While Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the country’s top regions for Pinot Noir, its Chardonnays are now getting new and well-deserved attention. Chardonnay has been grown in Oregon since the early 1970s but has always lived in the shadow of the region’s Pinot Noir. Not anymore.
The style is on full display in Adelsheim’s 2018 “Staking Claim” Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley’s Chehalem Mountains AVA. This gorgeous $35 wine, just released, is a benchmark for Oregon Chardonnay, delivering balanced perfection that almost demands another sip.
There’s a refreshing mineral component that announces itself when you first breathe in the wine. Its aromas — and pale straw color — also suggest that oak aging has been carried out with subtlety. Apple, pear, orange pith, and a hint of fresh oregano are the main tastes. Alcohol is a restrained 13 percent — a typical characteristic of Oregon Chardonnay compared with higher-alcohol offerings coming out of California.
The name of the wine, Staking Claim, refers to Adelsheim’s history as one of the original wineries in the Willamette Valley and the first in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. It was founded 50 years ago this year by David Adelsheim, who remains involved with the winery.
For me, the power of Oregon’s Chardonnay lies in its subtlety and restraint. This is a prime example.