I’m working on a rather lengthy piece on Oregon Chardonnay, both the history of as well as the future. I thought given my current writings, as well as a few tastings over the summer when I spent some time in the Willamette Valley, shipping an Oregon Chardonnay made a lot of sense.
Ok so then the question became, which one?
To start, Oregon Chard can be expensive and to get something that I really, really liked, I was having trouble finding someone relevant to pair it with. I knew I needed to make the pricing work….so a half bottle. If it’s too annoying, let me know and I can replace it. I’ve done this in the past, interestingly from Oregon, without incident so I hope you all are cool with it.
So there’s a couple of things that I’ve learned about Oregon Chardonnay. In the industry winemakers OBSESS over clones, consumers even the most ardent, can’t really tell the difference beyond other factors
But, in Oregon the clones being used for Chardonnay really do seem to have mattered. The grape didn’t really jump off in the state until Dijon clones made their way to Oregon.
Dijon is a region of France, that’s cold and wet. Oregon’s pretty cold and wet (by comparison, by comparison). Before that, they took the clones that were easiest to get and most available….stuff from California. Say what you want about the state in which I live, cold and wet isn’t how it’s normally described. Also, they attempted the Wente clone more than others.
Wente is a winery in Livermore. While Livermore once challenged Napa Valley for preeminence among Northern California grape growing regions, no longer is that up for debate. The reason? The region is about an hour east of San Francisco. It’s a warm, inland valley. It’s the type of spot where you know that the grapes are going to ripen. Back a hundred or so years ago, that was more important than it is today, at least for many folks.
Anyway, a warmer climate grape clone in Oregon? Yeah, what could go wrong?
Good for vintners in the region for adjusting to what the market would bear (increasingly more acidity is a good thing) as well as realizing what might be constraining sales of Oregon Chardonnay in the first place.
Don’t take my word for it: 90pts Wine & Spirits Magazine: The aroma on this wine brings to mind warm apples in the sun, the fragrance touched by oak and finely integrated on the palate. The salinity of its texture gives it energy, grip and precision, with enough detail to merit pairing with coq au vin blanc. We’re offering this as part of an Explorations Wine Club shipment (it’s our cheap club)
Lastly, what about Bethel Heights? The winery opened in 1977, largely funded by twin brothers. Now, they have 11 investors and have grown from their initial 14 acre investment, into a 75 acre parcel. Until the late 90’s they sold fruit to many different wineries, but over the years, they grew their own brand enough to handle all of the wine themselves. Plus, two of the original owners kids are now intimately involved in the business. One makes the wine, the other functions as the general manager.
Originally I heard about Bethel Heights from a history book, but also from Randall Grahm. Randall started Bonny Doon Vineyard and back in the 80’s, he was producing a huge range of wines, including an Oregon Pinot Gris from Bethel Heights. He still has good things to say about these folks, which only came up the last time I ran into him because I was set to take a family road trip (yes, partially for work) through Oregon and Washington.