Spring 2018

Oregon leads discussion of Chardonnay in Northwest

“After decades of approaching this variety as if it were some sort of cash cow and not seeming to care if it was borderline undrinkable, winemakers are enacting an epic sea change,” said Comiskey, a senior correspondent for Wine & Spirits magazine. “Young winemakers are turning to the variety in droves with fresh eyes and renewed interest.”

Much of the discussion returned to the panel, which was served with the question of “How has Chardonnay become a flower child all of a sudden?”

Comiskey, who lives in Los Angeles, pointed a few fingers, often in the direction of California.

“Let’s face it. Categorically in the broadest sense, Chardonnay had become one of the dumbest wines,” he said.

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He does credit the American palate with moving the needle of late. “It’s become more sophisticated, more adventurous, more demanding, and the variety has had to follow suit.”

At the same time, Comiskey playfully warned the audience at The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg about a photo that he recently received from a retail location. “It was a floor stack of magnums of the Chardonnay known as Butter,” he said. “It turns my stomach just to think about it.”

And while some Oregon producers have reached toward such a style over the years, Comiskey noted, “Attempts to replicate those florid and slutty aromas and textures were for the most part doomed to fail because of the climate and the available clone selections wouldn’t allow anything excessive.”

There were 145 entries for this Wine Press Northwest tasting of Chardonnay, and a handful of the top-rated examples pulled grapes from the fascinating Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley growing region in Washington.

“Milbrandt Vineyards tying for first place in the competition with its sister winery, Ryan Patrick Wines, is a great honor for our brands and a great win for Washington’s wine industry,” said owner Butch Milbrandt. “While our state is synonymous with incredible Riesling, this is validation that Chardonnay and many other varietals thrive in our caliche-kissed soils.”

However, Oregon producers led the way by posting 22 of the top 35 wines. And 12 of those came from the North Willamette Valley, which begs the question - can Oregon Chardonnay be defined?

“I think what you shouldn’t define it as is Burgundy or California,” said Byron Dooley, owner/winemaker of Seven of Hearts in Carlton, who earned an “Outstanding!” rating for two examples of his work with Chardonnay. “You can’t make a Burgundy here. You can’t make a California Chardonnay here, but you can’t make an Oregon Chardonnay anywhere else either.

“There’s an elusiveness that is due to the complexity of the different characteristics from the Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge and Chehalem Mountains,” continued Dooley, who learned winemaking at Napa Valley College. “There are different colors within Oregon, and Oregon is really defined by that broad palette because of the different terroir here.”

Tim Gaiser, a Master Sommelier who recently moved from the Bay Area to New Mexico, said there’s a movement toward balance within the Chardonnay market in the U.S.

“If anything, the pendulum is going right back into the middle,” Gaiser said. “My frame of reference is California, so I think what’s really the target now is balance as they try to find the equilibrium between ripeness and all the cosmetic surgery that goes into it. How much lees contact? How much malolactic? How much new oak?

“People are trying to find the sweet spot where there is harmony,” he added. “It’s not as often where someone is going to buy a bottle of Chardonnay and it tastes like a two-by-four.”

In Oregon, the appreciation society has grown to encompass the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, a consumer-minded event where education and history are capped by a side-by-side tasting of 50 producers selected by a committee. It’s now a sister event of the famed International Pinot Noir Celebration.

“In the sommelier community, especially sommeliers in California, there’s definitely an awareness of Oregon Chardonnay,” Gaiser said.

Wines for this tasting for Wine Press Northwest’s Spring edition were flighted by vintage, then oak program (100 percent new wood to unoaked) and malolactic (ML) fermentation (100 percent to zero percent). Think of California toasty and buttery opulence at the beginning of a flight and finishing with Chablis-inspired gracefulness that hints at seashells, minerality and brightness.

“Most consumers don’t know what ML is,” Gaiser said. “They can identify diacetyl easily enough, and there are millions of people that really like the full-on Rombauer style.”

And while some of these Chardonnays will age, a swath were not crafted with that in mind.

“I don’t know that consumers care about aging wine anymore,” Gaiser said. “I think the person who actually has a cellar who worries about how a wine will age is the total exception to the rule. That’s just where we are.”

Judges for this tasting were Kristine Bono, certified sommelier and direct-to-consumer manager, Tertulia Cellars, Walla Walla, Wash.; Mitzi Hadley, tasting room lead, Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center, Prosser, Wash.; Jessica Munnell, winemaker/co-owner, Wautoma Wines, Richland, Wash.; Richard Larsen, research winemaker, Washington State University, Richland; Andy Perdue, wine columnist, The Seattle Times; and Mike Rader, a Great Northwest Wine panelist from Kennewick. The panel met Feb. 1 at the Clover Island Inn in Kennewick, and Wine Press Northwest columnist Ken Robertson and Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine served as moderators.

Unanimously Outstanding!

Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Evergreen Vineyard The Estates Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley $22Emily Haines, who recently left the Milbrandts for the Sierra Foothills, crafted this remarkable reserve-style Chardonnay that was done in 100 percent oak, with 20% of it new French oak. The oak is nicely integrated, offering a theme of sweet lime, lemon bars, backed by mango and fresh pineapple. There’s crispness on the midpalate, but the spreading of almond paste creates a deliciously rounded finish. (965 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Ryan Patrick Wines 2015 Rock Island Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $20Jeremy Santo is another graduate of the Milbrandt brothers employ, and the Washington State University product crafted this in a style that Butch Milbrandt’s creative team markets in an identifiable way as “R-I-Ch” - Rock Island Chardonnay. This spent six months in 18% new American oak, and the structure is spot-on. There’s opulence with butter, viscosity and tropical notes of mango and pineapple, yet balance is achieved with touches of lemon zest, Golden Delicious apple and pear. It’s a marvelous debut for this tier of Chardonnay. (1,500 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay, Applegate Valley $26Cal Schmidt and his winemaking family grow Chardonnay on their estate near Jacksonville, Ore., and this stainless steel presentation is bright from start to finish. Lovely aromas include cherry blossom, peach, Ruby Red grapefruit and lime peel. Tropical notes of mango and papaya make their way into a flavor profile finished by pear skin and raspberry lemonade. (412 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2014 Gran Moraine Vineyard Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton $32Byron Dooley twice struck gold in this tasting, and judges gave this presentation of Dijon clone 76 from a Salmon-Safe site a unanimous gold. A blend of French oak and stainless steel juice, the light touch of oak and richness makes for a blend of ripe pear, banana and mango, backed by minerality and a finish of Golden Delicious apple. (73 cases, 14% alc.)

Best Buy!

Vino la Monarcha Winery 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15One of the Northwest’s wizards with white wines, Victor Palencia goes 100 percent stainless steel for this dazzling Chardonnay. Its big and gorgeous profile of passionfruit, orange and cotton candy comes with charming acidity and is capped by pink grapefruit pith to check the roundness on the midpalate. Lovers of Gewürztraminer from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley will fall hard for this. (300 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Outstanding!

