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Lemelson Chardonnay 2001
Home to some of America’s most celebrated Pinot Noir, Oregon maintains a tight focus on small production, high quality wine even while the state’s industry enjoys steady growth. As a world-renowned wine region, Oregon has more than 700 wineries and is home to well over 70 grape varieties. With a mostly Mediterranean climate, its cooler and wetter regions lie in the west, close to the Pacific Coast.
By far the most reputed region is the Willamette Valley, which is further subdivided into six smaller appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton.
The Valley’s obvious success story is with Pinot Noir, which here takes on a personality that could be described in general terms as somewhere in between the wines of California and Burgundy—and is often more affordable than either one. The best Willamette Pinot noir has a rare combination of red and black fruit, elegant balance, high acidity and rustic earth. While completely enjoyable in their youth, some of the better, single vineyard or appellation-specific Pinot noirs can often benefit from some cellar time.
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.