WineStudio: Chardonnay, the Willamette Valley Way

I think my new goal in life, despite the apology that prefaced my interview with the Wine Chateau CEO, is to do rhyming titles for all my future wine posts. With this in mind, if anyone could help me find a rhyme for Gewürztraminer, I’d really appreciate it. Also, if anyone could let me know how to pronounce this without feeling like an idiot, I’d be cool with that too. I don’t have to worry about that mouthful quite yet because this post is all about Chardonnay. I’m still learning about these big guys like Chardonnay, so the days of understanding the odd, unknown wine lists fashioned by hipster sommeliers are years away. In order to learn some more before inevitably becoming the same hipster that I abhor now, I’ve spent the past few months participating in #WineStudio run by PROTOCOL Wine.

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As their website states, PROTOCOL wine studio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers. As you probably guessed, especially if you read my review of the first two weeks of November’s #WineStudio, the most recent one was all about Willamette (rhymes with Dammit) Valley Chardonnays. Side note: this post was almost entitled “Dammit, Willamette, I Love You” for all my other Rocky fans out there.

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Our exploration of this area was multifaceted as we both tasted and discussed the ins and outs of this often misjudged wine. We tried wines from different wineries while we talked about the Anything But Chardonnay outlook some people have, biodynamic wine making, and the different ways winemakers utilize oak barrels. If some of this sounds like fun to you, check out the Twitter conversation this upcoming Tuesday at 9pm EST, where the discussion has moved onto everyone’s holiday favorite: bubbly.

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We embarked on week 3 of #WineStudio with Omero Cellars, a family-owned winery that provided us with two different wines to try. The first was their inaugural Chardonnay vintage, the 2012 Willamette Valley Chardonnay, which aged for 10 months in French oak barrels before eventually finding a home in my mouth. With aromas of white peach, white flowers, and citrus that all followed through on the palate, this wine was elegant with a touch of acidity and minerality. At $38 per bottle and 275 cases produced, I’d imagine this wine will go quickly.

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Although I enjoyed the Omero Chardonnay, their 2012 Extended Elevage Chardonnay was a wine that I was all over. For me, it was a wine that made me think “Holy Moly; I want this all the time.” I gave sips of this one to different people in my family and someone described it as having similarities to beer, which was a comparison I couldn’t get out of my head. It certainly had a weight to it similar to a beer like Peroni. However, don’t let that deter you beer-haters from trying it. This bold straw-colored wine gave off lots of peach, green apple, and herby aromas, with more apple, pear, and citrus coming through with each sip. The bright acidity and depth in it cemented this one as a quality wine. It very well may be my new favorite Chardonnay, and with only 75 cases produced and an SPR of $58, get your hands on at least one bottle if you can.

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The final wine we tried during the last week of November was the 2012 Chardonnay Reserve Willamette Valley from Westrey Wine Company. This wine was aged in one new barrel and two one-year-old French oak barrels before being bottled without filtration after 12 months. On the nose there were aromas of apple and pear with a lot of the same mild fruitiness and some vanilla appearing on the palate. Highlighted by a nice balance and richness, this was by far the fruitiest of the wines we tried. Costing $32 a pop with 142 cases out there, this Chardonnay is a great deal and would be a good inclusion on any holiday table.

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Though I gave some pairing suggestions last time, I tried these wines with a variety of different food and found my favorite pairing of all during the last two weeks of this program. I’m a big fan of lox, and my open-faced Lox and Cream Cheese Sandwich worked fantastically with the Extended Elevage wine mentioned above. It cut through some of the creaminess of the cheese while also subtly underscoring the powerful smoked salmon. It was a pairing that I’d easily do again, especially since it was such a good yet simple one. If you’re into drinking wine and eating food at the same time (even though there is no shame in drinking wine on its own), give this one a go.

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While I will admit to having some prejudice against Chardonnay, it’s Chardonnays like the ones I tasted from the Willamette Valley that give me hope. I don’t think I’ll ever be into oaky ones that feel like someone’s let a wood chipper loose in my mouth, but there is a ton of deliciousness to be found in a number of Chardonnays. If this November #WineStudio just taught me one thing, it’s that there is a lot of versatility that can come from one area producing the same grape. I’d definitely recommend that all of you out there check out the upcoming sessions as it is a great resource to connect with wine, winemakers, and other wine enthusiasts…additionally, my family’s already sick of my snobby wine ways and are encouraging me to find others out there to bother, so please help them take me off of their hands.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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About A Famished Foodie

Food geek, wannabe Parisian, and lover of polka dots. Author of A Famished Foodie and Superior Spider-Talk contributor. Bold wine, sour beer & dessert make me nerd out.
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2 Responses to WineStudio: Chardonnay, the Willamette Valley Way

  1. I’m seeing lots of Chardonnay, for someone who doesn’t like Chardonnay… You’re going to end up liking it even more! 😉

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