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Recently Tasted Glorious Chardonnays

2015 Evening Land La Source Seven Springs Estate Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay

13.0% alc., $75. This wine is a good example of the excitement around Oregon Chardonnay these days. Large once-used puncheons were employed in this vintage that yielded limited quantities. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Flat-out enchanting aromas of green apple, iron, and considerable stony minerality. Crisp flavors of green apple, apple butter, citrus and honey combine to elate the palate. The wine is clean, almost crunchy and quenching like a cold, cut apple. The fruit is enlivened by bright but complimentary acidity that lifts the mouthwatering, lengthy finish. There is plenty of “minerality” to excite even the most finicky Chardonnay connoisseur. Score: 95

2015 Gary Farrell Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

12.7% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.71, 245 cases, $65. Released October 2017. Old Went selection planted in rocky, volcanic soils. Harvest Brix 21.5º. Whole cluster pressed and transferred to 35% new French oak barrels and 500-L puncheons for native fermentation and 8 months of barrel aging. Racked once off the primary lees just before bottling. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Leading off an impressive offering are aromas of lemon zest, cut apple white nectarine, warm biscuit and slate. Richly flavored and somewhat weighty in the mouth, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit, banana and honey. Crisp in character, with taut acidity on the finish that leaves a fresh citrus impression. Score: 93

2015 La Follette North Coast Chardonnay

14.1% alc., $24, screw cap. A combination of barrel and tank fermentation and aging on the lees. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, buttery brioche and poached pear leap from the glass upon opening. Bright citrus flavors with hints of honey, pear, persimmon and blonde caramel offer a highly flavorful experience. Commendable balance with a good cut of acidity on the finish. Score: 90

2015 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc, $38. Clusters picked earliest date ever (September 14) and pressed straight to barrel without cold settling, with the lees in contact with the wine throughout the aging process. · Light golden yellow color with a tinge of green in the glass. Hitone lemon creme aroma with some reductive slate addition. Pretentious charge of lemon-infused pleasure on entry with a bit of pineapple accent. The fruit really saturates the palate. Slight viscosity with a lemon drop, uplifting finish. This is a wine for fans of boisterous Chardonnay yet there is enough restraint to remind one of a great Meursault. Score: 95

2014 la pitchoune Pratt Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., 50 cases, $58. · Moderate golden yellow with the slightest green caste and the slightest haze in the glass. Strong and persistent aromas of lemon-lime, orchard fruits, buttery brioche and wet stone. Luscious flavors of lemon, pineapple, apple, pear and spice merge in a wondrous melange of pleasure. The wine also sports welcome viscosity, impeccable balance, submissive oak, and a flat-out great finish infused with layers of fruit goodness. This wine is all about California sunshine and the Pratt Vineyard that is fast becoming one of California’s treasured Chardonnay sites. Lovers of lean, hi-acid, mineral-driven Chardonnay should stay away ( leaving more for me). I just had to buy this wine for my cellar. Score: 97

2015 Pfendler Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 250 cases, $38. Estate grown. Clones 4 and Hyde- Wente. Whole cluster bladder press, inoculated for primary, aggressive lees stirring at the beginning, lightening up and finishing off in January when native secondary finished. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, cut apple, spice and caramel. Richly fruited, yet bright in demeanor, with flavors of grilled lemon, grapefruit, baked apple and peach. Sound acidity brings the finish up to a quenching climax. Score: 92

2015 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley Chardonnay

12.5% alc., $50 (500 ml). · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. A taut, acid-driven wine, leading off with aromas of apple, slate, lemon creme and a hint of spice. Flavors of lemon, grapefruit and kiwi are lifted by vivacious acidity, leading to a bright finish that offers both refreshing lift and satisfying fruit richness. Score: 92

2014 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cru Mountains Chardonnay

13.6% alc., $50 (500 ml). 3.5 acres planted to Wente, Hyde and Mt. Eden clones. 1,450 to 1,500 feet elevation. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Enviable aromas of grilled lemon, honey, buttery brioche, nut oil and caramelized custard. Rich flavors of lemon, pear, golden baked apple, honey, caramelized nuts and buttered toast. A decadent and ripely fruited offering with a very lengthy finish replete with lemony goodness. A completely different wine than the 2015 version that is much less ripe and more acid driven. I prefer this one where the acidity is fully integrated. Score: 93

2015 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

12.9% alc., $50 (500 ml). · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Soaring aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, marzipan, vanilla creme and steely resolve. Very bright acidity cuts through the lemon-lime, grapefruit, pear and white nectarine flavors like an arrow. The wine finishes with tart, even somewhat puckering acidity as well as a slight herbal note. For acid lovers only. Score: 90

