Recent Tasting of 2016, 2017 & 2018 Willamette Valley Chardonnay
As the Willamette Valley enters its 55th year of growing Chardonnay, the interest in Chardonnay has come full
circle. David Lett originally planted more Chardonnay than Pinot Noir and plantings of Chardonnay reached a
nadir of 38 percent of acreage by 1981. Today, there is a renewed interest in Oregon Chardonnay and although
Chardonnay acreage only represented 6 percent of Oregon plantings, the percentage of Chardonnay acreage
is on the rise. Oregon Chardonnay planted acres are significantly less than Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but it is
only a matter of time before Chardonnay overtakes Pinot Gris as the interest in Pinot Gris dwindles.
The majority of Willamette Valley Chardonnays fall into the middle ground between the often ripe, fruity and
oak-driven California Chardonnays and the more austere and acid-driven French white Burgundies. This is
what one would expect as the majority of Willamette Valley Chardonnays are based on Dijon clones (95, 96
and 76) while the overwhelming majority of California Chardonnays are fueled by Wente selections.
I still find more California Chardonnays that rock my boat, but I find the Oregon Chardonnays, with their lower
alcohol levels and higher natural acidity, to be intriguing and satisfying but not as hedonistic and even too
austere in some cases.
The Walter Scott Chardonnays, in particular, show reductive winemaking. Reductive is a term used to describe
a style of vinification and refers to the relative absence of oxygen during winemaking. This technique is aimed
at preserving fresh fruit flavors. Many Chardonnay enthusiasts relish the matchstick or flinty aromas and flavors
that accompany reduction as long as it is not overdone when it is combined with some influence of oxygen to
maintain the stability of the wine. Oxygen is more desirable in red winemaking since it helps the evolution of color
and tannin. Decanting can usually cure Chardonnay wines of reductive notes.
2017 Walter Scott X Novo Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., $65.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. An array
of citrus fruit aromas are shadowed with a hint of flint. Rich
and full on the palate, with fresh, juicy flavors of lemon,
pineapple, tarte tatin and graphite. A sophisticated offering
with a pleasing arrow of acidity and a lip smacking finish
that seems to go on and on and on. A very special wine.
2017 Walter Scott Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., $65.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil, iron and
flint. Graceful and satisfying, offering the essence of lemon complimented by bashful oak. Bright
acidity propels the wine to a long, lemony finish that has a hint of graphite. This wine has a regal
quality and is as comforting as silk sheets.
2017 Big Table Farm The Elusive Queen Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.1% alc., 102 cases, $85, $195
magnum. Released April 15, 2019. The best Chardonnay from the winery’s 2017 vintage. Unfined and
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Clean aromas of lemon, white peach, apple, white flower
blossom, petrichor, beach sand and brioche. Delicious flavors of lemon, pineapple, and pear in a sleek and
harmonious style with a saline edge. This beauty urges you to take another sip.
2017 Morgen Long Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., pH 3.26, TA 0.65, RS 1.4
g/L, 67 cases, $60. Dijon clones 95 and 76 planted in Jory and Nekia
volcanic soils. After whole cluster pressing, the juice was lightly
chaptalized and underwent native fermentation, 100% MLF. Aged 12
months in French oak barrels, 33% new, then transferred to stainless
steel for a second winter on the lees. After six months in steel, a light
fining with bentonite was followed by bottling unfiltered.
yellow color in the glass. Harmonious aromas of lemon zest, brioche
and caramel. Noticeably viscosity on the palate, with flavors of poached
pear, lemon-lime, Golden Delicious apples and a hint of vanilla. Classy
juice that has plenty of welcome acidity and length of flavor.
2017 Walter Scott Freedom Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., $ Sold out.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of white peach and shaved oak. The
essence of lemon shines through and is complimented by a grounded earthy component. Tremendous lemony
grip on the very long finish. Exquisite balance and very gracious acidity. This wine goes down like mother’s
2016 Keeler Estate Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
12.5% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.54, 128 cases, $40. Released
October 20, 2018. Dijon clones 96 and 76 (biodynamic). Harvest Brix
20.4º. Aged 14 months on the lees in 75% French oak barrels, 30%
new and 25% in stainless steel.
Moderately light golden yellow color in
the glass. Delightful aromas of lemon oil, butter, baked yellow apple
and pineapple on the grill. Effusive flavors of ripe pear, pineapple,
yellow apple and banana. Oily in texture with a ripe fruited finish. Not
an acid-driven style, but still has good spirit.
