Earlier in the week I had the idea for this Chardonnay party and I’ve barely been able to contain myself. I only had to wait for my roommates to be back in town to complete the idea; fortunately they were agreeable. I’m providing the wine, and they’re providing the crab. It’s a pretty good deal for everyone. So the wines we’re drinking are as follows:
Haden Fig Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley
Belle Pente Chardonnay, 09 Willamette, Yamhill-Carlton, Belle Pente Vineyard
Domaine Serene “Etoile” Chardonnay, 10 Willamette, Dundee Hills
Its a Chard Party!
It would’ve been a travesty to open all three of these for just me, so I had to wait until I had people to share them with! The Haden Fig I picked up at Roth’s for $14.99, the Belle Pente was given to me as a gift last Summer (I believe the individual bottle cost is $30, but they occasionally do particular case specials at Belle), and to be honest, I have no idea how I acquired the Domaine Serene. I think someone gave it to me. Its retail cost is around $70. I’ve been saving it for a while now. So thats why I’m breaking the “repeat grapes allowed only once” rule: a special occasion! So there will be three Chards in my Thirty Oregon Wines project, mmmkay? Don’t care? Didn’t think so.
I sort of included an extra Chard on purpose- I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium coming up on March 15th!! I didn’t really discover Oregon Chard until I came to OPC in June of 2013. The following Spring I remember seeing posts about the Symposium from my then home in SC and seriously considering getting on a plane and coming here for 48 hours JUST to go to it.
That should cue you in to something: I. Freaking. Love. Oregon. Chardonnay. What else do I like? Crab. Lots of crab. So that’s what we’re doing tonight. I severely apologize if you end up hangry/jealous/hating me at the end of this post.
So these are three very different wines from three price ranges and three areas of the Willamette Valley. Haden Fig is a relatively small producer located in the Eola-Amity Hills. The owner was the winemaker at Evesham Wood for many years before launching the Haden Fig label in 2008. I used to sell a bit of the Haden Pinot Noir in SC, but it was only scantily available. It did develop a small fan base in Columbia, mostly because it was good, but also because people loved the owl on the bottle. I gotta say, I love that owl, too. So how excited was I to see this lil guy at the grocery store?! And for such a reasonable price!
Belle Pente and I have a long history. It was actually one of Brian’s Pinots that *first* made me think to myself- “hey, I like Oregon Pinot Noir.” This was back in roughly 2008, when I first started managing at the restaurant. Bossman let me pick a bottle for staff training a few times a week, and it had to have been his ’07 Willamette Valley, maybe ’06, that I picked. I wish my memory was that good, unfortunately it ain’t. But it stuck with me. Then I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with Brian, Jill, their daughter and their dog Peanut at OPC in 2013, and decided they were the nicest people alive. And here we are in 2015, and I live 5 minutes from their winery. In fact, I dropped in on Jill just yesterday because I had to get a picture of the sunset…
I mean, come on. I can’t even.
Their Estate Chard comes from a small two-acre parcel that faces southwest, planted in 1999. Usually between 300-400 cases a year are made. Brian dabbles with using Oregon oak now and then, something that is relatively unexplored in Oregon; however, I can’t speak to how much/if any was used in this wine. According to a few sources, Oregon oak can be very aggressive and wily. But used sparingly, carefully? Hmmmm…. Only time will tell.
The Domaine Serene is sort of the “crown jewel” of this party. $70 definitely isn’t chump change for most people, but when I had this bottle a in 2013, it was an eye-opener. Mostly because I couldn’t believe how freaking good it was. More on that later. Lets get to individual tasting notes…
Do you heart this owl? I do.
So this little guy sits at just 150 cases made, from two vineyard sites in the Eola-Amity Hills. For the price, I’m pretty impressed with it. I can easily see it as a restaurant glass pour- if I went to a restaurant and paid $9 a glass for it, I’d be happy. Bright, streamlined and linear, it cuts right to the chase with honeydew, golden apple, lots of citrus, and a hint of toast. It showcases the nice acidity and energy that Oregon Chardonnay in general personifies. It hits a nice note and finishes quietly.
The Belle Pente has a very outgoing nose, and the three of us concede that this particular bottle is the most charming of the three. The warmth of 2009 is definitely at play here; the oak is clearly defined yet not overpowering. Touches of warm vanilla, honeyed pears, peaches, orange blossom, and prickly pineapple. The oaking in this wine is intriguing; its supportive, yet also at times steals the show. Not on every sip, but every couple sips I get a very enigmatic spice component as well. I may be biased, but I’m in total support of this bottle and think its a perfect segue for California Chard whores who need to see the grape in a not-so-slutty way. Pardon my language there, but I can’t help it.
So… hmm.. what can I say about this wine? It’s nuts. Worth every penny. I can’t back down from that opinion. The wine is insane. Its as pure as Snow White. Its as balanced as an Olympic athlete on a balance beam, with enough muscle to support its frame. Chisled and Chablis-like, it opens with a nose of bright lime zest, wet stone, white flowers and green apple. A vague creamy indication lingers in the background, an indicator of things to come. The mid-palate absolutely blooms with vanilla- but not in-your-face vanilla; like delicate, integrated vanilla. And texture! Oh, texture. It pierces just a little, but caresses. I really can’t even. This wine is drinking like a dream right now, with 5 years in bottle, yet I really think it’ll age for at least a decade.
Did I mention Crab?
Crab and Chardonnay are, at this moment in my life, my top pairing. The buttery texture of Oregon Dungeness crab, combined with the texture and minerality of Oregon Chard are literally a match made in heaven. It has to be experienced to be believed. It defies explanation.
So, what should you take from this long and over-explanatory post about Oregon Chardonnay? You need it! Oregon is on the precipice of absolute world-class Chardonnay production, and that “secret” is pretty much out, to a lot of people. But not all the way. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, Chardonnay is going to keep it there. It’s the next big thing. And I think you need it. Now. And some Dungeness crab. Just do it.
Cheers to days 8, 9 & 10! Thanks for reading and there’s more wine to come!