Merely by typing the word “chardonnay” in this column, too many wine consumers will turn the page or close the window — but chardonnay remains America’s most-purchased bottle of wine.
And as recently as a year ago, research supported the optimism that interest in the noble white grape of Burgundy is substantial. Silicon Valley Bank in the Bay Area accurately predicted chardonnay would be in “particularly strong demand” for 2018.
In Washington, chardonnay trailed only cabernet sauvignon in terms of grapes crushed in 2018. There were 7,403 acres of chardonnay planted in the Evergreen State, which is 13% of the state’s 58,000 acres of vines in the ground.
This winter, chardonnay producers in the U.S. are hoping for a better outlook and more acceptance. With that in mind, below are some of the best examples of Pacific Northwest chardonnay, according to results from the latest Platinum Judging by Wine Press Northwest magazine.
For the complete list of Platinum winners, visit WinePressNW.com.
College Cellars of Walla Walla 2018 Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley, $20: Tim Donahue and his students teamed up for one of the Northwest’s leading examples of chardonnay from the 2018 vintage, which went on to earn a rare Double Platinum award. Eschewing oak makes for a bright and aromatic profile with lemon cream and citron, which comes with lots of minerality, lime zest and a dusting of ground savory spices.
Iris Vineyards 2015 Chalice Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $25: Considering his training at the hands of Isabelle Dutarte while at DePonte and Owen Roe’s David O’Reilly, the success Aaron Lieberman is bringing to Iris Vineyards is no shock. Here he’s working with Dijon 76 clone fruit from Richard Boyles and Pamela Frye’s 20-year-old vineyard southwest of Eugene. The brilliant hue is eye-opening, and a stone fruit aroma leads to notes of fresh pear, kiwi and buttered toast. Herbs and lemon curd complement the pear notes on the palate as citrus highlights lift the long finish.
Mellisoni Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $50: The affable Rob Mellison combines delicious wines with such honest hospitality on the south shore of Lake Chelan that if he didn’t price his popular wines accordingly, he would sell out soon after the start of the summer touring season. This was his third career Platinum, but his first for chardonnay. Because there’s no oak involved, nothing competes for attention, allowing for beautiful florals and remarkable flavors of pineapple juice, kiwi and melon with a classic balanced structure. Suggested pairings include grilled trout with garlic butter.
Maryhill Winery Tasting Room & Bistro 2017 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $17: Out of all the years and Platinums awards, this signals the first time that Richard Batchelor has earned one for America’s favorite wine — chardonnay. The influence of French oak makes this come across as a reserve style at a nice price. Its theme of Granny Smith apple and pear makes room for some butterscotch and toast, capped by a long lemon-lime finish.
Hood Crest Winery 2017 Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, $24: This winery in the foothills of Mount Hood produces this chardonnay from estate vines in a reserve style, with influences of French oak and barrel aging leading to a theme of Golden Delicious apple and spiced pear butter. Its delicious acidity makes for a long finish.
DANCIN Vineyards 2018 Capriccio Chardonnay, Rogue Valley, $35: Dan and Cindy Marca’s passion for chardonnay ranks among the elite in the Pacific Northwest, a remarkable endeavor considering their showpiece winery and on-premise restaurant near historic downtown Jacksonville, Oregon. This is one of eight expressions of chardonnay by the Marcas, and they draw it from their estate. It’s deliciously fruit-forward, bright and lengthy as tangerine and gooseberry lead out with honeydew melon rind and lemon zest. Suggested pairings include a charcuterie board, Waldorf salad or hazelnut-crusted halibut.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.