Dazzling Willamette Valley Chardonnays

As November begins it is time for a new session of #Winestudio. I am super excited about November’s session titled, “The Importance of Being a Willamette Valley Chardonnay” and will feature six beautiful Oregon Chardonnays over the course of the month. So strap in because I am sure as you read my articles this month your mouth will be watering and your fingers will be clicking to order the wines online. Please join #Winestudio each Tuesday in November at 8pm CST on Twitter.

Nov OR Winestudio week1

Protocol Wine Studio“What is #WineStudio? PROTOCOL wine studio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.”

Why a singular focus on Chardonnays from Willamette Valley? Once again, Protocol explains:

There’s been talk of a Chardonnay renaissance in Oregon, more precisely Willamette Valley and for our November program we’ll get into it citing terroir, sustainability, biodynamics, philosophy, adventure and the future of Oregon Chardonnay. It’s an evolution of palate that began in the 70s and has come to be the slow path toward serious and purposeful Chardonnay. Oregon winemakers have always embodied community–sharing ideas, practices–together finding what works best for a future of Oregon Chardonnay – a new wine paradigm that truly embodies what the region can produce.

Since you are a wine lover, I encourage you to join the weekly #Winestudio conversation. I guarantee you will learn a great deal, meet new people, and have fun! Now on to the first two wines of this month’s “The Importance of Being a Willamette Chardonnay!”

Nov OR Chard EyrieEyrie Vineyards Original Vines 2012 Chardonnay Reserve Dundee Hills: This exquisite wine poured a beautiful straw yellow into the glass. It met the nose with crisp and bright aromas of orchard fruit along with subtle citrus and herbal notes. This light and lively Chardonnay offered layers of smooth flavors on the palate; apples, pears are combined with toasted almonds, a touch of spice and minerality, while finishing with a lingering tartness of lemon/lime zest. Rather than overpowering the palate with butter and oak, this Chardonnay offered elegance with depth of terroir. The Eyrie Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay Reserve contained 12.5% alcohol with an SRP of $45-50. Jason Lett, winemaker, said “terroir, farming and non-intervention are key” to his winemaking style; which was evident in the Chardonnay. He went on to explain he uses a lot of neutral barrels from the 80’s and 90’s to allow the wine to obtain its full, uninhibited flavor profile; believing a little oak goes a long way. Eyrie Vineyards was the first to plant Chardonnay in Willamette. Today the production level of Chardonnay is still very controlled by Eyrie at 400 cases a year; focusing on maintaining quality over quantity. Eyrie is a boutique vineyard. Jason inherited the vineyards from his father David, who is a Willamette wine making legend. Jason said, “One of the best things about my job is the freedom to explore and hold the where needed….Eyrie is a bit of a one horse show; I’m the current horse.”

One thing Rockin Red Blog loves about Jason Lett is his experimentation with music in the winemaking process. In his article “Extreme Wine: Mad Wine Science in Oregon,” Mike Veseth described back in January 2012 how Jason experimented with playing Hildegard to one set of grape juice and yeast during fermentation while simultaneously playing Coltrane to an identical set of grape juice and yeast during their fermentation. Upon tasting both the final results of these two different fermentations Mike and his wife Sue believed there indeed was a taste difference. I asked Jason during #Winestudio if he was still conducting these experiments and he said “Yes.” Hhhhmmm….I wonder what music he used to ferment his outstanding 2012 Chardonnay Reserve.

Nov OR Chard Cooper MountainCooper Mountain 2012 Chardonnay Old Vines Willamette Valley: This lovely wine poured an inviting golden yellow into the glass. It opened with outstanding aromas that made my mouth water because it had a full bouquet of apple pie: crisp apples with a touch of citrus, baking spice and fresh baked pie crust (not buttered brioche which can be doughy and weighty). This outstanding aroma delivered (thankfully) on the palate: Granny Smith apples, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, marzipan and a touch of toasted pie crust. It was so delicious! This wine was an expression of Cooper Mountain’s oldest Chardonnay vines, planted in 1978. Like the Eyrie, it was an elegant expression of restraint and terroir; pleasing to every sense. This wine is very limited in production at only 200 cases annually. Although Cooper Mountain utilized oak barrels for fermentation they have done so in a way that allowed the beauty of the terroir and unique soil composition resulting from a volcanic eruption over 50 million years ago to shine. This Chardonnay contained 13% alcohol and has an SRP of $30. Cooper Mountain’s philosophy is “wine is memory of land;” therefore, as Barbara Gross explained to #Winestudio, Cooper Mountain upholds organic and biodynamic practices “for the health of the soil; not as a punchline!” Isn’t that awesome! Cooper Mountain maintains their organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyards and the cellar; thus producing 100% organic, biodynamic wines.

Nov OR Chard dinner1

I paired both of these delicious Chardonnays with two meals: open-faced fried egg sandwich crafted from sourdough bread, crisp turkey bacon, beefsteak tomato slices, Havarti cheese, fried egg, sliced avocado and arugula. The wines were both outstanding with this delicious, flavor-full weeknight meal. Additionally, I paired both wines with home-made salads crafted from chopped Romaine lettuce and topped with hard boiled eggs, chopped turkey bacon, avocado, black olives, tomato, crumbled blue cheese, roasted salmon and homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Another delicious, outstanding meal that paired beautifully with these two Willamette Chardonnays. Furthermore, I recommend any poultry, seafood or creamy pasta dish with these Chardonnays.

Nov OR Chard dinner2

November #Winestudio is off to a great start! If you missed the first week of #Winestudio it is not too late. The rest of the month is full of what I am sure are equally outstanding Willamette Chardonnays. These two wines are drinking beautifully now and I believe they will age elegantly for years. I highly recommend these two wines and cannot wait for the rest! Thank you to Eyrie Vineyards, Cooper Mountain Vineyards and Protocol Wine Studio for providing these wines.

My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with Eyrie Original Vines 2012 Chardonnay Reserve and Cooper Mountain Old Vines 2012 Chardonnay is I Believe by REM. I have loved this song since high school. Whenever I hear it my mind’s eye sees the beauty in nature; wind, sun, mountains, hardworking people, smiles, clouds, dirt on hands, car driving in the rain… you get the idea. And to me all these great visions is WINE: crisp, clean, romantic; it has to be a beautifully crafted Chardonnay!

Get your own bottles of Eyrie Original Vine 2012 Reserve Chardonnay and Cooper Mountain 2012 Old Vine Chardonnay and let me know what song you would pair with them. Cheers!


9 responses to “Dazzling Willamette Valley Chardonnays”

  1. I will have to check out the wines included this month for the Wine Studio. So far I have not had any luck finding the included wines here in Alberta but I might have better luck with Oregon wines. Would love to participate in the Wine Studio chats 🙂 Great post!

    • Please join the chat tomorrow! These wines are crafted from boutique wineries with small production; therefore, these wines must be ordered direct from the winery. They are well worth the extra effort and wait! Thanks for your comment. Cheers!

      • No luck on the wine, but I will join in – I’m hoping to take a wine-cation to Oregon next Spring so good research 🙂 Thanks Michelle!

  2. I really need to get my lips around some more Oregon wine. I loved my visit to California and have thoroughly enjoyed a few wines from Oregon (Bergstrom especially) and Washington State – I am a true USA wine convert! I will seek some more out!

    • As you know I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your visit to CA! These are my first two OR Chards. They were really good! I will be trying more this evening so keep watch for next week’s article. I don’t love Chardonnay but good chardonnay is sooooo good! Cheers.

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