Chardonnay Show Off

The efforts at stylishly shaping what many winemakers refer to as Chardonnay’s “blank palate full of promise,” have increased significantly over the past half dozen years to the point where a dedicated group, the Oregon Chardonnay Alliance, is making waves and dozens of producers now consider the variety an integral element of their portfolios.

The most recent Oregon Wine Press Value Picks blind tasting brought forward seven wines worthy of comparison with their Burgundian cousins — Montrachet, Meursault, Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Véran.

These wines offer elegance, nuance and complexity while simultaneously possessing the acid balance to serve as inspired pairings with fine cuisine.

However, unlike the elite Burgundian appellations, whose cost reflects their reputation, the selected Oregon Chardonnays possess expressive style and character without a hefty price tag.

And, like their Pinot Noir counterparts, they’ve got what it takes to deliver satisfaction at a gourmet table.

Left Coast Cellars 2011 Truffle Hill Estate Willamette Valley Chardonnay • $24 (511 cases) 
Elegant and expansive. Delicate floral and citrus aromas roll from the glass. Intensity of flavor takes over in the mouth as grapefruit and sweet hay mingle. A long, lingering finish completes the praise for this panel favorite. 

Tyee Estate 2011 Willamette Valley Chardonnay • $16 (150 cases) 
Ripe, tasty flavors and bright, lively acidity make for an immediately appealing charmer whose beautiful balance retains its attraction. From first sniff to final savor, from grapefruit to stone fruit, the classy character continues throughout. And look at that low cost. 

Stoller Estate 2012 Dundee Hills Chardonnay • $20 (925 cases)
Fresh, florid fruit is captured in a citrus-accented flavor that exudes both crispness and concentration to create a harmoniously intertwined yin and yang. Sweet notes hit just the right level of lavishness and lightness to express the variety’s versatility. 

Troon 2011 Applegate Valley Southern Oregon Chardonnay • $24 (350 cases)
Transporting the taster to Meursault in the Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, the tantalizing aroma of lightly tinged toast is followed by the taste bud-tantalizing richness of burnt butter. But before your taste buds believe it’s butter, orange and lychee join the cast to pull off a rich, round balancing act. 

St. Innocent 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay • $20 (1,730 cases)
Credentials alone will sell this wine to those in the know, and they won’t be disappointed as the fruit character comes through accompanied by hints of buttery vanilla and a surprising lightness on the palate that makes it a drinker with depth. 

Citation (Firesteed) 2011 Oregon Chardonnay • $30 (180 cases)
Its label declares the bottle’s contents are from “several diverse Oregon regions,” which happily have been harmoniously united. Hints of oak, butter, toast, citrus, clove and grapefruit all contribute to the flavorful whole. 

Sweet Cheeks 2011 Oregon Chardonnay • $22 (370 cases)
Another state-of-origin wine scores high points with burnt butter, caramel and clove deftly darting through pine needles on a forest floor. These rich and spicy flavors are then lifted aloft by a light, lively body buoyed by a touch of tartness. 

The Oregon Wine Press tasting panel has selected the above wines based on overall quality and value within their respective categories. To the best of our knowledge, they are currently available in the marketplace. Wine must be: 1) produced by an Oregon winery; 2) priced (retail) $30 or less for reds, $30 or less for Chardonnay, $30 or less for dessert and sparkling wines, and $25 or less for remaining varietals; and 3) currently available to consumers. Recommended wines were selected using a double-blind method and a 20-point ranking system for appearance, aroma, taste, balance and finish. 

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