Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

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Rick Allen
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Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#1 Post by Rick Allen »

Lately we've been drinking a lot of Oregon Chardonnay, mostly from my "holy trinity" of Walter Scott, Goodfellow, and Cameron. A recent back to back nights of 2018 Goodfellow Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge Chardonnays got my wife and I talking about the differences between the two, and whether they were AVA related or something else. The thing we noticed was that the Dundee Hills wine had a slight perceived sweetness to it compared to the Ribbon Ridge. We had noticed a similar sweetness in the Cameron Dundee Hills and Reserve Chardonnays recently as well, but haven't noticed anything similar in any of the Walter Scott bottles we've opened.

Last night we opened a 2018 Patty Green Durant Chardonnay (thanks Jim!), and it had a similar slight sweetness. It was an excellent wine - a little more angular and layered than the Goodfellow DH and a wine that needs more time, but that slightly sweet edge was there.

So now we'll open things up and try some other DH Chards to see if this is more widespread. We'll also try some other Oregon Chardonnays to see if we taste it anyplace else (a recent bottle of 2016 Martin Woods Willamette Valley Vineyards Chardonnay didn't). I have an 2016 Eyrie Original Vines and a 2016 Vincent Ribbon Ridge queued up for the next couple of nights, and I think I'll look to pick up a few more Dundee Hills bottlings (probably DDO and Crowley, maybe Domaine Obscene) to try. Stay tuned.

Winemakers, any thoughts?

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#2 Post by Richard T r i m p i »

Is it more about vintage and ripeness or terroir?

RT

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#3 Post by Rick Allen »

Richard T r i m p i wrote: January 13th, 2021, 4:37 pm Is it more about vintage and ripeness or terroir?

RT
That's the question. I've long noticed the edge of sweetness in the Cameron wines, but I didn't see the possible connection to place until recently. I will be trying other vintages as well, although so far it's held for 2016 and 2018 (granted a small sample size). We'll also see if it's clonal. The Goodfellow and PG wines were from Dijon clones. The Camerons are 108 and Draper selection. I have lots of material in the way of wines to play with.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#4 Post by Sean_S »

Very interesting Rick. Look forward to your future impressions here.
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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#5 Post by ChrisJames »

Rick Allen wrote: January 13th, 2021, 4:16 pm Lately we've been drinking a lot of Oregon Chardonnay, mostly from my "holy trinity" of Walter Scott, Goodfellow, and Cameron. A recent back to back nights of 2018 Goodfellow Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge Chardonnays got my wife and I talking about the differences between the two, and whether they were AVA related or something else. The thing we noticed was that the Dundee Hills wine had a slight perceived sweetness to it compared to the Ribbon Ridge. We had noticed a similar sweetness in the Cameron Dundee Hills and Reserve Chardonnays recently as well, but haven't noticed anything similar in any of the Walter Scott bottles we've opened.

Last night we opened a 2018 Patty Green Durant Chardonnay (thanks Jim!), and it had a similar slight sweetness. It was an excellent wine - a little more angular and layered than the Goodfellow DH and a wine that needs more time, but that slightly sweet edge was there.

So now we'll open things up and try some other DH Chards to see if this is more widespread. We'll also try some other Oregon Chardonnays to see if we taste it anyplace else (a recent bottle of 2016 Martin Woods Willamette Valley Vineyards Chardonnay didn't). I have an 2016 Eyrie Original Vines and a 2016 Vincent Ribbon Ridge queued up for the next couple of nights, and I think I'll look to pick up a few more Dundee Hills bottlings (probably DDO and Crowley, maybe Domaine Obscene) to try. Stay tuned.

Winemakers, any thoughts?
Walter Scott does not make a Dundee Hill Chardonnay, only Eola Amity. And Crowley is from McMinnville AVA. Sorry if you know this and I am misreading.

Kelley Fox makes a Durant Chardonnay which is soft and slightly sweet, but that may be her winemaking style. I think both of Vincent's Chards lean toward the tropical fruit side (Brickhouse RR and Tardive). You could also look for an Arterberry Maresh from Dundee. Try to find a Violin - Will makes really nice Chardonnay from the Coastal Range in McMinnville AVA, and Evesham Wood or Haden Fig from Eola Amity. Seth Long (Morgan Long) also makes a number of Chardonnay from different AVA, including a Durant.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#6 Post by Rick Allen »

One thing nice about living in McMinnville is that I have access to a lot of winemakers. Having a Brewery makes me pretty popular, particularly during harvest! I only brought up Walter Scott because I drink a lot of it, and I need wines from other AVAs to find the difference with regard to Dundee Hills.

