe yellow apple, hints of hazelnut, almond and caramel leading to a long, graceful finish. At $19, it’s definitely its weight.

Nicolas Jay “Affinities” 2018, Dundee Hills. Burgundy style, good lemon zest, creamy aspect, medium-plus body but not quite full-bodied, a bit smoky. Good depth and lots of interest from entry to end.

Roco Knudsen Vineyards, Dundee Hills 2017. This wine shows true purity of apple and pear, without the distraction of laborious winemaking. A good fresh acid makes it rise. Good companion to cheeses, roasted greens, not super aromatic. Made with Dijon clone 95; only 55 crates made.

Stoller Chardonnay 2019 Dundee Hills. Purity of the fruit on the attack: apple and white pear. Unscrambled by handling or oak. Not heavy in any way. A pleasant wine from a heritage producer. Enjoy with grilled sausages, seared Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. 100% cultivated domain.

The Ribbon Ridge AVA is the smallest AVA in the Willamette Valley – 500 acres are currently planted on the ridge, 10 wineries cultivating 20 vineyards – established in 2005 and with the largest AVA in Chehalem. It is so named for the ribbon-like twist of the top of the crest. Formed by geological uplifts, the topography is made up of ridges and ravines that provide natural separations between the wine-growing area and the adjacent agriculture. It also helps create a more consistent microclimate for regular and longer ripening seasons. The fog that settles on the valley floor is a defining feature of this cool climate AVA.

Adelsheim Ribbon Ridge Chardonnay 2018, Ribbon Ridge vineyard. Salty herbaceous nose, fresh anise and fennel root. Clean direct pear, ripe and juicy but not overdone. Nice balance of fruit and wood; wise use of oak, sophisticated and elegant, interesting and layered, not a typical new world wine, but full of earthiness and old world nuances. **

Grochau Cellars “GC”, 2017 Brickhouse Vineyards, Ribbon Ridge, Amity. Generous orchard fruit anchored around ripe apple and pear. Medium bodied, round and pleasant, but with a good acid flavor. Cuts through fatty foods with aplomb and interest.

Utopia 2017, Ribbon Ridge AVA. Produced from Willamette’s smallest AVA, it has orchard fruits present, a lip-smacking acidity layered with round caramel and nutty tones, giving it a creamy mouthfeel. A bit deeper but stylistically Burgundian. Tart and savory finish of wild herbs.



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