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Canoe Ridge Chardonnay 2004
ABOUT THE VINTAGE
The 2003 season started off a little on the cooler side but that quickly changed in early June as it went on to become the warmest year since 1998. This resulted in an earlier harvest than usual and fairly compressed– with everything ripening quite close together. It also made for a situation where physiological maturity, sugar maturity and flavor maturity coincided more so than in recent vintages.
ABOUT THE VINEYARD
Our estate vineyard sits above the Columbia River at its widest point, and therefore the climate is moderated by this large mass of water. Its location on the northeast side of the ridge protects the vineyard from the wind that sweeps up the Columbia River gorge. The vines are own rooted and planted in fine sandy loam soils with volcanic basalt subsoils, which slow vine growth and produce grape clusters and berries that are small and very concentrated in flavor and color. The fruit displays great structure and balance.
ABOUT THE WINE
Our 2003 Chardonnay was made in a manner to emphasize the fruit character in balance with the oak. A portion of the blend was barrel fermented, while the other portion was stainless fermented. This resulted in a wine with wonderful apple, pear and citrus notes, accented by some caramel and toasted coconut aromas from the barrels. The mouthfeel is crisp and clean, and there are hints of tropical fruit on the finish.
The crispness of this wine makes it a wonderful accompaniment to just about any chicken dish. This Chardonnay is also a natural with seafood dishes such as grilled shrimp, seafood paella and, of course, wild salmon. A Canoe Crew favorite is halibut filet encrusted with pistachios and parmesan cheese.
The winery uses traditional French cellar practices, such as small-lot fermentation, gentle handling and French oak barrels, to enhance the fruit. To allow the best expression of each lot, the winemaker tailors the yeast strains, barrel selection and fermentation practices to complement the many different dimensions of the fruit. The winery is known for its unique Merlot, which displays the traditional elegant, classic flavors of Bordeaux Merlot, yet has the suppleness of Pinot Noir.
A large and geographically diverse AVA responsible for a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington State’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA extends into northern Oregon as well. Because of its vast size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which is further split into three more even smaller AVAs. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences cold winters and long, dry growing seasons. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling, the styles of which depend on the warmth of the site. Citrus and green apple are common to both in cooler sites, while warmer vineyards will produce riper, fleshier stone fruit flavors.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based 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. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.