St. Innocent Winery 2016 Freedom Hill Vineyard Dijon Clone Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $28Mark Vlossak recently announced plans to downsize and move to the South Salem Hills, and his work with the Dusschee family’s Freedom Hill Vineyard is stellar. Cropped at 2.7 tons per acre, this lot of clones 76, 548 and 108 spent 11 months in all-neutral French oak. A bit of flintiness in the nose shows some Meursault qualities that Vlossak seeks to encourage, but the wine is otherwise dominated by peach, pineapple and lemon curd. The long and rich finish also offers a lick of orange marmalade. (1,170 cases, 14% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2016 Single Vineyard Chardonnay, McMinnville $45Brian Irvine has created one of the Northwest’s premier examples of Chardonnay, a deliciously fruit-forward and nicely crisp sip of Block 40 at Hyland Vineyard in the North Willamette Valley. Clone 108 from the nearly 50-year-old vines reveals aromas of lime and honeysuckle that are joined on the palate by nuances of Bosc pear, grapefruit and slices of honeydew melon and pineapple, making for tremendous balance. (290 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Saviah Cellars 2016 The Jack Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $18The secret sauce to some of Washington’s top white wines — Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley — plays a key role in this remarkable Chardonnay by Walla Walla wonder Richard Funk. There’s a touch of juice that spent time in new French oak, but most of this lot stayed in stainless steel, allowing for aromas of honeycomb, alyssum, gooseberry and jasmine. Pleasing flavors of peach, apricot and orange combine to make this an opulent white wine with a long finish. (1,498 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Cave B Estate Winery 2016 Cave B Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $22It’s no coincidence that many of the top Washington-made Chardonnays in the tasting hailed from the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley. Freddy Arredondo sends family fruit through a cool fermentation and extended lees contact for bright aromas of lemon zest, mint, apple and ginger. Honeycrisp apple, white peach and pineapple make for some roundness on the entry before a burst of lime frames the long finish. (500 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Lavinea Winery 2015 Lazy River Vineyard Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton $45Quebec native Isabelle Meunier’s charming work with vineyard-designate Chardonnays includes this site in the foothills of the Coast Range. Her snapshot of Lazy River amid 20% new French oak is emblematic in that it’s fruit-forward and approachable. Light toast notes and banana are joined by peach, papaya and watermelon. Roundness on the midpalate is lifted by finishing flavors of Granny Smith apple and starfruit. (231 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Chardonnay, Applegate Valley $26Cal Schmidt’s family continues to make sure that Southern Oregon doesn’t get overlooked in the discussion of Oregon Chardonnay. Estate fruit from south-facing slopes near Jacksonville spent zero time in oak and just four months in stainless steel. That treatment keeps this bright and fruity as notes of watermelon, peach, Cointreau and green banana swirl in a bright Key Lime finish. (344 cases, 14.1% alc.)

2 Hawk Vineyard & Winery 2016 Chardonnay, Rogue Valley $26California nut growers Ross and Jennifer Allen purchased this Southern Oregon property, moved to the estate and have Kiley Evans as their winemaker. The University of California-Davis product blends barrel and tank to delicious levels as apple blossom, honeysuckle and lime aromas are joined on the palate by Bosc pear and citrus zest. (97 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Barnard Griffin 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $23Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard’s daughter Megan heads up the white wine program now, and while it’s not labeled as estate, it could be. The family took control of Caroway Vineyard near Kennewick, Wash., years ago, and the proud Washington State University grad proves that she’s a chip off the old block. Her investment in 34% new French oak shows grace as winsome aromas of facial powder, green mango, lime and honeysuckle are transformed into flavors of pear, mango and apple. Spot-on acidity still leaves room for a tiny hint of roundness in the suave finish. (230 cases, 13.2% alc.)

DANCIN Vineyards 2016 Chassé Chardonnay, Oregon $32Dan and Cindy Marca continue to woo lovers of Burgundy to quaint Jacksonville, Ore., with this delightful Chardonnay that earned a Platinum this past fall. Dijon clones 76 and 95, combined with neutral French oak for a beautiful presentation of honeydew melon, vanilla and kiwi that’s rich-bodied and kissed by baking spices. Enjoy with shrimp or Pasta Alfredo. (95 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Irvine & Roberts Vineyards 2015 Irvine & Roberts Chardonnay, Rogue Valley $32Famed Stag’s Leap producer Robert Brittan doesn’t try to hide his passion for Chardonnay, which shows in the handful of projects the Oregon State Beaver has become entwined with since his return home. Here, he collaborated with Southern Oregon talents Herb Quady and Brian Gruber of Barrel 42 to produce this estate Chardonnay. Farmed in Ashland at 2,100 feet elevation, then aged 30% in new French oak barrels it produces elegant lemon-ginger cookie and pear butter flavors, backed by pineapple, apricot yogurt and a citrusy finish. (1,112 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Best Buy!

Jones of Washington 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15The versatility of the Wahluke Slope shows yet again in the hands of the Jones family and remarkably talented Victor Palencia, who sent this lot through 100% new American oak for 30 days before moving it into stainless steel tanks. Aromas of toasty oak and vanilla leave room for ripe pear, mint and citrus. There’s lusciousness yet balance to the flavors of pear, apple, pineapple and lime. (538 cases, 14% alc.)

Mt. Hood Winery 2016 Estate Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $26One of Oregon’s top winemakers, Rich Cushman, works with Van Horn Estate Vineyard in the Hood River Valley and a seven-month program of 25% new French oak. Spicy apple, mint, vanilla and lime transition to a delicious blend of tropical and citrusy fruit flavors as fresh pineapple, mango and papaya include zest of lime. (112 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Van Duzer Vineyards 2016 Bieze Vineyard Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $36Gold medal wines continue to flow out of Van Duzer Vineyards under the guidance of Burgundy native Florent-Pierre Merlier. Hints of hazelnuts, baked pear and honey abound in this full-bodied Chardonnay that presents a finishing flash of orange pith for delicious balance. (238 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Viento Wines 2016 Pine Grove Vineyards Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $32Hood River native Rich Cushman earned repeated praise for his work with locally sourced Chardonnay, including this bottling under his own brand. Fruit from these 18-year-old vines spent 10 months in mature French oak and underwent no malolactic fermentation. As a result, it’s a brisk example featuring Italian lime soda, Granny Smith apple and lemon notes. A slurp of tree-ripened nectarine and touch of sandalwood add elegance to the end of this beautifully sipping Chardonnay. (70 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Best Buy!

Barnard Griffin 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $14This family-owned and operated winery in Richland, Wash., continues its reputation for affordable quality, and Megan Hughes oversaw one of this judging’s biggest and not-easily attained bargains. Her folks’ Caroway Vineyard was joined by Arete Vineyard, Lonesome Spring Ranch and Crawford Vineyard for this Chardonnay structured with a third neutral French oak and a third malolactic fermentation. That results in complex aromas of pineapple, peaches and crème brûlée that transition to flavors of apricot, peach and cantaloupe backed by a fresh, fun and snappy finish. (13,940 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Girardet Wine Cellars 2013 Estate Chardonnay, Umpqua Valley $20Second-generation winegrower Marc Girardet submitted one of the tasting’s most mature examples of Chardonnay, and this unoaked example from Southern Oregon shows no signs of slowing down. Aromas of jasmine, lemon and pear offer flavors akin to a fresh slice of Granny Smith apple, starfruit and lemongrass. Its orangy midpalate and tropical finish add up to an appealing patio wine. (100 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Melrose Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay, Umpqua Valley $18Cody Parker continues the family tradition at one of Southern Oregon’s largest vineyards, offering this voluptuous and fleshy Chardonnay that’s 100% barrel fermented but pleasingly laced with acidity. Banana, apple butter and sweet peach notes lead to a finish of an Arnold Palmer, mint and orange peel. (420 cases, 13% alc.)

