Bethel Heights Casteel Chardonnay 2016
The 2016 Casteel Chardonnay opens with aromas of preserved lemon, brioche, white pepper and ocean air. The palate is both graceful and energetic, displaying the tension of a wine that will age gracefully.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Very complex and sophisticated, flinty, reductive notes that play into fresh and vibrant, yellow citrus fruit. The palate has a very assertive, long and detailed core of fresh citrus flavors and a wealth of mouthwatering acidity driving the long finish. Exciting chardonnay.
Tasted from magnum, the 2016 Chardonnay Casteel opens with intense mineral notions on the nose, aromas of pulverized stone and petrichor over lemon meringue, Red Delicious apples, hazelnuts, honey toast and clotted cream. Medium-bodied with a light creamy texture, it has beautiful white flowers in the mouth with honey nut and apple pie nuances and a streak of crushed rock running with the very bright acidity, finishing very, very long and honeyed.
This barrel selection is the winery's reserve, with 60% sourced from Wente clones planted in 1977 and the balance coming from the Justice Vineyard planted in 1999. Seamless threads of orange, tangerine, peach and apricot are finished with a streak of buttery caramel, and a final flourish of toasted cashews. It strikes a fine balance of fruit, acid and oak-derived flavors. Drink now through the early 2020s.
Planted between 1977 and 1979, Bethel Heights was one of the first vineyards in the Eola Hills, a chain of hills in the center of Oregon's Willamette Valley. The estate winery was established in 1984 and currently produces 10,000 cases of wine annually, most of which still comes from the 50 acre estate vineyard. Bethel Heights specializes in Pinot Noir, but also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.
Running north to south, adjacent to the Willamette River, the Eola-Amity Hills AVA has shallow and well-drained soils created from ancient lava flows (called Jory), marine sediments, rocks and alluvial deposits. These soils force vine roots to dig deep, producing small grapes with great concentration.
Like in the McMinnville sub-AVA, cold Pacific air streams in via the Van Duzer Corridor and assists the maintenance of higher acidity in its grapes. This great concentration, combined with marked acidity, give the Eola-Amity Hills wines—namely Pinot noir—their distinct character. While the region covers 40,000 acres, no more than 1,400 acres are covered in vine.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.