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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

Wines from Italian

A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2018

Cabernet Sauvignon
and Blends

A 3-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2017, and Jan 2018

Merlot Sausage Challenge
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2017

Bordeaux Buddies
A 3-Part Series
Published Sep & Oct 2017

White Wines for Seafoods
A 4-Part Series
Published Aug & Sep 2017

Pinot Noir and
Copper River Salmon

A 4-Part Series
Published Jun & Jul 2017

Red Rhone Varietals
and Blends

A 3-Part Series
Published May & Jun, 2017


Wines of the Week
...Index to Archive


Archived Selection
of Wine Reviews

Organized by varietal




Wines of the Week

Published April 4, 2018

Versatile Chardonnay
Part 4 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)  (Part 3)
By Chuck Hill

As my Chardonnay series draws to a close for the year, I look back on comments by my tasters who exclaim that each year the quality of wines improves and their ability to pair with foods seems better. Much of this improvement is, no doubt, due to winemakers skill in crafting the wines, including their cooperation with grape growers in bringing in fruit with good balance. 

It seems there has never been a better time to enjoy Chardonnay with your favorite lighter meals and appetizers. Salud! 

King Estate
2016 Chardonnay, Kennel Vineyard
Willamette Valley AVA

Jeremy Kennel’s Vineyard lies halfway between Corvallis and Monmouth, Oregon, adjacent to the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range mountains. The vineyard was established in 2007 and is planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. King Estate makes exceptional designated wines from the site – both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Enjoy the wine for its superb balance and structure featuring floral spice, sweet pear, tropical fruit and bits of toasty vanilla. 

2016 Chardonnay

For the wine above, the Kennel Vineyard Chardonnay, you will have to travel to the King Estate winery near Eugene since it is a very limited release. For this wine, however, you need only stop by your local grocery store – and it comes with a screw cap, so you don’t even need a corkscrew. My tasters all remarked how VERY good this wine is, especially for the price. Look for bright peach and pear with notes of citrus and melon – a nice vein of acidity gives it food-friendly status as well! 

Eight Bells Winery
2016 Chardonnay, Boushey Vineyard
Yakima Valley AVA

The seagoing salts from Eight Bells Winery sourced fruit from Dick Boushey’s Yakima Valley vineyard to craft this complex and flavorful Chardonnay. Agreeing with my tasters, the wine grows on you. Starting with aromas of apple and spicy pear, a sip across the palate reveals lemony acidity, earthy mineral and a wonderful food friendliness. 

Adelsheim Vineyard
2015 Chardonnay, Staking Claim
Chehalem Mountains AVA

Adelsheim Vineyard celebrates their commitment to the Chehalem Mountains AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with their Staking Claim Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery owns nearly 200 acres of vineyards in the area, and winemaker Dave Paige strives to craft wines with a “Chehalem Mountains style.” Look for aromas and flavors of lemon curd, Asian pear, orchard blossom and baking spice. 

Carabella Vineyard
2015 Chardonnay, Estate
Willamette Valley AVA

Carabella owner and winemaker Mike Hallock has been crafting his popular Chardonnay using Dijon Clone 76 fruit for many years. This clone has become popular throughout the Willamette Valley and California, but seems to make particularly good wine when grown in the Chehalem Mountains area where Carabella is located. The wine offers aromas and flavors of baked apple, pear and baking spice with hints of vanilla and caramel on the finish. 


Chateau Ste. Michelle
2016 Chardonnay, Indian Wells
Columbia Valley AVA

The Indian Wells tier of Chateau Ste. Michelle is an evolution of a once-vineyard designated group of wines from Indian Wells Vineyard. The name now connotes a blend of wines from Indian Wells Vineyard and other top vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA. This toasty Chardonnay is a great aperitif and also pairs well with lighter meats and seafood. 

Columbia Crest
2015 Chardonnay, Reserve
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca crafted this mouth-filling Chardonnay from grapes grown in Block 95 of Columbia Crest’s Horse Heaven Hills vineyards. The wine was barrel fermented and aged in 100% new French oak. A cocoon of spicy vanilla and toasty cedar wraps around a core of ripe fruit flavors including spiced peach and apple with notes of mineral and lemony acidity. 

Sleight of Hand Cellars
2015 Chardonnay, The Enchantress
Yakima Valley AVA

Grapes for this wine were sourced from 35-year-old Chardonnay vines at French Creek Vineyard in the lower Yakima Valley. Spicy Asian pear and apple join floral notes in the aroma. A firm palate echoes the nose and adds tropical flavors, melon and baking spices to the mix – serve with lighter pastas or rich seafood dishes. 

Waterbrook Winery
2016 Chardonnay, Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

This wine is aged in a mix of oak barrels including some new French oak, some new American oak and a majority of used (neutral) barrels. This aging regimen adds lip smacking vanilla and caramel to the nose and palate, caressing fruit flavors of peach, lemon zest, and tropical fruits. 

Left Coast Cellars
2016 Chardonnay, Estate, Truffle Hill
Willamette Valley AVA

If you are touring the Oregon wine country near Salem, don’t miss a visit to Left Coast Cellars, a gorgeous 500-acre estate with lovingly cultivated gardens, fields of wildflowers and meticulously tended vines. This estate Chardonnay offers ripe fruit flavors of apple and peach with notes of baking spice and vanilla.

Wines from other areas

2016 Chardonnay
IGT Toscana, Italy

From the calcareous, well-drained soils of Castello Banfi’s estate vineyards in the Montalcino area of southern Tuscany comes this bright and refreshing Chardonnay. Aromas of citrus and pear mingle with notes of vanilla, stone fruits and toasted hazelnut. On the palate, look for flavors of spicy apple and peach with a background of vanilla and baking spices – great with lighter meats and seafood.

Los Vascos
2017 Chardonnay
Colchagua, Chile

Wine grapes were planted in the Colchagua Valley of Chile beginning in the 16th century by (among others) the Echenique family of Basque origins in Spain. Over the centuries production increased, and in 1988 Domaines Baron de Rothschild (Lafite) purchased the Los Vascos estate, beginning an era of modernization and improvement. Today’s modern Chardonnay offers aromas and flavors of grapefruit, banana, melon and notes of vanilla and toasted almonds. 

Inconceivable Wines
2014 Chardonnay
Santa Barbara

Inconceivable Wines from the Middleton Family share a common dedication to each having a “sense of place.” This wine has the moniker “Queen of Tides,” referring to the vineyards being just inland from California’s Central Coast in the Santa Maria Valley. Whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented, the wine is aged in French oak, 30% new, and kept on the lees for seven months. Aromas of tropical fruit, honey, vanilla and wet-stone minerality lead to ripe tropical flavors, toasty oak and citrus on the finish. 

Emiliana Natura
2017 Chardonnay, Bio Bio Valley

The organically grown grapes for this wine were hand-picked during the last week of March. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures to preserve the fresh character of the Chilean terroir. Look for aromas and flavors of tropical pineapple and citrus with notes of crisp apple and flinty mineral.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.

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©  April, 2018  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 04/05/2018