Rain Dance Vineyards 2016 Nicholas Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains $30Bryan Weil, on behalf of Ken and Celia Austin, now works with this remarkable 40-acre vineyard founded near Newberg, Ore., by Nick and Sheila Nicholas. It’s all aged in French oak, but only one of the three barrels were new, and there was no malolactic fermentation. And yet, it’s quite fruit-forward with notes of lemon meringue pie, kiwi fruit and starfruit, backed by Granny Smith apple, pear skin and jasmine. (74 cases, 13.5% alc.)

St. Innocent Winery 2015 Freedom Hill Vineyard Dijon Clone Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $26While Mark Vlossak is known largely for his work with vineyard-designated Pinot Noir, his Chardonnay program from Freedom Hill should not be overlooked. The 2015 and 2016 vintages were judged separately and within their vintage, yet the descriptors are remarkably similar. He remained true to clones 76 and 548 in a barrel program of 100% neutral French oak. The lemony and flinty nose leads to delicious flavors of apple butter, peach and apricot. Its long and sassy finish includes guava and Mandarin orange oil. (1,336 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Syringa Winery 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $25Mike Crowley, a product of Walla Walla’s College Cellars program, remains one of the Northwest’s overlooked talents, but that isn’t slowing down this Boise winemaker. A 10-month, two-barrel program of new French oak and new Hungarian oak offers pleasing roundness and poise with its theme of pear butter on toast, and bubble gum that is backed by a lemon and ginger finish. (60 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Torii Mor Winery 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $35Jacques Tardy, whose family has been making wine in Burgundy for eight generations, is in his fourth decade as an Oregon winemaker. His use of French oak adds charm, a 21-month approach with 39% new barrel, yet doesn’t show up in the aromas of gooseberry and lime with nectarine and pineapple. There’s richness on the entry with crushed pineapple flavors and lanolin with lemon oil, backed by pronounced citrus in the finish. (424 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Wapato Point Cellars 2015 Chardonnay, Lake Chelan $29Chardonnay from Smith Vineyard in the Lake Chelan American Viticultural Area spent 10 months French and Hungarian barrels under the direction of Jonathon Kludt, who presents a profile of honeysuckle, Honeycrisp apple and pineapple with clarified butter and lingering toastiness. Their on-premise Winemaker’s Grill suggests serving it with Prawn Linguine or pork potstickers. (240 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Argyle Winery 2015 Master Series Spirithouse Chardonnay, Dundee Hills $60Oregon’s leading producer of méthode Champenoise deepens its decades-long relationship with historic Knudsen Vineyards in this still Chardonnay. Nate Klostermann masterfully doted on this 40% new French oak barrel program for 16 months, crafting a wine redolent of peaches and pears that also offers hints of toasted filberts and mint before the injection of fresh lime juice provides just the right amount of acidity. (200 cases, 14.1% alc.)

La Linea Furioso 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $48Dominique Mahé and Jared Etzel have this young project in Dundee, Ore., tracking marvelously for Giorgio Furioso. The 20 months in neutral French oak lead to aromas of mint, tamarind and tropical notes. Delicious flavors of lemon curd pick up pineapple and melon for a pleasingly crisp finish from just the second vintage by this team. (125 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Open Air by Ste. Chapelle 2016 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $20Idaho’s largest winery recently created this tier for its outdoor concert series, and homegrown winemaker Meredith Smith brings a sense of Chablis to the Snake River Valley. It’s clean, citrusy, dusty and balanced with crisp apple and pear flavors backed by orange peel and violets. (200 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, Applegate Valley $36The Schmidts displayed not only consistency but also versatility in this judging, producing gold medals using consecutive vintages and in differing styles from their Southern Oregon vines. Here is their reserve program, one of 14 months in year-old French oak, and half of the juice underwent malolactic fermentation. These three barrels allow for ripeness and floral notes among stone fruit akin to peach, apricot and pear, backed by minerality. (71 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2014 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $24Byron Dooley, a Silicon Valley refugee, again emerges as a star in one of our tastings. While he pulled from acclaimed Gran Moraine Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton appellation and Stand Sure Vineyard in the cooler Eola-Amity Hills, clone 76 is the common thread to both in this discreetly oaked Chardonnay. Citrusy aromas include tropical hints of mango and pineapple. On the pour, however, it’s racy with green apple, honeyed lemon and lime flavors. (238 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Browne Family Vineyards 2016 Bacchus Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $33One of Washington state’s most storied vineyards produces the Chardonnay for Precept CEO Andrew Browne’s eponymous brand in Walla Walla. Its fruity and floral aromas of candied pear, banana and Golden Delicious apple carry on through to the palate, where peach and orange add to the beautifully long finish. (140 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Dukes Family Vineyards 2014 Pearl Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $45The Dukes of Yamhill County further their reputation with the winning husband/wife team of grower Sterling Fox and winemaker Kelly Kidneigh, and these Oregon State grads polished another gem. Neutral barrel fermentation and daily lees stirring early on produced layers and layers of complexity. Lemon cream pie, banana and butterscotch tones still allow for subtlety of facial powder and pear skin. (250 cases, 12.3% alc.)