We drank the 2016 Eyrie Original Vines last night - a fantastic wine with tremendous depth and concentration, and that little bit of sweetness. Eyrie has been a consistent top finisher in our annual Chardonnay tastings, and this wine was no exception.

Vincent is up tonight.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#7 Post by ChrisJames »

One thing that will be great is that Marcus is going to make 2019 Chardonnays from Durant, Whistling Ridge, and Temperance Hill. That will give us a chance to taste the same vintage, same producer, and three different AVAs. Apples to Apples to Apples.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#8 Post by Rick Allen »

Last night's 2016 Vincent Ribbon Ridge Chardonnay didn't show the sweet edge that I taste in Dundee Hills Chardonnays. I felt bad for the wine because the previous night's Eyrie was a tough act to follow. The wine was nice, but not at the same level (didn't cost nearly as much either).

I chatted with Marcus about this thread, and he said that he finds what he calls "fruit sweetness". I believe he said that it had to do with deeper soils and exposure. Hopefully he'll weigh in with a more in-depth explanation.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#9 Post by Rick Allen »

Tonight we opened a 2015 Cameron Abbey Ridge Chardonnay - Definitely had that sweet edge that I expect from the Dundee Hills, although in a sterner package. Apples, lemons, with a little bitter streak, but the sweet taste and aroma were there. The finish was long and inviting, and the mouthfeel was excellent. This was really good, though the Eyrie the other night was better. For those who don't know this wine (Clos Electrique tends to get all the hype), this is made from 45 year old Draper selection Chardonnay from a high elevation vineyard.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#10 Post by James Lyon »

Interesting. I haven't noticed this before. We opened a 2012 Arterberry Maresh Maresh Chardonnay on Saturday night and perhaps I noted a little sweetness on the back end. The wine was fantastic.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#11 Post by Richard T r i m p i »

2012, 2015 and 2016 are ripe vintages...just saying. This cries for a blind tasting. Even better if the taster has no idea what the wines are!

RT

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#12 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

We just opened the 2018s, except the Richard’s, to refresh notes for BD.

The wines are consistent with both my feelings on the AVA differences and support what Rick is saying. And while 2012, 2014, 2015, and to some extent 2016 are warmer, my 2018s are 12.1 and 12.3 respectively for Whistling Ridge and Ribbon Ridge and 12.6% and 13.0% for Durant and Dundee Hills.

I think Rick is referring to fruit sweetness, not residual sugar. There are 2-3 influences from the differences in the terroirs that I think help to understand how this could be so.
I’m also perfectly happy to do a blind tasting, to see if this holds up, between the vineyards(and AVAs), including Temperance Hill once the 2019s are bottled.

Genrally speaking, the predominantly volcanic soils in the Dundee Hills are deeper(4-6 feet deep) than in the sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge(20-36 inches deep). The volcanic soils also hold moisture considerably better than the sedimentary soils.

Our growing season is typically dry and warm from mid-June to mid-September, and dry farmed plants will deplete water considerably quicker in the sedimentary soils than the deeper volcanic soils.

Side note: Eola-Amity has some Jory soils(deeper volcanic) and quite a bit of Nekia soils(shallower volcanic soils about 3 feet deep), along with patches of other soils.

Less access to water leads to less leaf surface area. Larger leaf surface area is definitely connected to increased accumulation of sugars. It’s worth noting that both Jim Anderson and I worked with Durant fruit on the slope and down at the foot of the hill, and both of us opted to shift away from the slope to the foot of the hill. At the base of the hill the cool air aids in keeping sugars in check and the shade from the sun dropping behind the hill begins early. These are Dijon plantings, and the fruit has a lovely complex nature as long as it is picked early enough.

While I attempt to pick all of the fruit at a similar Brix level, the Durant almost always is .3-.7% higher abv. That adds richness, which in my opinion, helps to elevate the perception of fruit sweetness typical to the Dundee Hills wines that I make, and less typical of the Ribbon Ridge wines(Pinot Noir and Chardonnay).

Additionally, the contrasting Ribbon Ridge AVA runs out of moisture earlier. In addition to smaller leaf surfaces, the vines produce thicker skins to hoard moisture for when the top soil is depleted. At Whistling Ridge, wind is an additional factor inducing the vines to thicken the skins against dehydration, and the vines at Durant are sheltered from breeze by the hill behind the vines.