2015 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

13.0% alc., $79. · Moderately dark golden yellow color in the glass. Slight reduction upon opening with added aromas of circus fruits, lychee and savory earth. A searching, somewhat austere wine that demands the drinker’s attention. Mid weight flavors of lemonlime, pear and white peach are well-balanced by bracing acidity. Clean and spirited, with a cleansing texture. This wine shows the most “minerality” of the three Rhys Chardonnays tasted here. Score: 93

2016 Screen Door Cellars Asern Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., $25. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. The aromatic profile is somewhat unusual yet attractive, featuring prominent floral scents of white blossoms including jasmine along with honeydew melon, pineapple and French toast. Discreet fullness and weight, with flavors of lemon, tropical fruits and Christmas spices with a hint of caramel. Clean and crisp with a quenching, barely sweetened finish. Not what one usually expects from Chardonnay, but nevertheless quite enjoyable in a free-spirited style. Score: 90

2015 Soléna Domaine Danielle Laurent Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.1% alc., pH 3.30, RS, 190 cases, $55. Released September 2017. Harvest Brix 20.0º. Fermented and aged 18 months in French oak barrels. Dijon clones. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of Granny Smith apple, honey, and marzipan. Well-balanced and gracious in a refreshingly styled wine featuring flavors of salted apple, honeycomb, pear and orchard fruits. Slightly creamy in the mouth, with an uplifting, dry finish. Score: 92

2016 Walter Scott La Combe Verte Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.0% alc., 340 cases, $28 (sold out). Released September 2017. Sourced from Clos des Oiseaux, Freedom Hill, Sojourner, X Novo, Vojtilla and Witness Tree vineyards. Lightly fined and filtered. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil, grilled peach, grapefruit and slate. Attacking flavors of green apple, lemon-lime, grapefruit and nectarine in a bright, lifted styled wine with a slightly creamy mouthfeel and a citric finish that never gives up. A superb Willamette Valley cuvée. Score: 93

2015 Tongue Dancer Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.58, RS <1 g/L, $50. Wax top. Inaugural release September 6, 2017. Old Went clone. Harvest Brix 23.2º. Whole cluster pressed to barrel. Native yeast fermentation lees stirring once weekly through primary fermentation only. Barrel fermented and aged 15 months sur lie in French oak barrels, 25% new. Bottled unfixed and unfiltered. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, chalk, slate and coffee along with subtle burnt match reduction. Richly flavored with lemon, golden apple, honeyed pear and blonde caramel. Lush and creamy mouthfeel with a modest mantle of oak. The heady flavors continue through the finish highlighting salted apple. Score: 93

2013 Velvet Bee Rita’s Crown and Radian Vineyards Star. Rita Hills Chardonnay

13.94% alc., 201 cases, $28. Released November 1, 2015. 64% Rita’s Crown Vineyard (Dijon 76) and 36% Radian Vineyard (Dijon 95). Rita’s Crown: stainless steel ferment, no malolactic fermentation. Radian: French oak barrel fermented, 20% new, 100% malolactic fermentation.Harvest Brix 22.6º (Rita’s Crown) and 25.0º (Radian). · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of citrus, clay, white flower blossom, stony resolve and a hint of nuttiness. Some richness on the palate with refreshing core of citrus, yellow apple, lychee, and caramel flavors with background notes of nuts and salinity. Clean and balanced with a satiny texture. Score: 90

2014 Velvet Bee Rita’s Crown Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

14.45% alc., 84 cases, $28. Released November 1, 2017. Dijon clone 76. Harvest Brix 22.4º. Barrel fermented, malolactic fermentation. · Moderately light golden yellow color and apparently unfiltered. Aromas of apple, citrus, slate and salty air emerge on the nose with resolve. Modest creaminess in the mouth, with flavors of lemon, topical fruits (passion fruit) and caramel. Quite sophisticated in a poised, fresh and seamless style. The mouthfeel is particularly appealing. Score: 92

An outlier:

2016 Soléna Willamette Valley Pinot Gris

13.1% alc., pH 3.24, TA 0.54, RS 1.7 g/L, 1,900 cases, $20, screw cap. Harvest Brix average 23.2º. Very light gold color with a pinkish tinge and slight carbonation upon pouring. · Highly engaging aromas of pear, golden delicious apple, kiwi and spice. Clean, juicy and dry, with uplifting flavors of apple, honey and Asian pear. The pillowy texture is quite charming. A very impressive offering and one of the best Pinot Gris wines I have had in recent memory. Score: 91

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