Excellent

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills $21Napa product Bill Murray spent seven years for this historic Walla Walla brand before recently moving to nearby Barons Winery. He’s left behind a reserve-style Chardonnay with 50% new French oak for nine months, and the complete malolactic fermentation makes for light caramel, butterscotch and almond extract tones. Granny Smith apple, lemon oil and white pepper are pleasing components to the mouth feel. (1,800 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Domaine Pouillon 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $34Alexis Pouillon zeroes in on Jewett Creek Vineyard near White Salmon, Wash., for his tasty and complex Chardonnay that offers melon, Bosc pear and vanilla with a scrape of minerality and sweet lime in the finish. (50 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Eight Bells Winery 2016 Boushey Vineyard Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $25Tim Bates began making wine in his basement in 1980 with Sagemoor fruit, and now he and his friends have grown to 2,000 cases not far from Green Lake in Seattle. Their lightly oaked expression with Dick Boushey’s fruit is lead by melon, lime, Granny Smith apple and lemon meringue. (170 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $34One of the Columbia Gorge’s premier wineries imports the talents of four-generation Burgundian producer Alexandrine Roy, and her blend of French and Hungarian oak creates complex notes of white peach, starfruit and tarragon backed by a bite of caramel apple. (245 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Soléna Estate 2015 Domaine Danielle Laurent Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton $50Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu celebrated the 15th anniversary of their vineyard with this delicious Chardonnay that started with 18 months in 40% new French oak, imparting notes of navel orange, prickly pear and facial powder with peachy acidity. (336 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2016 Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $30Jim Bernau’s team gathers fruit from clones 76, 96, 352 and Draper for a Chardonnay filled with peach, apples and apricot. A sense of honey adds to the pleasing body. (1,000 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Woodward Canyon Winery 2015 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $74The Small family and winemaker Kevin Mott continue their relationship with famed Celilo Vineyard on Washington’s Underwood Mountain. Wente clone remains widespread in the Columbia Valley, and this lot, harvested at 2.5 tons per acre is emblematic. The Burgundy barrel program of Sirugue cooperage (57% new) accounts for aromas and flavors of pineapple and butterscotch, back by remarkable midpalate weight and lingering balance. (118 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Adelsheim Vineyard 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $25One judge described this as Chablis in style, and founding winemaker David Adelsheim might view that as an ideal descriptor — and ultimate compliment. Bright aromas of lime, gooseberry and quinine reveal green apple, white peach and tangerine flavors, making for a Chardonnay that’s poised to be the life of the party. (2,462 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Ancestry Cellars 2016 Reunion Chardonnay, Lake Chelan $27Northwest Wine Academy product Jason Morin continues to operate his Woodinville tasting room, but there’s also another tasting room of his in the Lake Chelan community of Manson. His fruit source for this is nearby Dry Lake Vineyard, which builds a fun structure of Juicy Fruit gum and grape Pixy Stix amid white peach skin and apricot fuzz subtleties. (232 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Browne Family Vineyards 2016 Heritage Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $17Waterbrook winemaker John Freeman pulls from Willard Farms in the Yakima Valley for this approachable and affordable Chardonnay for Precept CEO Andrew Browne, which features pear, honeysuckle and honeydew melon in front of Meyer lemon. (5,096 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Del Rio Vineyards 2016 Estate Chardonnay, Rogue Valley $20Loire Valley native Jean-Michel Jussiaume earned his way to the 2018 Oregon Chardonnay Celebration and worked with an even split of Dijon clones 76 and 95 over eight months in 35% new barrels. Aromas of honeysuckle, honeydew melon and lime make their way to the palate, joined by crenshaw melon and lemon. (1,700 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Milbrandt Vineyards 2016 Evergreen Vineyard The Estates Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley $22In a few months, look for this wine to be showing similar its slightly older sister, the No. 1-ranked Chardonnay in this tasting. Again, 20% new French oak for the impeccable Evergreen Vineyard berries leads to a rich color with more in store. Peach, butterscotch and jasmine aromas funnel into a rich, rounded and buttery palate with apple and toffee. (900 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2015 Lynette Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $38Owner/pilot Bob Corus named this reserve Chardonnay after his wife, and it’s delicious fun with notes of peach taffy, Graham cracker and lemon oil, backed by allspice and orangy acidity. (239 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Ryan Patrick Wines 2015 French Creek Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $35Jeremy Santo went with 30% new French oak for this rich and tropical Chardonnay that’s brimming with passionfruit, jasmine and lavender, joined by a lick of Chowhard’s Violet Mint Squares and pear butter. (100 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2015 Reserve Chardonnay, Applegate Valley $36The Schmidt family in Southern Oregon stays on its roll with Chardonnay, using 14 months in year-old French oak barrels to generate a mood of tropical fruit, vanilla and green apple, supported by pear and crushed hazelnuts. (90 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Vale Wine Co. 2016 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $20Retired pilot Timothy Harless worked with Sawtooth Vineyard’s Block 52, which vineyard manager Dale Jeffers pulled off Sept. 10. Whole cluster pressing and nine months in stainless steel captures notes of apple blossoms, honeydew melon and banana that are framed by Mandarin orange zest. (50 cases, 12.3% alc.)

Best Buy!

Waterbrook Winery 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15John Freeman in Walla Walla oversees one of the region’s largest productions of Chardonnay, and he maintains a suave and sophisticated approach to the hints of lemon cookie, peach and orange. It’s round and balanced by lemon oil in the finish. (3,071 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Westport Winery Garden Resort 2016 Shorebird Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $26Grays Harbor winemaker Dana Roberts reaches into one of Washington’s most respected sites for Chardonnay — Conner-Lee Vineyard near Othello — for this unoaked representation. There’s ginger, lime and apple in the nose, followed by ripe pear, mango and papaya, capped by a burst of acidity. (174 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Barili Cellars 2016 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $16Spokane winemakers Russ Feist and Gary Hustad named their brand for the Italian word for barrel — pronounced bah-RIL-ee — and that moniker applies to this barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Pear, baked bread and toasted oak aromas lead to flavors of pear, starfruit and lemon zest. (70 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Björnson Vineyard 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $35These University of Minnesota grads along Bethel Heights Road nurture their Salmon-Safe vineyard to achieve a classic Oregon-style Chardonnay. They began with Dijon clone 76 harvested at 21 Brix on Sept. 12. Complete malolactic after 14 months in 50% new French oak releases notes of white pepper, ginger and starfruit, backed by a pulse of sweet lemon, cantaloupe and lime zest. (100 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Browne Family Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $30Seattle-based Precept provides a wide expression of Chardonnay in Washington, and this young release under CEO Andrew Browne’s label employs a barrel program of 62% new French oak. Dusty pear and floral notes of geranium and alyssum lead to rich and elegant flavors of white peach, lemon butter cookie and orange Creamsicle. (1,759 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Best Buy!

Claar Cellars 2016 White Bluffs Unoaked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15Joe Hudon works with the Claar-Whitelatch family’s White Bluffs Vineyard along the Columbia River north of Pasco, Wash., and their Salmon-Safe wines rank among the region’s biggest bargains. It’s unoaked and refreshing from start to finish as apple, pear, lime and honey leap out among beguiling acidity with a nip of Granny Smith peel. (240 cases, 13.5% alc.)

DANCIN Vineyards 2016 Châiné Chardonnay, Southern Oregon $32Wine Press Northwest’s 2017 Oregon Winery of the Year poured at the invite-only Oregon Chardonnay Celebration for the fourth straight year, and this is a blend of Dijon clone 76 with Espiguette 352 that saw no malolactic fermentation and just 9% new French oak. It exudes aromas and flavors of Italian lime soda, kiwi and lemon cookie within a rich and juicy structure capped by green apple. (250 cases, 14% alc.)

Davenport Cellars 2016 Dionysus Vineyards Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $24The winemaker/viticulture tandem of Woodinville’s Jeff and Sheila Jirka work with venerable Dionysus Vineyard within historic Sagemoor Farms for their lightly oaked Chardonnay. It’s redolent with jasmine blossoms and orange zest, including Ginger Gold apple and lemon curd. (50 cases, 14% alc.)

Best Buy!

Duck Pond Cellars 2016 Fries Family Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $12Napa-trained Trevor Chlanda seemingly has hit the Northwest running with this Chardonnay produced during his inaugural crush for the Fries family. It spent eight months on the lees in 20% new French oak, and it provides balance and brightness with notes of lemon, lime, Asian pear and Granny Smith apple, backed by fresh mint. (12,555 cases, 13.9% alc.)

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Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2016 Familigia Vineyard Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $14Washington’s first father-daughter winemaking team — Mike Conway and Natalie Conway-Barnes — continue their tradition with this emerging vineyard in the fascinating Ancient Lakes region. Their approach opens in stainless steel and gets passed into French oak for three months before going into bottle. It produces a theme of mint, toast, pineapple, apple and pear with lingering sensations of mango and lime. (746 cases, 13% alc.)

Northwest Cellars 2016 Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $16Woodinville vintner Robert Delf collaborates with Travis Maple at Airfield Estates in Prosser for this lightly oaked Chardonnay. Alluring aromas of pear, pineapple and honeysuckle lead into a palate presentation of pear, papaya and almond paste that’s sparked by a finish of lime zest. (448 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Panther Creek Cellars 2015 French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $45Bacchus Capital Management is using talented Tony Rynders to bring life to this historic Oregon brand, founded by iconic Ken Wright. This work reconnects Rynders with Washington state and a fascinating vineyard near Prosser that’s managed by Damon LaLonde. The wine spent 17 months in 25% new French oak, making for a smooth approach with Key lime pie, Bosc pear and fresh mint. (314 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Rolling Bay Winery 2016 Upland Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, Snipes Mountain $39Puget Sound winemaker Alphonse de Klerk furthers his relationship with the Newhouse family in the Yakima Valley, and this barrel-fermented program shows a theme of Granny Smith apple, orange blossom and lime with lemongrass and mint. (117 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Tendril Wine Cellars 2014 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $40Tony Rynders, whose work elevated Domaine Serene in the Dundee Hills, pulled from the Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton and the Eola-Amity Hills for this Chardonnay that spent 16 months in French oak, just 18% of it new. Aromas of dusty starfruit, lemon juice and starfruit are matched on the palate with a wealth of acidity. (228 cases, 13.5% alc.)

