Oregon Chardonnay Shows Its Diversity
Chardonnay has spent the last several years in the midst of a worldwide rebirth, and Willamette Valley Chardonnay is no exception. While “cool-climate” Chardonnay—a response to the ABC (“anything but Chardonnay”) refrain that emphasizes high acid and minimal oak and malolactic influences—has been emerging for several years in places like New Zealand and Niagara, the Willamette Valley’s Old World obsession with clonal selection and individual terroir expression has merged with the local creativity and community spirit that has winemakers experimenting with clay amphorae, creating special collaboration Chardonnay lots with their friends for the upcoming Willamette Auction, and demonstrating that there’s no need to try to fit Chardonnay in a single box.
The press has noticed. “Historically, there are two main camps: the New World, heavily oaked, buttery and rich Chardonnays; and the elegant, detailed, mineral-driven Old World styles,” wrote Paul Gregutt for Wine Enthusiast in January. “Oregon’s vintners can emulate the best of both worlds, while producing distinctive, place-specific wines.” Chardonnays made a strong showing in PDX Monthly’s “50 Oregon Wines You Need To Drink Right Now” in October, with promises to “convert Chardonnay haters.” And last weekend’s Oregon Chardonnay Celebration at the Allison in Newberg demonstrated that our winemakers are just getting started.
A seminar on the many styles of Chardonnay, moderated by Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits and featuring Josh Bergström, Jason Lett, Anna Matzinger, John Paul, Wynne Peterson-Nedry, and Thomas Savre, discussed the thousands of decisions that face winemakers, from barrel use to whole-cluster fermentation to clonal selection, in making extraordinary Chardonnay across the spectrum of styles these winemakers represent. Afterward, a walk-around tasting allowed guests to sample 2015 and 2016 Chardonnays—some not even released yet—from 50 local wineries. From lush, juicy styles to the most delicate, acid-driven examples, Willamette Valley Chardonnay may be one of the world’s most versatile examples of this legendary grape. Browse wineries working with Chardonnay here.
By Julia Burke
Julia Burke is a wine lover originally from Buffalo, New York, who moved to Oregon in August 2017 to work a harvest and decided to stay. She is the Willamette Valley Wineries Association’s marketing and content coordinator and a fan of Riesling, peanut butter, and the Chicago Cubs.