Brittan Chardonnay 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Stunningly rich, yet perfectly balanced, this is a superb bottle in every respect. Pinpoint ripeness leads to lush and spicy fruit flavors of apple, pear and banana. There’s a pleasing yeasty/bready note, along with lovely barrel toast (23% was new). The wine is smooth from start to finish, and just as good on days two and three, suggesting that it will cellar nicely. But why wait—it’s quite possibly going to be your favorite Chardonnay of the year. Editors’ Choice.
The 2016 Chardonnay, aged eight months in 30% new French oak, has an open nose of warm yellow apple, quince, dusty earth, dried hay, honey and oats with notes of crushed shell. It’s medium-bodied with a rounded, silky texture, intense, savory flavor layers and seamless freshness, finishing long and plush. 390 cases produced.
Robert Brittan left Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa after 16 years as Winemaker and Estate Manager to fulfill his dream of making Pinot Noir and Syrah from unique sites in cooler climates. His winemaking career began in his dorm room at Oregon State University, where he was a physics and philosophy major.
Being both geeky and broke, he soon realized that alcohol was an attractant to co-eds, so he began his career in fermentation sciences in order to get a date. He ultimately completed his education at UC Davis and moved to Napa Valley, where he made wines for Far Niente, Saint Andrews and Stags’ Leap Winery.
With over 40 years of experience growing grapes and making wine, he brings a significant amount of viticultural and winemaking knowledge to Brittan Vineyards. He has always had a passion for Pinot Noir, and hopes that with the fruit from the Brittan estate vineyard in the foothills of the Coastal Range, he can bring a new voice to the McMinnville AVA, and help form the style and definition of Pinot Noir from this recently designated winegrowing region.
In addition to his own wines, Robert is also the winemaker for several other brands, to include: Blakeslee, deLancellotti, Fairsing, Noble Pig, Winderlea and Youngberg Hill. As a result, Robert is now making wines from all six of the sub-AVA’s of the Willamette Valley and has learned first hand that Pinot Noir lends itself to many wonderful interpretations, depending on the soils and microclimates where it is grown.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a continental climate moderated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture and the production of elegant wines.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation vineyard sites.
The valley's three prominent soil types (volcanic, sedimentary and silty, loess) make it unique and create significant differences in wine styles among its vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based, Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. In the most southern stretch of the Willamette, the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA soils are mixed, shallow and well-drained. The Hills' close proximity to the Van Duzer Corridor (which became its own appellation as of 2019) also creates grapes with great concentration and firm acidity, leading to wines that perfectly express both power and grace.
Though Pinot noir enjoys the limelight here, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Chardonnay also thrive in the Willamette. Increasing curiosity has risen recently in the potential of others like Grüner Veltliner, Chenin blanc and Gamay.
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 it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.