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Willamette Valley Vineyards Dijon Clones Estate Chardonnay 1996
A combination of determination and extraordinary people has brought Willamette Valley Vineyards from a bold idea to one of the region's leading wineries, earning the title "One of America's Great Pinot Noir Producers," from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
The “budwood” of Willamette Valley Vineyards began long before its founding in 1983 by vintner Jim Bernau. His Dad was hired by a California winemaker to secure the first winery license in Oregon since Prohibition. Jim’s Dad allowed him small tastes of Richard Sommer’s wine, lighting a path that led Jim from home winemaking to studies at UC Davis and eventually Beaune, France.
In 1983, Jim cleared away an old pioneer plum orchard in the Salem Hills and hand-watered his first plantings using 17 lengths of 75’ garden hose.
Jim's vision of organizing the support of wine enthusiasts to build a winery that would produce world-class wines through shared ownership has resulted in more than 16,000 owners. The winery's Common (WVVI) and Preferred (WVVIP) are traded on the NASDAQ.
The winery sources all of its barrel-aged Pinot Noir from its estate vineyards and practices environmentally sustainable farming. All of the vineyards have been certified sustainable through LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon-Safe programs since 1997.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a Mediterranean climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and winter.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between 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. Silty, loess soils are found in the Chehalem Mountains.
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.