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Waterbrook Winery 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $13There were more than a dozen delicious wines that fit into our $15-and-under category, and the Precept portfolio is responsible for a number of them. John Freeman’s team in Walla Walla offers a cavalcade of sensations, hinting at cotton candy, papaya, white peach, spearmint and lime with a finish of lemon curd and French vanilla ice cream. (7,500 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Woodward Canyon Winery 2015 Chardonnay, Washington $44Kevin Mott produces two of Washington’s most acclaimed Chardonnays, the vineyard-designate from Celilo in the Gorge, and this flagship Chardonnay that relies heavily on clone 108 berries off 40-year-old Salmon-Safe vines on the Smalls’ estate in Walla Walla County. It’s 100% done in Burgundy barrels, and 20% were new. And yet, it’s a fruit-driven, nicely weighted example that’s loaded with green apple, lemon/lime and mint. (611 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Apex Cellars 2016 Bacchus Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $33Team Precept continues to bring Chardonnay to this property in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser, and it spent 11 months on the lees in French oak. Elegant aromas of rose petal, herbal notes, green apple and lime transition to honeydew melon and Bosc pear with slate and delicious lime acidity. (125 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Array Cellars 2014 Nina’s Reserve Chardonnay, Washington $36Brian Carter and Robert Takahashi of Woodinville spearhead this storied Chardonnay project launched in 2010 by Henry Smilowicz. There’s remarkable history to the Wente clone fruit from Otis Vineyard in the heart of the Yakima Valley. It spent 22 months on the lees, which leads to rich and rounded flavors with passionfruit, baking spices, mint and sweet lemon. (100 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Argyle Winery 2015 Master Series Nuthouse Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $40The Dundee bubble house devotes this still Chardonnay to its 113-acre Lone Star Vineyard in the famous neighborhood with Seven Springs and Lingua Franca vineyards. The program of 18 months in 30% new French oak leads to tropical notes with peach, Bosc pear and vanilla, framed by lime zest. (600 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $35Jim Sanders and grower Tom Mortimer worked together on this presentation of baked apple with cinnamon, mint and citrus, backed by vanilla cream, white peach and buttery toast. (193 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Baer Winery 2016 SHARD Columbia Valley $25One of the state’s top hired guns, Erica Orr, oversees this stainless-steel project off Stillwater Creek Vineyard for the Baer family, and it’s a delicious offering of lemon cream and honeydew melon that’s sleek with its zesty finish of Granny Smith apple. (516 cases, 14.4% alc.)

J. Bookwalter 2016 Conner-Lee Vineyard Double Plot Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $45Caleb Foster works with this all-French oak program using 20% new Marcel Cadet barrels, and fruit from some of the state’s oldest Chardonnay vines undergoes nine months in wood for florals of apple blossom, cantaloupe and apricot. It’s remarkably ripe on the buttery palate and finishes with a touch of sweetness. (600 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Cave B Estate Winery 2016 Cave B Vineyards Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $25 Freddy Arredondo uses a blend of Hungarian, French and American oak to build aromas of mint, vanilla and lemon zest with flavors of pineapple, lime and a nip of apple peel bite at the end. (300 cases, 14.1% alc.)

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Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Lochsa Chardonnay, Lewis-Clark Valley $15Coco Umiker’s oak-free, charming gathering from her estate vineyard and Arnett Vineyard includes touches of Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Muscat. Hints of honeysuckle, clarified butter and Asian pear lead out with bright notes of Granny Smith and lime.(259 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Côte Bonneville 2015 DuBrul Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $50Northwestern grad Kerry Shiels enjoys the vertical integration of making wine from her parents’ acclaimed fruit in the Rattlesnake Hills, and the 17 months on the lees in French oak leads into classic aromas and flavors creamy butter, poached pear and Golden Delicious apple, capped by lingering lemongrass.(220 cases, 14.2% alc.)

David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2016 Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $20Justin Van Zanten is well into the second decade of his J. Daan label, and he recently took over the reins at this historic property in Forest Grove, Ore. This work with Dijon 76 and 96 clones is remarkably expressive as peach, orange soda and spearmint blend into clean flavors of jasmine, pineapple and lemon oil. (180 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Dumas Station Wines 2016 Birch Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley $28Jay DeWitt’s control over the winemaking begins in Birch Creek, where he’s also the vineyard manager, and this lightly oaked Chardonnay delivers aromas of lemon, Golden Delicious apple and lemon pepper, backed by lively flavors of starfruit, lemon zest and Asian pear. (130 cases, 13.7% alc.)

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House Wines NV Chardonnay, American $12Precept’s purchase of Charles Smith’s House project continues to grow, and we actually poured from a bag-in-box sample for this tasting. There’s nice balance to the aromas and flavors of honeydew melon and pear, backed by a pinch of sweet herbs. (25,256 cases, 12.3% alc.)

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Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15Scott Williams and Tristan Butterfield sent only 17% of this juice project through French oak, which shows in the structure of pear, green apple and honey with a pleasant finish of dried mango. (928 cases, 13.5% alc.)

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Jones of Washington 2016 Estate Vineyards Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope $15Victor Palencia starts this project in American oak for 30 days before passing it in stainless steel tanks. In Palenciaesque fashion, it’s a white wine remarkably unique and utterly delicious, in this case featuring hints of Fruit Stripe gum and honeyed orange, backed by a touch of spritz that adds to its fun, porch-sipping profile. (840 cases, 14.1% alc.)

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Milbrandt Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $13A product of the Wahluke Wine Co., this Chardonnay spent all of its time in oak, with 20% of that in new French oak, making for a remarkably complex drink of quince, sweet lemon, hominy and dried apricot, backed by a sense of salinity that will play supremely with Butch Milbrandt’s recipe for Gazpacho with Shrimp Skewers. (6,000 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Panther Creek Cellars 2014 French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $45This is the only wine in the Panther Creek portfolio that’s grown outside of the Willamette Valley, but it’s one of the Washington’s most prized sites and Tony Rynders treats it with respect. The 16 months in 28% new French oak makes for a theme of vanilla, toast and mango that’s capped by lemon/lime acidity. (175 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Rain Dance Vineyards 2016 Lee's Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains $45The Austin family now farms four sites, all in the Chehalem Mountains and north of their showpiece Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Ore., and here’s their clone 95 tribute to longtime friend Lee Anderson. A grandiose two-barrel program of French oak leads to aromas of butter, lemon biscuit, milk toast and lambs wood, followed by richness of apple butter and lemon juice. (40 cases, 13.1% alc.)

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Ryan Patrick Wines 2016 Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $12 Jeremy Santo’s farewell harvest for Butch Milbrandt on this oak-free expression with Ancient Lakes, Purple Sage and Newhouse vineyards makes for aromas of dried apricot, mango and gooseberry, which finishes with honeydew melon and lime zest. (2,000 cases, 13.5% alc.)