Thicker skins produce more phenolics and, IMO, give the wines a savory pithy quality when they are young that scrubs perceptions of fruit sweetness from the palate(in the way that a Negroni often seems less sweet than a cosmopolitan yet often contains as much or more sugar).

Tasting the wines tonight, both of the Dundee Hills wines seem more texturally rich, primarily through filling the mouth. The Ribbon Ridge has plenty of body, but very slight astringencies in the upper palate and cheeks pull it into the center of my palate and definitely occupy the early finish and length of the wine. The echo in the Dundee wines is a smooth reflection of the same lovely lemon blossom and nectarine of the mid-palate, where the echo in the Ribbon Ridge cuts the mid palate fruit short and shifts to a stonier/mineral/citrus peel finish. The Whistling Ridge is a more pronounced impression of this.

While the “sweetness”, IMO, is higher in the Dundee Hills wines, the perception of fruit sweetness in them is enhanced a lack of bitter structural components. And the Ribnon Ridge wines are defined by a higher degree of bitter(good) components in the sedimentary wines. I would opine that the same is true for the Pinot Noirs, although all of them have bitter components due to the use of stems. We utilize very close to 100% whole cluster with all of the Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs, and the wines are still rarely as structural as Whistling Ridge, while remaining more fruit driven(relatively speaking).

It’s worth noting that Jim Anderson ferments some of his Durant Chardonnay in concrete before moving it to barrel, and that medium for ferment may help to bring out some of the savory notes PGC is getting in their excellent Chardonnay. Maybe Jim can weigh in on this though.
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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#13 Post by John Osburn »

Great info, thanks Marcus. A fascinating topic.

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#14 Post by Jim Anderson »

What Marcus said.

Honestly, not much to add. We still get Chardonnay from the upper volcanic slope of Durant and from the lower marine plateau. We pick and ferment separately. We bottle them together. We could bottle the lower plateau stuff on its own. We could not (well, would not any longer) bottle the upper volcanic slope stuff on its own. The 2015 was 100% from there and while I like it still I think it is inferior, for a variety of reasons, to the current iteration.

We have Estate Vineyard Chardonnay this year although it will not be bottled as such. Despite a much longer hang time it never even got to 20 brix this year, reinforcing Marcus’ points about soils impact on ripening and the perception of fruit sweetness. Hopefully in 2021 we will see the real outcome from this fruit.

I think the concrete fermentation has led to cooler and more stable fermentations which have helped tone down the opulent nature of Dundee Hill fruit. I think it’s a fairly common thing around the world these days though. Tasting side by side with a puncheon fermented wine the results are easily identifiable.

I’m a novice at Chardonnay really but there’s no question that the DH character found in Pinot Noir translates to Chardonnay.
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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#15 Post by John Peacock »

Thank you Marcus and Jim for your insights.
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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#16 Post by ChrisJames »

Can someone explain to me what causes tropical flavors in Oregon Chardonnay? While I love the flinty/mineral presentation of Chards (i.e. Goodfellow RR or Walter Scott) I keep encountering ones that have that pineapple/coconut profile. That is definitely not a flavor I am desiring to drink expect maybe at a Hawaiian pool-side. A number of these have been from Dundee Hills, but not all of them (don't want to name names) and they are not all from the same vintage. Is this from soil type? Barrel? Wine-making?

Thanks

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Re: Dundee Hills Signature in Chardonnay

#17 Post by Jim Anderson »

ChrisJames wrote: January 21st, 2021, 9:16 am Can someone explain to me what causes tropical flavors in Oregon Chardonnay? While I love the flinty/mineral presentation of Chards (i.e. Goodfellow RR or Walter Scott) I keep encountering ones that have that pineapple/coconut profile. That is definitely not a flavor I am desiring to drink expect maybe at a Hawaiian pool-side. A number of these have been from Dundee Hills, but not all of them (don't want to name names) and they are not all from the same vintage. Is this from soil type? Barrel? Wine-making?

Thanks
Coconut, I presume you are talking about that suntan lotion style of coconut oil smell, is barrels. I find it revolting. We opened a wine a couple of days ago that smelled like NyQuil and Hawaiian Tropic.

Pineapple, in my mind and experience, is either/both high levels of ripeness (not necessarily overripe but then again one person’s ripe is another person’s overripe) and elevated fermentation temperatures.
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