Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
03.13.2014  
 

Oregon Winemakers Rally Behind Chardonnay

Vintners hope to draw on success of Pinot Noir, entice wine-drinkers to try Oregon Chardonnay

 
by Peter Mitham
 
 
“chardonnay
 
Josh Bergström, winemaker for Bergström Winery, told attendees at the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium that Oregon needs to find its own style for the varietal wine rather than trying to imitate Burgundy or California.

Dayton, Ore.—Chardonnay is enjoying a revival of sorts, and Northwest winemakers are in the vanguard of reinventing the grape for a new generation of wine drinkers.

Harvest figures for 2013 from Washington state recently highlighted the variety’s ascension to the throne of white grapes, while in Oregon winemakers attending the third annual Oregon Chardonnay Symposium on March 8 proved that there’s plenty of room for differences in style.

A technical panel of nine winemakers agreed that Chardonnay from Oregon shouldn’t try to be Chardonnay from some other part of the world—but defining Oregon Chardonnay remains an ongoing work.

“Oregon is Oregon, and we shouldn’t try to be Burgundy,” said Veronique Drouhin, winemaker at Domaine Drouhin Oregon. She encouraged the purest possible expression of local grapes—although it was clear from the wines on offer during the technical seminar and at the grand tasting that followed that local grapes can express themselves in diverse ways.

The more than 40 wines being poured during the grand tasting—a shortlist selected from more than 70 considered—ranged from those in a Burgundian style to those hinting at the richness of the expressions for which California is known, and at times reviled. Two or three were shot through with sharp citrus notes, while many were restrained as if fearing to venture too far one way or another—bearing out the general resistance to following the California model of buttery, oak-warmed wines.

That route, in the words of Dominique Lafon of Evening Land Vineyards, would be, “kind of like a disaster.”

Yet if the ways to avoid “disaster” are many, a signature style remains elusive.

Search for a signature style
“I would not be able to say today, ‘This is how Oregon Chardonnays are,’” Lafon said, noting that his own preference is for a lighter, more elegant style.

However, site, climatic conditions and clonal selection will give individual winemakers more than enough material to work with.

This is the case for Josh Bergström, winemaker for Bergström Winery in Newberg, Ore., who studied in Burgundy and recognized a disaster of sorts with his 2003 vintage. He produced his worst wine ever that year, a Chardonnay he describes as, “a banana cream pie of a wine.”

Turning his back on the big, rich flavors the market seemed to demand, he began to explore the idea of producing Chardonnay the way Oregon had been producing Pinot Noir—choosing sites with care, and extending that care to the management of the vineyard.

The result were grapes—and wines—that proved to him that Burgundy should only inspire Oregon to be itself rather than serving as a mirror or a wishing well for the state’s own enological aspirations.

His comments were echoed by Robert Brittan of Brittan Vineyards, who also makes wine for other local producers (including Ayoub Wines and Winderlea Vineyard & Winery).

Brittan said that Oregon producers need to give Chardonnay the dedication it demands, rather than making it to stock shelves. He warned that Oregon may not have a signature style of Chardonnay for another two generations; in the meantime, producers need to bear that in mind and spend the interim crafting wines that work toward the signature style that will emerge.

Pinot Noir paves the way
Another responsibility that falls to producers is developing the public’s openness to discovering Chardonnay that’s unique to Oregon. Some of the ground has already been prepared by that other Burgundian variety, Pinot Noir.

David Adelsheim told symposium attendees that he’s travelling to Europe this week without any of the Pinot Noir for which Oregon is known, only Chardonnay. The reason for that, he said, is that the world’s acceptance of Pinot Noir from Oregon lays in the wine’s quality—and a willingness to have their opinion of what Oregon and the New World could offer.

“This has opened up the mental possibility to think Oregon might be able to excel at Chardonnay,” he said.

And excelling at Chardonnay will require working with the place that Oregon is, and crafting high-quality wines that can’t be mistaken for wines from elsewhere. “A lot of the work that we have to do is about place,” he said. “It’s not about how big can we make it.” Yet if there’s one area where Chardonnay has an opportunity to go big, it’s in acreage.

Bergström said aspirations for the grape need to be matched by acreage, which continues to lag behind that of other varieties in the state. Oregon boasts 15,369 acres of Pinot Noir and 3,426 acres of Pinot Gris, while Chardonnay trails in third place at just 1,160 acres. That’s midway between a peak of 1,603 acres in 1998 and the most recent low of 842 acres hit in 2005, when Pinot Noir began sending the aspirations of other grapes sideways.

Outside of Oregon
By contrast, there are approximately 7,654 acres in Washington state, where Chardonnay trumped Riesling last y ear with a harvested volume of 40,500 tons.

British Columbia’s most recent grower survey reports approximately 917 acres of Chardonnay.

While the production numbers show the grape has room to advance, Chardonnay is hardly the Northwest’s new best friend.

B.C.’s Okanagan Valley garnered one of its first major accolades, the International Wine and Spirits Competition’s Avery Trophy, in 1994 on the strength of Mission Hill Family Estate’s 1992 Grand Reserve Barrel Select Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is also a personal favorite of Hennie van Vuuren, director of the Wine Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, which is working to sequence the Chardonnay genome.

Meanwhile, in Washington state, winemakers such as Charles Smith are eyeing single-vineyard Chardonnays that reflect the grape’s renaissance.

With the symposium in Oregon rallying enthusiasm for the grape, winemakers can count on something more than a sparkling future for the variety.

 

SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
April 2015 $627 million
5%
$8,028 million
5%
April 2014 $595 million $7,623 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
April 2015 $184 million
17%
$1,890 million
15%
April 2014 $157 million $1,649 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
April 2015 406
34%
252
19%
April 2014 302 212
     
 
MORE » Released on 05.15.2015
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2015
 
Download full report »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • May 28-29
     
    Direct2015
     
  • May 28-30
     
    WIneMaker Annual Conference
     
  • May 28-30
     
    International Chardonnay Symposium
     
  • June 2
     
    Taste of Mendocino
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: $10 Wine Would Cost $40-plus Under COOL »
 
As a Napa Valley producer, we have spent 30 years building our brands in the...
Reader: Pete Przybylinski
 
Article: Be a Sustainable Wine Ambassador »
 
A great idea. All TR employees at every responsible estate should be encouraged/required to become...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Historic Napa Winery Standing Tall Again »
 
It would be nice to know that Trost Jacking and Heavy Moving is the structural...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Women for WineSense offering scholarships »
 
This is fantastic! Women in Wine Education must find ways to continue their individual pursuit...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Historic Napa Winery Standing Tall Again »
 
Very Interesting, I'm so glad the building is successfully being saved.
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Region Sales Manager -...
 Manchester, NH
Sales and Marketing
 Senior Brand Manager
 Napa, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Wine & Spirits Consult...
 New York, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Marketing Coordinator
 New York, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Maintenance Technician
 Manteca, CA
Cellar, Lab and Production
 Bottling Maintenance T...
 Manteca, CA
Cellar, Lab and Production
 On/Off Premise Account...
 New Jersey, New York Ny, Long Island, NJ
Sales and Marketing
 Accounting Clerk/Admin...
 Santa Rosa, CA
General Administration and
 Cellar Harvest Worker
 St. Helena, CA
Cellar, Lab and Production
 Harvest Intern/ Part T...
 Carlton, OR
Cellar, Lab and Production
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.