Oct 13, 2014

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Oregon Chardonnay Symposium 2014 and What’s to Come for 2015

Last spring, taking place at the beautiful Stoller Family Estate in Oregon’s layered and rolling Dundee Hills, the 2014 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium began with a Technical Panel and Tasting that had a very impressive line-up of Oregon Chardonnay producers.  From some of the well-known pioneers like David Adelsheim (who brought the first Dijon Chardonnay clones into the state) to today’s generation of impassioned producers like Melissa Burr of Stoller Family Estate – we wine enthusiasts were all ears when each panel member shared their thoughts on the future of Oregon Chardonnay.

During the tasting, which included nine incredible Chardonnays from nine different producers throughout the state, I was remarkably impressed with the common vision the panel members had for the future of Oregon Chardonnay: plant Chardonnay on your best blocks, the future for this popular and well-known varietal that thrives in our climate is far beyond promising.  Their common vision, along with their individual voices and styles, are a force that is bound to heighten worldwide recognition for Oregon’s elegant, terroir driven Chardonnays.

Each of the panel members discussed their thoughts on Oregon Chardonnays while we sampled their selected wine.  David Adelsheim thinks that Oregon’s Chardonnays are about “elegance, transparency and purity,” which perfectly describes his 2012 Willamette Valley Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay with its super fresh, focused and clean fruit that was very elegant, structured and quite classic characteristically.  Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines thinks that “vibrant acidity and mineral freshness” are of the utmost importance, which he totally accomplished with his 2011 Sigrid Chardonnay – it was one of my favorites of the day.  Jesse Lange of Lange Estate winery believes that “acidity is the framework for white wine,” and everyone on the panel appeared to nod in agreement.  The Lange Estate 2012 Three Hills Cuvee most certainly offered a solid acidic backbone that rounded out the subtle, juicy fruit qualities to perfection.

Technical Panel and Tasting at the 2014 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium

Technical Panel and Tasting at the 2014 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium

Two of the panel members who brought an international flair to the conversation were Dominique Lafor of Evening Land Vineyards and Véronique Drouhin of Domaine Drouhin Oregon.  Véronique noted that “clones, soil and the relationship with one another” were very important for producing outstanding Chardonnay.  The wine she selected for the panel tasting was Domaine Drouhin’s 2011 Edition Limitée Chardonnay made from 100 percent Dijon clones, and the super complex qualities really defined this Chardonnays classic rich palate that expressed the varietals true characteristics – it was especially lush and lovely.

After the tech panel tasting, 40 select Chardonnay producers gathered for an unbelievable Grand Tasting of Oregon Chardonnays – the largest display of Oregon Chardonnay in one room to date.  Some of my favorites from the Grand Tasting were Keeler Estate’s 2012, Domaine Drouhin’s 2012 Arthur, Omero Cellars 2012, Crowley Wines Four Winds 2011, Kramer Vineyards 2012, Big Table Farm 2012, North Valley 2011 Reserve, Brick House Cascadia 2011 and Evening Land’s 2010 Seven Springs Vineyard.

Really, the list goes on and on – Oregon has a plethora of Chardonnays that are absolutely divine and of the highest quality. Our producers are creating world-class wines that are true to the varietal, and without a doubt, fully deserve world-wide recognition.

And one Chardonnay I was lucky enough to sample is a true testament to how Oregon’s Chardonnay’s can stand the test of time and age with absolute beauty and grace, while retaining elegance, complexity and stellar depth of character: The Eyrie Vineyard’s 1988 Chardonnay – wow. Simply wow.

Oregon wine pioneer, David Adelsheim, discussed his thoughts on the future of Oregon Chardonnay while I reveled in the Adelsheim Vineyards Caitlin’s Reserve

Oregon wine pioneer, David Adelsheim, discussed his thoughts on the future of Oregon Chardonnay while I reveled in the Adelsheim Vineyards Caitlin’s Reserve

The 2015 dates for the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium were recently announced.  Taking place, once again, at the beautiful Stoller Family Estate on Saturday, March 14, 2015, the technical panel will be moderated by acclaimed sommelier, Rajat Parr.  Just like last year, over 40 select Oregon Chardonnay producers will be pouring their wine for the Grand Tasting that immediately follows the Technical Tasting.

The 2015 theme for the technical tasting is “Attack of the Clones,” and Parr will lead a group of pioneers and producers in a discussion of the past, present and future of Oregon’s Chardonnay, focusing the conversation on heritage and Dijon clones.  Panelists will include Thomas Bachelder of Bachelder Wines, Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights Vineyards, Jason Lett of the Eyrie Vineyards, John Paul of Cameron Winery and Craig Williams of X-Novo Vineyard.

Paul Durant, co-founder of Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, said, “Our fourth annual event will delve deeper into what makes Oregon Chardonnay unique.  We are particularly focused on the distinct characteristics of the various clone groups, from farming to bottle.”  Paul Durant is also co-owner of one of the Willamette Valley’s most unique destinations, Red Ridge Farms, which encompasses a lavender field, cool-climate olive grove, nursery, gift shop, lodging, Durant Vineyards & tasting room, the state’s only olioteca and the Oregon Olive Mill.  Durant Vineyards produces stunning Chardonnay.

Noted sommelier Erica Landon, co-owner of Walter Scott Wines; as well as, co-founder of the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium said, “We were thrilled by the response to last year’s event, and are looking forward to unveiling the 40 select vintners later this fall.”  The vintners are selected through a blind tasting conducted by Oregon sommeliers, wine writers and top wine retailers, and Landon is coordinating the vintner submissions for the 2015 event.

A true testament to Oregon's elegant, ageworthy Chardonnay: The Eyrie Vineyards 1988 Chardonnay flourished with gorgeous aromas and flavors.

A true testament to Oregon’s elegant, ageworthy Chardonnay: The Eyrie Vineyards 1988 Chardonnay flourished with gorgeous aromas and flavors.

Tickets are now available for the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium on www.oregonchardonnaysymposium.com.  The combination Technical Panel and Tasting and Grand Tasting are $150 per person and individual Grand Tasting tickets are $50 per person.