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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Italian Varietals for 2016
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Last Week's Reviews
Published April 7, 2016

Versatile Chardonnays for Spring
Part Three of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)  (See Part 4)
By Chuck Hill
 

I begin today’s review column with some information I shared last year relating to clones of Chardonnay and the history of such in the U.S. 

The pursuit of complex, enjoyable Chardonnay at an affordable price has been a major enterprise of the American wine industry for at least six decades.  UC Davis originally classified and propagated Chardonnay clones suited for the warm California growing season, recommending the Wente Clone (2A), Clone 4 (Martini clone), Davis (UCD) 108 and others.  These clones are mid to late-ripening and are not especially suited to cool climates like Oregon or the coastal valleys of California. 

In 1974, David Adelsheim went to Burgundy to discover the secrets of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production there and came away realizing that Oregon needed new Chardonnay clones more suited to the cool, western Oregon growing season.  In 1977, clones selected by Raymond Bernard of the Dijon office of the French Ministry of Agriculture were imported to Oregon for evaluation under quarantine.  It would not be until the early 1990s that these “Dijon” clones were accepted as a distinct improvement and widespread planting begun. 

Today, a high percentage of Chardonnay plantings in the Northwest and coastal California are to Dijon clone vines.  Wines have improved dramatically, offering greater complexity and structure with each vintage.  Today I include clonal information where available. 

To download a pdf file from Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis on Chardonnay clones and their evolution in the United States, go to the following link: iv.ucdavis.edu/files/24489.pdf.

Coeur d’ Alene Cellars
2014 Chardonnay
Washington
$24.00

This tempting Chardonnay is a treat to serve with all types of lighter meals.  Fruit from the Yakima Valley and Stillwater Creek on the Royal Slope combine to create a bright and fruity core of tropical fruit, citrus and herbs, while barrel aging in French oak adds a creamy layer of vanilla and toast on the finish.  The tasteful watercolor on this label – and other CdA Cellars labels – is by artist Sarah Gates, mother of winery founder Kimber Gates. 

Columbia Crest
2014 Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
$24.00

Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca crafts many wines for Columbia Crest, and he is helping to lead the trend for more food-friendly and varietally true Chardonnays with this unoaked wine from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Look for aromas and flavors of white peach, floral perfume, tropical notes and refreshing acidity on the finish. 



Charles Smith Wines
2013 Eve Chardonnay
Washington
$12.00

Like the forbidden fruit on the label, winemaker/owner Charles Smith invites you to take a bite out of his apple- and pear-dominant Chardonnay and marvel at the balance and affinity for your favorite lighter meals.  You’ll find complex notes of dusty mineral, citrus and tropical fruits on the palate.  Good value. 

 

RoxyAnn Winery
2013 Chardonnay
Rogue Valley AVA
$26.00

RoxyAnn Winery is located at the foot of Roxy Ann Peak, named for a pioneer woman Roxy Ann Bowen in the 1850s.  The winery property is part of Hillcrest Orchard, directed by members of the Parson family since 1908.  Look for aromas white peach, kiwi and green apple leading to a rich palate featuring flavors of creamy lemon curd, vanilla, mineral and toasty oak.  

Tsillan Cellars
2014 Nudo Chardonnay, Estate
Lake Chelan AVA
$18.00

This estate-bottled Chardonnay is fermented and aged in stainless steel, preserving the fresh and fruity character of the grape.  Aromas and flavors of crisp apple, citrus and mineral make for a superb wine for spring and summer to enjoy with lighter meals or sipping with friends. 

Maryhill Winery
2014 Chardonnay, Proprietor’s Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA
$29.00

Maryhill’s Reserve Chardonnay is a rich and complex wine showing ripe fruity notes of pear and apple with stone fruits and hints of vanilla.  There is ample acidity to make this a great wine for pairing with lighter meals and snacks.  Head up to Maryhill for superb views and the classic Columbia Gorge experience. 