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Sawtooth Winery 2016 Estate Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $13Meredith Smith advances her case for Idaho Chardonnay with this delicious and brisk example that carries aromas and flavors of Lemonhead candy, gooseberry and Key Lime juice, finished by green tea notes. (2,166 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Silvara Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills $24Tom Merkle, the reigning Honorary Grower of the Auction of Washington Wines, farms young McNary Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills for the Zirkle family, and this showpiece winery in Leavenworth, Wash., is among their early customers. A single month in neutral oak leads to aromas of apple, gooseberry, toast and that magical Horse Heaven Hills minerality. On the attack comes cantaloupe, Bosc pear, jicama and starfruit with unsweetened lemonade just underneath. (224 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $33Amy Alvarez-Wampfler has since moved on to Walla Walla icon Abeja, but her delicious legacy continues, particularly with Chardonnay. Weekly stirring in French barrels over 12 months builds mouth feel of this Yakima Valley blend of French Creek and Lewis vineyards, and the 30% new wood shows in the smoky nose that makes plenty of room for lemon, mint and butter, characteristics that make their way to the palate that’s topped by lime yogurt. (510 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Bernau Block Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $45Winery founder Jim Bernau established this portion of his vineyard below his residence in 1993, and it’s home to Dijon clones 76 and 96. The nine months in 30% new French oak make for a nose of butter and toast with apple and citrus, which transition to nicely complex textures and flavors of marshmallow, green apple and lime zest. (400 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Youngberg Hill Vineyards 2015 Aspen Block Chardonnay, McMinnville $40Wayne Bailey planted this 2 1/2-acre block to Pinot Gris in 2006, but this marks its first commercial vintage since it was grafted over to Chardonnay. His daughter, Aspen, should approve of the move. The six months in neutral barrel brings a lush theme of Golden Delicious apple, juicy pear and sweet apricot that includes some tastiness and stellar acidity. (190 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Array Cellars 2014 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $32Some of Washington’s most delicious Chardonnay projects originate in storied Celilo Vineyard near White Salmon, Wash., and the old vine Wente clone fruit spent time in 25% new Burgundy barrels under the watch of Brian Carter. Complex aromas of an apple Pop Tart with a slice of asparagus lead to vivid fruitiness with white peach and Gala apple flavors, backed by citrusy acidity to make for a nicely balanced Chardonnay. (200 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Barrage Cellars 2016 Nuclear Blonde Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $30Kevin Correll spared little expense in the production of his latest reserve-style Chardonnay, starting with illustrious Boushey Vineyard fruit and devoting 40% of the lot of 100% new French oak via 500-liter puncheon. Aromas of mint and baking spice pick up Granny Smith apple and Asian pear. Even though there was weekly stirring of the lees for 10 months, the focus of the palate remains on flavors of pear, mint, lemon and lime, with a whiff of smokiness in the finish. (170 cases, 14.2% alc.)

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Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2016 The Expedition Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills $15One of the largest-production Chardonnays in this tasting also ranks as an easily attained bargain. It offers a rich amber color and fun aromas of Pixy Stix grape candy and jasmine backed by lemon curd on toast. It’s a rather voluptuous drink reminiscent of an Orange Julius that’s finished with jasmine mint tea. (11,000 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Dunham Cellars 2015 Lewis Estate Vineyard Shirley Mays Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $25The Dunham family has supported the cause of Susan G. Komen for the Cure since 2001 with its Shirley Mays Chardonnay. Despite its 50/50 blend stainless-steel and French oak fermentations, it’s 100 percent from Lewis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley and a fruit-forward showing of tangerine, dried mango and lime zest that’s quite gracious. That beautiful citrus bite at the end makes it ideal with halibut. (1,394 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Eola Hills Wine Cellars 2015 Barrel Select Reserve Chardonnay, Oregon $25Longtime winemaker Steve Anderson pulls primarily from 20-year-old Wolf Hill Vineyard - where he was married in the Eola Hills - and devoted 17 months in barrel to produce a Chardonnay reminiscent of a lemon milkshake that’s smooth, toasty and a bit savory with a lick of butter and drop of vanilla in the finish. Enjoy with Apricot Chicken. (1,140 cases, 14.8% alc.)

Keeler Estate Vineyard 2015 Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $32Gabriele and Craig Keeler farm their 200-acre property near Amity, Ore., to Demeter-certified standards of Biodynamic farming, and the cooling influence of the Van Duzer Corridor allows winemaker Kelly Kidneigh to maintain a fruit-forward approach. Ginger, lemon and white peach mix with amazing texture from eight months on the lees, leaving room for a bright finish of starfruit and clementine. (115 cases, 13% alc.)

Left Coast Cellars 2016 Truffle Hill Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $24Six Dijon clones from vines planted in 2005 near their European black truffle-inoculated hazelnut trees in Rickreall, Ore., make for this fruit-forward and balanced Chardonnay that spent eight months on the lees in delicate French oak. The nose of Uncola, pineapple, pear and honeysuckle lead to bright flavors of lime zest, mango and peach, capped by lovely acidity. (1,401 cases, 13.7% alc.)

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Lunar Harvest 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $9Seattle-based Precept Wine partners with Walmart on the young Lunar Harvest lineup, and this release offers appeal beyond its price point. Aromas of Ginger Snap cookie, honeysuckle, toast and pineapple carry into a bright delivery of Granny Smith apple and toast that’s capped with a lemony and minty finish. (2,800 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Ryan Patrick Wines 2015 Sagemoor Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $35This growing and evolving Butch Milbrandt project pulls from vineyards beyond his home turf on the Wahluke Slope, and Jeremy Santo aged these four barrels from venerable Sagemoor Vineyards for seven months in 30% new French oak. The deft touch with barrel allows for an expression of Granny Smith apple, pears and mint, backed by lively lime acidity. Look for this wine at the new Milbrandt Vineyards/Ryan Patrick tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood District. (100 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Ste. Chapelle 2016 Block 16 Panoramic Idaho Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $20 This Chardonnay has achieved acclaim from critics across the country as part of the Idaho Wine Commission’s Best Case Scenario program, and homegrown winemaker Meredith Smith showcases aromas of lime, gooseberry and jasmine with following flavors of white peach, toast and Golden Delicious apple, backed by a sheen of lemon oil. (200 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Soléna Estate 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $30Laurent Montalieu has a superb array of estate vineyards to select from, including historic Hyland and the young Domaine Danielle Laurent, for their Chardonnay program. Once again, he has kept the focus on that fruit, presenting a theme of Honeycrisp apple, juicy Bosc pear and kiwi, all backed by lemony acidity. (100 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Spangler Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay, Southern Oregon $21Our Oregon Winery of the Year produces just two white wines, and Patrick Spangler’s Chardonnay is unoaked. Fascinating aromas of Italian lime soda, toffee and nougat transition to shiny flavors of lime, Golden Delicious apple and jicama. (189 cases, 14% alc.)

Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $28Underwood Mountain overlooks the city of Hood River, Ore., and hometown product Rich Cushman pulls Chardonnay from that perch for the Fletcher family. A discreet amount of French oak is involved, and that results in aromas of dusty peach, freshly laundered linen and Limeade, which give way to an elegant mouth feel and pleasant array of orchard fruit with a background of citrus. (138 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Wedge Mountain Winery 2014 Evergreen Vineyard Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley $25Charlie McKee’s keen interest in winemaking began when he served in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Italy. He wisely sourced this Chardonnay from remarkable Evergreen Vineyard in the Columbia Basin, and nurtured it in new French oak for six months. A small percentage of Viognier lifts the bouquet of apple blossom, fresh-baked bread, vanilla and citrus fruit. On the palate, it’s downright yummy with those same accents being met with the roundness of lemon curd. (185 cases, 14% alc.)

