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Chardonnay Smackdown: Oregon vs California

I stopped reviewing Chardonnay some time ago, but Chardonnay continues to show up at my wine locker sent by wineries. I decided to offer brief reviews with scores and a comparison of the two state’s Chardonnays. Some wines are also from my cellar.

Oregon Chardonnays are almost all Draper clone from California (older vines), clone 108 (older vines) and Dijon clones 76 and 96. California Chardonnay is overwhelmingly composed of Wente clones in all of its permutations and lesser amounts of heritage clones such as Mt. Eden, Robert Young, Hyde and several others. The Oregon Chardonnays tend to be more acid-driven with less oak and subtle-flavored, while the California Chardonnays tend to be more ripely fruited, more ostentatious, and embossed with more oak. I find that most Chardonnays taste more alike than different.


2018 Dehlinger Russian River Valley Chardonnay 14.2% alc., $40. Aromas of lemon meringue pie, grilled pineapple and yellow peach. Slightly viscous, with discrete richness, offering flavors of banana, grilled lemon and yellow peach. 91

2018 Morgan Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 14.2% alc., $46. Organic grapes. Clean and bright aromas of lemon, white peach and white rose petal. Lemon-focused on the palate with a kiss of oak and a long finish with a good cut of acidity. 93

2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 12.7% alc. Wente, Hyde and Mt Eden clones grown at 1450’-1500’ elevation. Slight haze in the glass. Some reduction (slate), lemon peel and blonde rose petal on the nose. The core of lemon lime is graced by very good acidity and noticeable “minerality.” 92

2019 Dutton-Goldfield Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Marin County Chardonnay 13.5% alc., $55, $100. Very aromatic with a perfume of pineapple, poached pear and peach cobbler. Primarily fruity on the palate with flavors of lemon and Asian pear, with only a hint of nutty oak. Very pleasing liquid gold on the palate. 93

2019 Kutch Trout Gulch Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 13.0% alc., $50. 41-year-old vines, clone 17 (Robert Young) and Old Wente clones. Vineyard dates to 1977. Aged in 20% new French oak. Shy, but pleasing aromas of petrichor, slate, and lemon pie. Refreshing flavors of lemon and Asian pear underlain with energetic acidity. Bright and juicy with a slightly tart finish. 93

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Home Block Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 14.0% alc., 171 cases, $52. Very floral with the aroma of peach melba. Appealing white peach and lemon flavors with good balance. 91

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Amphitheater Block Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 13.0% alc., 291 cases, $55. Aromas of grapefruit and wet straw. A bit lean, and soft in the mouth, with flavors of white stone fruits and vanilla creme. 90

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Bee Block Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 13.3% alc., 595 cases, $46. Perfumed with aromas of petrichor, wet sand and lemon rind. Slightly viscous in the mouth with pleasing flavors of lemon and brioche offering good length.93

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Bee Block Special Selection Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 13.1% alc., 98 cases, $55. Slightly reductive on the nose with plenty of lemon aroma. Discrete richness with a variety of fruit flavors including citrus, peach, and honeydew melon. Inviting smoothness and a creamy mouthfeel with integrated acidity. Flat-out terrific. 95

2020 Morgan Metallica Unoaked Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 13.5% alc., $22. Highly aromatic with scents of lemon, grilled peach and creme soda. Good brightness on the palate with flavors of lemon-lime and white peach. Great value. 92


2018 Lavinea Elton Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay 13.8% alc., $60. Nutty oak-embossed lemon and pineapple aromas with the slightest burnt match (reductive) note. Delicious flavors of lemon, pineapple, peach, yellow apple, and toast brought to life with an arrow of acidity. A memorable lip-smacking finish. 94

2018 St. Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay 13.5% alc., $36. A tropical fruited nose with aromas of banana, pineapple and mango along with notes of brioche and lemon drop. The palate is also tropical fruit-driven. Sleek in the mouth with a lip-smacking finish. 92

2019 Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay 13.0% alc., $35. Light yellow in color and endowed with aromas of lemon drop, pastry, pineapple and honeysuckle. Soft and subtle in flavor featuring a core of lemon-lime and a hint of nutty oak. 92

2019 Domaine Drouhin Arthur Dundee Hills Chardonnay 13.9% alc., $39. Estate-grown Chardonnay grapes, some of the oldest in Oregon. Both soft and juicy on the palate with hi-tone flavors of lemon, apple, and melon. Very satisfying with impeccable balance. 93

2019 Red Electric Armstrong Vineyard Alpine Lilly Ribbon Ridge Chardonnay 12.8% alc., $25. Aromas of white blossoms, pineapple and lemon. Slightly creamy with a core of rich lemon-lime flavor and a bright and lengthy finish. 92

2019 Red Electric Armstrong Vineyard Evening Primrose Ribbon Ridge Chardonnay 12.8% alc., $33. Aromas of lemon peel, wet stone, banana cream, and cookies in the oven. Slightly creamy with a lemon-driven core backed by a silhouette of oak and offering some length on the finish. 91

2019 Tan Fruit Oak Grove Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay 13.0% alc., $59. Pleasant aromas of lemon peel and white floral blooms. Slightly herbal with a core of lemon-lime fruit flavor. 90

2019 Tan Fruit Tank Fruit Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay 13.0% alc., $59.Inviting aromas of lemon, white peach, floral goodness and butter. Very good lemon-driven fullness on the palate with a velvety mouthfeel. 93

2020 David Hill Upper Slope Tualatin Hills Chardonnay 13.5% alc.. $40. Light yellow. Slightly reductive with fruit aromas of lemon-lime and guava. Flavorsome pear, apple, and lemon befriend the palate with good richness. The wine offers a sleek texture and a generous finish sporting bright acidity and amazing length. 94

2020 Walter Scott Bois-Moi Willamette Valley Chardonnay 13.0% alc., $28. Aromas of lemon peel, pineapple, and poached peer with a heavy dose of oak. A citrus jackpot with a tropical accent and energetic acidity. Too woody/herbal for my taste. 89

*****For those with deep pockets: 2019 Morlet “Ma Princesse” Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay - $105. Luc Morlet was the winemaker at Newton and Peter Michael. 98+ score by Robert Parker and 97+ score by Jeb Dunnick.

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