Rolling Bay Winery
2014 Chardonnay, Reserve
Snipes Mountain AVA
$36.00

Grapes for Rolling Bay Chardonnay come from the Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain in the central Yakima Valley.  Grapes were first planted here in 1917 and are the oldest wine-grape vines in Washington State.  Winemaker Alphonse deKlerk ages the wine 10 months sur lie, crafting a fine Chardonnay featuring lemon and ginger aromas leading to an inviting palate of pear, melon and mineral. 

14 Hands
2014 Chardonnay, The Reserve
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
$25.00

This reserve wine was aged in 100% new American oak, adding lots of creamy vanilla and coconut notes to a bright center of lemon, spice and pear.  My research reveals that there are still plenty of Chardonnay lovers who appreciate this round and rich style for sipping or savoring with meals. 

Girardet Winery
2012 Chardonnay
Umpqua Valley AVA
$20.00

Winemaker Marc Girardet grew up watching and helping his father Philippe craft wines at this family winery just south of Roseburg, Oregon.  Tending the vineyard was also part of the job that eventually led Marc to take over the running of the operation.  His mineral-driven Chardonnay is a superb food wine offering flinty aromas and flavors of wet stone mingling with white peach, zesty citrus and notes of hazelnut and melon. 

Adelsheim Vineyard
2014 Chardonnay
Willamette Valley AVA
$25.00

No one deserves more credit for the introduction of cool-climate Dijon clone grape varieties into Oregon than David Adelsheim, founder of Adelsheim Vineyard.  His work in France and at Oregon State University paved the way for the importation of grapes that make Oregon Chardonnay what it is today.  Enjoy his Willamette Valley bottling for bright lemon and peach mingling with baking spice, orchard blossom and earthy mineral. 

Jacob Williams
2012 Chardonnay, Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA
$35.00

Veteran winemaker John Haw crafted this Chardonnay from grapes grown at the McDuffee Vineyard near The Dalles, Oregon in the Columbia Gorge.  Aging in French oak added creamy and vanilla notes to complement a core of white peach, melon and spicy oak on the finish. 

Wines from other areas:

Cakebread Cellars
2014 Chardonnay
Napa Valley
$37.00

Beginning in 1973, Cakebread Cellars has been known for wines that exhibit the power, structure and depth of flavor that makes the Napa Valley famous around the world.  Winemaker Julianne Laks used a combination of barrel and tank fermentation and partial malolactic fermentation to create a food-friendly wine showing aromas and flavors of stone fruits, melon and lemon with notes of spicy oak, vanilla and mineral.  FYI, Cakebread Cellars Reserve Chardonnay was one of the two wines served at the Champion's dinner honoring Jordan Spieth on April 5 at the Master's Golf Tournament.

Dry Creek Vineyard
2013 Chardonnay, Estate, Block 10
$24.00

While known for Zinfandel, Cabernet and Fume Blanc, Dry Creek Vineyard also produces a superb Chardonnay that my tasters rated near the top of the charts!  Cool harvesting and whole-cluster fermentation created a wine offering aromas of floral perfume, apricot and spicy mineral, and flavors of mandarin orange, spicy mineral, citrus and a hint of caramel. 

Noble Vines
2013 Chardonnay, 446
Monterey
$13.00

The 446 in this wine’s designation comes from Chardonnay clone 4 (known as the Martini clone) and from Block 46 of the winery’s San Bernabe Vineyard in the cool coastal climate of Monterey.  The wine offers aromas and flavors of pear and melon with notes of spice, stone fruits and vanilla cookie.  It pairs well with lighter foods and is a very good value. 

Bota Box
2013 Chardonnay
California
3L Bottle: $23.00

I have championed box wines for many years, not only for their value, but for the environmental responsibility of not shipping tons of glass bottles around the world and using recyclable or biodegradable packaging.  Bota Box Chardonnay has all these advantages, but also stands out as a fine table wine showing aromas and flavors of citrus, melon and apple with nuances of toasty oak on the finish.  With summer on its way, look for this great value and responsibly green product.

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©  April, 2016  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 04/21/2016