2017 Morgen Long Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., pH 3.31, TA 0.63, RS 1.2 g/L, 313 cases,
$33. 50% Seven Springs Vineyard Dijon 95 and 76 clones. 20% AlexEli Vineyard 37-year-old clone 108. 10% Loubejac Vineyard, clone 96, 10% Durant Vineyard clones 95 and 76, and 10% Yamhill Vineyard 34-year-old clone 108. Whole cluster pressed. Barrel fermented with some lots chaptalized. Fermentation commenced with native yeasts and full malolactic conversion occurred. After one year in 25% new French oak barrels and 75% neutral French barrels, the wine was blended in stainless steel for a second winter on lees. After five months in steel on the lees, the wine was lightly fined with bentonite before a gentle lenticular filtration.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil,
apple pastry and nutty oak lead to a satisfying wine that is crisp and bright due to hi-strung acidity.. Flavors of
lemon-lime, apple, honey and vanilla culminate in a boisterous finish that attracts another sip. Very similar to
the Black label bottling but a step above.
2017 Morgen Long Black Label Willamette Valley Chardonnay
12.75% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.64, RS 0.5 g/L,
172 cases, $25. 25% each Seven Springs, Durant, AlexEli and Yamhill vineyards.
Dijon 95, 76, and 34 to 37-year-old clone 108. Native yeast fermentation, full MLF. Aged 6 months
in French oak barrels, 10% new, and transferred to stainless steel for 11 months. Lightly fined with
bentonite before a gentle lenticular filtration. Black label.
Very light golden yellow color in the glass.
Pleasing aromas of baked apple, spice, white flower blossom and toast lead to a bright, fresh and
clean-styled wine that is citrus driven and shot through with an arrow of acidity. There is an
appealing steely and briny quality to the wine and a cleansing, dry finish.
2017 Big Table Farm The Wild Bee Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.1% alc., 525 cases, $28.
Combination of six sites. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass.
Pleasant aromas of white peach and wood shop. Driven by vigorous lemon flavors and a
tremendous lemony grip on a very long finish. Exquisite balance with dreamy acidity and a
grounded earthy component.
2016 LUMOS Wren Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay
12.5% alc., 107 cases, $35.
Released October 2018.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. A striking aroma of honey is
augmented with notes of chalk dust and bruised apple. Flavors of honey, lemon, and golden apple
in a discretely rich style with a luscious, silken texture. A bit of oak-driven flavors of nuts, toast and
vanilla chime in.
2016 Open Claim Vineyards Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 80 cases, $75. Released May
2019. Dijon clones 95 and 76. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Light golden yellow color in
the glass. A range of aromas including lemon, apple, warm biscuit and hazelnut cream. Somewhat austere in
an acid-driven style, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit, pear and vanilla, finishing upbeat and quenching with a
2018 Chehalem INOX™ Unoaked Willamette Valley Chardonnay
12.9% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.68, $20, screw
cap. Sourced from two estate vineyards.
Very light golden yellow color in the glass. The nose reminds of Pinot
Gris with aromas of lychee, white peach and grass. Flavors of lemon-lime, cantaloupe, green apple and a
slight grassy note underlain with guarded acidity. I like the wine for its fruitiness, but not as a Chardonnay, for it
could easily be mistaken for a Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc.
2017 Geødesy Chehalem Mountains Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.20, TA 0.60, 59 cases, $75. Native yeast fermentation, native MLF, barrel fermented, aged
15 months in French oak barrels, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very
shy nose with faint aromas of wax and yeast. More expressive on the palate, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit,
pear and honey. Gentle and refined with vibrant acidity and a lip-smacking finish. Quite agreeable, but I wanted
2018 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
12.5% alc., pH 3.18,
TA 0.68, $28, screw cap. Unoaked. A mix of all the Chardonnay clones on the estate property.
Light golden yellow color with a little spritz in the glass. Aromas of tropical citrus, spiced pear,
white peach, tequila and mulch. Slightly creamy on the palate, with flavors of pear, white peach,
lemon and honeydew melon. The finish is zippy with quenching natural acidity.
2017 Walter Scott Cuvée Anne Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.0% alc., $40.
Moderately light golden
yellow color in the glass. The nose is quite reductive with aromas of matchstick, Bartlett pear, butter and a hint
of toast. Slightly viscous and soothing in the mouth, with a lemon-lime core accented with toasty oak and a bit
of flint. The lemon-driven finish has some length.
2017 Geødesy Eola Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.7% alc., pH
3.25, TA 0.60, 47 cases, $75. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with native yeast, native MLF, aged 15
months on the lees, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Reserved aromas
of white nectarine, ocean breeze and botanical notes. Rather austere, with demure flavors of lemon, grapefruit
and pear with no noticeable oak input. Less acid-driven than the Chehalem Mountains Vineyard bottling.
Easygoing, but might put you to sleep.