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Henry Estate Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (half-bottle) 1998
Three substantial mountain ranges intersect to create a region of great diversity, not only in soil and topography but also climate and as a result, grape varieties.
Where the Klamath Mountains, Coast Range and Cascades converge, is the rather small AVA, the Umpqua Valley, which boasts over 150 soils in a total growing area of merely 1,500 acres. The soils range from sedimentary, metamorphic or volcanic where valley floors are deep alluvium and heavy clay and hillsides are typically silt or clay.
In the Umpqua Valley AVA, vineyards in the north are cooler and wetter; cool climate grapes such as Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Riesling do well. In the warmer and dryer south mainly Syrah and Tempranillo thrive. But growers here are not afraid to investigate new grape varieties; the region is home to over forty types.
There are two sub-AVAs within the boundaries of the Umpqua Valley: Red Hill-Douglas Country, established in 2004 and Elkton, established in 2013.
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.