More than any white in Washington, chardonnay is on the rise.
During last fall’s harvest, winemakers brought in 45,000 tons, second only to Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, chardonnay remains the Golden State’s No. 1 wine, so consumers have a thirst for the wine traditionally associated with the French region of Burgundy and Chablis, also in Burgundy.
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s oldest and largest winery, is famous for Riesling, making more of that wine than any other winery in the world. This year, the Woodinville winery will make nearly as much chardonnay.
Here are several delicious examples of Washington chardonnay. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
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Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.
Owen Roe 2015 DuBrul Vineyard Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $48: Dr. Hugh and Kathy Shiels of Côte Bonneville fame direct hand-harvesting of their low-producing vines for winemaker David O’Reilly. His investment in new French oak makes for engaging aromas of crushed banana, white peach, dried apricot, pineapple taffy and apple blossom. There’s a match on the palate as the graceful use of oak allows for light toffee, almond and butterscotch flavors, backed by bright and juicy orchard fruit. (13 percent alcohol)
Mercer Estates 2015 Reserve Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $29: Jessica Munnell, a proud graduate of Washington State University, dedicates half of the lots to new French oak barrels for 10 months. Gorgeous tropical fruit aromas of apple pie filling and cherry blossom lead to creamy and delicious flavors of Bosc pear and butterscotch flavors. Its sandy texture is backed by charming lemony acidity. (13.9%)
Dusted Valley Vintners 2015 Olsen Vineyard Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $34: One of the Walla Walla Valley’s most enterprising and successful wine companies continues to explore higher-elevation sites in the Yakima Valley for its chardonnay, and the Olsen family’s vineyard fits that. Multi-faceted fermentation includes new French oak barrels, some stainless steel and even a concrete egg, so the the nose is filled with lemon curd, apple pie and hazelnut. On the palate, it comes across as fruit-forward, food-friendly and juicy with a mix of creamy pear butter, marzipan and lemony flavors. This wine already has earned a gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Serve it up with clam and leek linguini. (13.6%)
Chateau Ste Michelle 2015 Indian Wells Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $18: Interest in chardonnay continues to grow, and Chateau Ste. Michelle is proceeding accordingly by increasing production by 6,000 cases of its pleasing, oak-influenced Indian Wells tier that relies on Wahluke Slope grapes. It is luscious, yet fruity and balanced after six months of barrel aging, with aromas and flavors of caramel corn, tropical fruit and vanilla with apple and pear notes. Enjoy with Dungeness crab, pork, chicken and salmon that are influenced by lemon zest, tarragon or thyme. (14%)
Ryan Patrick Vineyards 2015 Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $12: Considering the quality of the vineyards involved — Evergreen, Newhouse, Sagemoor and Wautoma Winds — it makes sense to keep the focus on the fruit with this chardonnay. As a result, its five months of surlie aging were done entirely without oak. That’s the “naked” part. Jeremy Santo’s work makes this downright yummy. Its theme of pineapple and lemon chiffon includes lime zest, peach blossom and Le Petit Beurre. There’s a touch of filbert skin in the background, and its refreshing finish screams out for scallops. (13.5%)
Columbia Winery 2013 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $14: Stainless steel fermentation with a bit of oak and eight months on the lees results in this fruity, butterscotchy and refreshing chardonnay. Aromas include Bosc pear, Jonagold apple and a hint of sweetened lemon, which come through on the dry and crisp palate. Touches of melon, hazelnut and pineapple add complexity. The Woodinville winery’s culinary team recommends serving it with Dungeness crab or Penn Cove mussels. (13.8%)
Gordon Estate 2015 Estate Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $22: This vintage marked the 30th anniversary of the Gordon brothers’ first wine produced from their estate overlooking the Snake River, and it features a blend of fruit and barrel notes, starting with aromas of Spanish almond, butter and toast that include caramel apple, grapefruit pith and lemon pepper. There’s less influence of oak on the acid-driven palate, which brings a juicy profile of Bosc pear and Granny Smith apple, backed by citrusy acidity. Try with Duck Tacos at the Gordon Estate Wine Bar in Pasco’s Broadmoor Park. (13.2%)