DANCIN Vineyards 2016 Allangé Chardonnay, Southern Oregon $32Dan Marca produces seven distinct expressions of Chardonnay, and the Jacksonville vintner seems to have a standing invitation to pour at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, having presented at that exclusive event the past four years. He and Brian Denner worked together on this Dijon clone 76 project that was fermented and aged in a 184-gallon French concrete egg, which explains the stretching accents of honeysuckle, lemongrass and slate among the citrusy notes of lime and green apple, rounded off slightly by fresh pineapple. (75 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Girardet Wine Cellars 2014 Estate Chardonnay, Umpqua Valley $20 From the Girardet family’s younger site - Shale Rock Vineyards - second-generation winemaker Marc Girardet goes unoaked, and the aromas of Bosc pear and green apple are replicated on the nicely balanced palate that’s capped by a refreshing lemon-lime burst. (104 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Forgeron Cellars 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $28This vintage marked the 15th anniversary of this downtown Walla Walla producer, and University of Dijon grad Marie-Eve Gilla draws from four unique sites — Birch Creek (Walla Walla Valley), Celilo (Columbia Gorge), Crawford (Yakima Valley) and Weinbau (Wahluke Slope) for her flagship Chardonnay. A hint of sweet oak leads to luscious and complex notes of mango, white pepper spice and lemon zest acidity. Suggested pairings include Creamy Mustard Tarragon Chicken and grilled shrimp. (1,223 cases, 14.1% alc.)

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Fujishin Family Cellars 2016 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $15The 2018 Idaho Winery of the Year works with vines in their fourth decade of life at Rose Cottage Vineyard, a site that tops out at nearly 3,000 feet elevation, and a six-month French oak barrel program. It shows a progression of Martin Fujishin’s style, with Chardonnay, offering aromas of Asian pear and lemon, backed by bright flavors Crenshaw melon and Granny Smith apple with acidity to match. (110 cases, 14.53% alc.)

Panther Creek Cellars 2013 French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $45This iconic Oregon brand founded by Ken Wright now is in the hands of his longtime friend Tony Rynders, whose career took off as a Washington winemaker not far from this historic Yakima Valley site. The nose of dusty Bosc pear, lemon and honeycomb develops into a opulent entry of lemon curd and honeyed butterscotch that offers delicious acidity and a friendly finish. (250 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Pomum Cellars 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $26Northwest viticulturist Damon LaLonde’s French Creek Vineyard in the Yakima Valley provided the fruit for Spanish-born Javier Alfonso, and his 11-month program in 30% new French oak barriques is redolent with Winesap apple, fresh apple, pear and sweet herbs, framed by lime acidity. (128 cases, 13% alc.)

Ponzi Vineyards 2014 Reserve Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $40Four vineyards in three distinctly different North Willamette Valley regions, including the sustainably farmed Ponzi plantings Avellana and Aurora, spent more than two years in oak prior to the wine’s release last summer. The toasty nose includes tangerine oil and butterscotch, yet there’s an abundance of fresh-cut orchard fruit and tangy acidity to the palate. (1,220 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $33Tim and Kathy Sinclair made Chardonnay an early focus at their Walla Walla winery, and it’s evident in their sources, which include French Creek, Gordon and Lewis vineyards. It spent 20 months in barrel, which stirring twice a month, which conjures up aromas and flavors of apple and brioche, backed by a clean and rich structure. (296 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2015 Gran Moraine Vineyard Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton $32There’s greatness ahead for this Chardonnay if Byron Dooley’s 2014 vintage from this vineyard - now owned by Sonoma-based Jackson Family Wines - serves as an indication. Three French oak barrels, one of them new wood, were not allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation, so it’s a fresh, juicy and crisp Chardonnay loaded with citrus, green apple and mint. (75 cases, 13.1% alc.)

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Sozo Wine Co. 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15Ste. Michelle alum Cheryl Barber-Jones crafts the wine for Puget Sound owners Martin Barrett and Monte Reiger, who dedicate a significant amount of sales to the charity nominated by each buyer. This stainless steel Chardonnay releases a fragrance filled with fresh pineapple, Honeycrisp apple, lime and cherry blossom. It’s beautifully crisp as lemon and mango lead into a finish of green apple. And those who live in the Seattle area can request free delivery of their online purchases. (1,047 cases, 13.7% alc.)

The Conqueror Winery 2016 Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills $19One of nearly a dozen Chardonnay bottlings by Precept Wine, it’s a clean and fruity drink with banana, apricot and apple notes, backed by crisp acidity and a scrap of slate. (1,000 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Barili Cellars 2017 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $17One of the youngest Chardonnays shows plenty of potential with this trio of barrels filled with fruit from the Columbia Basin. Apricot and vanilla aromas and flavors come with a rich mouth feel and a finish of sweet pineapple.(75 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Big Table Farm 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $45Helen Turley-trained Brian Marcy works with a handful of vineyards for his nationally acclaimed Chardonnay program, and he produced this in reserve style with baked pear, honeycomb and toasty notes that transition from richness to complexity, thanks to a lemon custard finish. (950 cases, 13.3% alc.)

A Blooming Hill Vineyard & Winery 2016 Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains $19Along the very northern edge of the Chehalem Mountains appellation, west of the community of Blooming on Blooming Fern Hill Road, Jim and Holly Witte rely on estate fruit for their unoaked Chardonnay that sports crisp apple, pear and lime zest. Its rich finish of lemon curd is ideal with grilled chicken or rich cheeses. (95 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Boedecker Cellars 2015 Finnigan Hill Vineyard Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains $32Portland-based vintners Stewart and Athena Boedecker produce nearly a dozen examples of Pinot Noir, among those one from Finnigan Hill Vineyard. However, they make just one Chardonnay, also from Finnigan Hill. It spends 11 months on the lees, and that helps make for a round yet balanced drink of Asian pear, lemongrass and spearmint, backed by a long finish of lemon.(400 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2016 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $28Oregon State University product Bobby Moy took the lead on this Chardonnay for owners Neil and Sue Shay, and this nascent producer in the Monroe Hills northwest of Eugene offers a delicious and complex drink that’s rich with kiwi and honeycomb before a zesty coda of gooseberry, mint and lemon. (65 cases, 14.2% alc.)

David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $24Once known as Charles Coury Vineyard, this historic property on David’s Hill near Forest Grove, Ore., dedicates this blend of Dijon 76 and 96 berries to 30% new French oak barrels for 15 months. From the hands of Justin Van Zanten comes an elegant and expressive Chardonnay featuring a lovely mouth feel of mango, mint and lemon and lime. (250 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Drink Washington State 2015 Welcome to Columbia Valley Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $19Brad Binko studied at College Cellars in Walla Walla before this East Coast-trained sommelier struck out on his own. He taps into White Bluffs Vineyard overlooking the Columbia River near the Hanford Reach for this zesty Chardonnay that spent one week in 100% new French oak after 14 months in stainless steel, which makes it brimming with Golden Delicious apple, lime juice and fresh ginger. (60 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Elk Cove Vineyards 2015 Goodrich Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton $45The Campbell family added Goodrich to its portfolio a few years ago, and the northern two blocks of this Salmon-Safe planting between WillaKenzie Vineyards and Elk Cove’s Mount Richmond go towards a 12-month barrel program with some lees stirring. It’s a very floral wine with notes of orange blossom, peach taffy and Meyer lemon with flavors to match, supported by lime juice. (376 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Helix by Reininger 2015 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $22Chuck Reininger created his Helix brand — by no means a second label — to distinguish it from his Walla Walla Valley-based program and spotlight some of Washington’s top vineyards beyond Walla Walla. The Alberg family’s Stillwater Creek is the focus of this unoaked Chardonnay, that’s enticing and delectable with its theme of apple butter and caramel, backed by almond paste and lemon. (193 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Lavinea Winery 2015 Elton Vineyard Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $60Willamette Valley Vineyards recently began its collaboration with Quebec native Isabelle Meunier to craft its Elton brand, and this represents the second vintage of Elton under her own brand. Her years of work with nearby Seven Springs Vineyard and a barrel program of 20% new French oak yield aromas and flavors of toast, butterscotch and lemon oil with a nibble of pear skin in the finish. (186 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Methven Family Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills $28Dr. Allen Methven sells much of the fruit he grows on his underrated site in the northeastern tip of the Eola-Amity Hills, but he does enlist acclaimed Greg McClellan to work with his own wines. Their blend of new French oak (25%), neutral oak (25%) and stainless (50%) opens with aromas of sandalwood, mint and apple before a delicious drink with flavors of pear, honeydew melon and pineapple, all capped by a juicy citrusy finish. (96 cases, 13% alc.)

Saviah Cellars 2016 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $25A handful of Chardonnays in this historic tasting came off Stillwater Creek, and Richard Funk aged this in 25% new French oak for nine months. It’s a voluminous example of a reserve-style, offering lots of lemon and toasty notes with slice of sweet pineapple in the background. (229 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2015 Mixolydian Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $50Yashodhan “Billo” Naravane, a graduate of MIT and Stanford, is the Northwest’s most recent Master of Wine, and his winemaking clients in the Walla Walla Valley include Sinclair Estate Vineyards. They’ve dubbed their blend of French Creek and Lewis vineyards in the Yakima Valley with a reference to a musical scale, and at 20 months in oak, this Chardonnay ranks among the long barrel programs in the judging. As a result, it’s quite expressive from start to finish, beginning with aromas of Vanilla Wafers, pear, apple and mint. There’s charming roundness to the butter and toast on the palate, where there’s also fresh pineapple, mango and mint, backed by lime. (386 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Sawtooth Estate Winery 2016 Classic Fly Series Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $25The middle tier of the Sawtooth program is limited to 10-barrel lots and sees more oak, and the expectations line up with the reality in this Chardonnay. The theme is one of toast, toffee, caramel and lemon, backed by orange juice acidity and Golden Delicious apple peel bite. (219 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Telaya Wine Co. 2015 French Creek Vineyards Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $22Idaho winemaker Earl Sullivan pulls much of his fruit off prized sites such as Boushey Vineyard, Quintessence Vineyard and French Creek, all three within the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area. The Wente clone fruit spent 10 months in 60% new French oak, and the extraction leads to a golden color along with toast, pineapple and apple. There’s creaminess to the mouth feel of lemon pie, and an ample amount of acidity for balance. (300 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Recommended

Claar Cellars 2015 White Bluffs Vineyard Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $22Joe Hudon’s work with this Salmon-Safe estate vineyard near the Columbia River north of Pasco, Wash., shows as much more fruit-forward than one might be led to believe. There were barrels from France, Kentucky and Minnesota involved, but there was just a fraction of new oak involved. As a result, there’s a just a bit of wood toast to the profile that leads with Asian pear, lemon and lime with a crisp finish that pulls in mint. (60 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Domaine Divio 2016 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $50Three decades ago, pharmacist André Weil met Bruno Corneaux in Dijon, and their relationship deepened in 2014 when they decided to plant Clos Gallia Vineyard along Ribbon Ridge near Newberg, Ore. Corneaux, a former winemaker at Claar Cellars in Washington’s Columbia Valley, brings a wealth of experience as lieutenant at Laurent Montalieu’s NW Wine Co., Hyland and Soléna Estate. Clos Gallia won’t begin to produce until the crush of 2018, but this 10-month program of 50% new barrel shows off aromas of cocoa butter, toast and lemon oil, followed by flavors toffee, toast and sweet lemon. (250 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Best Buy!

Eola Hills Wine Cellars 2015 Everyday Extraordinary Chardonnay, Oregon $12This popular brand in Rickreall, Ore., created this tier for wide appeal, using a blend of six vineyards and nine months of barrel aging for Chardonnay that carries a theme of citrus, sweet pineapple and enough acidity for fare such as crab, chicken and ceviche. (2,235 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $16One of the largest productions of Chardonnay in the tasting pulled heavily from the Wahluke Slope for this hedonistic expression that involved French oak and leads to notes of crushed banana, saffron, eucalyptus, mint and citrus. (4,262 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Maryhill Winery 2015 Tudor Hills Vineyard Proprietor's Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $29Richard Batchelor’s growing relationship with Tudor Hills Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley shows in this rather expressive Chardonnay that spent 10 months in 60% new French oak. Charming aromas of lemon meringue pie with the crust, a gingersnap cookie, jasmine and orange peel come through on the palate, and it’s just a touch off-dry. (488 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2015 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley $25Carlton, Ore., producer Byron Dooley offers his fans the juice from these seven barrels from Gran Moraine Vineyard that didn’t quite make the cut for his single-vineyard program. Only one of those barrels was new French oak, and that shows in the lightly toasty nose of caramel, clarified butter and pear with baking spices. It’s nicely structured and crisp with vanilla, green apple and lime flavors. (173 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Array Cellars 2014 Dijon Clone Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $32Few in Washington pay tribute to Chardonnay as fiercely as Henry Smilowicz, who seeks the guidance of Woodinville winemakers Brian Carter and Robert Takahashi for this selection of Dijon clone from historic Otis Harlan Vineyard near the heart of the Yakima Valley. Nearly a third of the barrels were new Burgundy oak with medium toast, and they all spent 22 months on the lees. There’s a sense of the California Chardonnay approach within those hints of apple, pear, butterscotch and toasted oak, none of which get in the way of the discussion of lemon and mint. (335 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Best Buy!

Fujishin Family Cellars 2014 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $15Martin Fujishin works both ends of this project in the Sunnyslope Wine District, overseeing 30-year-old Rose Cottage Vineyard — founded as Polo Cove — and bottling the wine under his own brand. He devoted six months to French oak, which explains the expression of toast, butter, lemon and Bosc pear that drinks akin to a California-reserve style. (207 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Sol Stone Winery 2016 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $22Buzz Buckingham hauled 8,578 pounds of hand-harvested Stillwater Creek Vineyard fruit back to his boutique winery in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, and his method of blending juice from new French oak, year-old barrels and neutral makes for aromas of apple, pear and mint followed by flavors of lemon, pear and pleasing oak influences that won’t get in the way of Northwest seafood. (250 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Wind Rose Cellars 2016 Bravo Bianco Chardonnay, Yakima Valley $22Olympic Peninsula winemaker David Volmut knows French Creek and Lonesome Spring Ranch vineyards from his days attending Yakima Valley College’s winemaking program. One brand new French oak barrel was blended with five barrels’ worth of juice, and this Chardonnay takes on qualities of gooseberry, kumquat and lime with secondary notes of jasmine and mint. (120 cases, 13.8% alc.)

This story was originally published March 19, 2018 12:00 AM.

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