Sometime in the past couple of years, I’ve come to appreciate drinking chardonnays that aren’t drenched in oak, which can mask some of the more delicate flavor notes of chardonnay.
Fermenting in oak can add a golden color and flavors of butterscotch or toast to the wine. But with shifting American palates, more and more wineries are going the stainless steel route, which lets the wine’s floral and more delicate notes shine through.
Most people don’t think of chardonnay when they think of Oregon whites. Pinot gris? Yes. Riesling? Yes, but not usually chardonnay.
But there actually are some good Oregon chardonnays, totally fermented in stainless steel, that are definitely worth trying, especially if the flavor of oak has turned you off to chardonnays.
A favorite of mine is the Pudding River 2008 Stainless Steel Chardonnay, which won a gold award at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. The winery’s already sold out, but you may be able to find it on the shelves at some retailers. This is a refreshing wine with a pineapple aroma and flavors of Granny Smith apples and mandarin orange.
Another on my list is the Chehalem 2009 INOX, which received a 90 from Wine Enthusiast, with flavors of kiwi and pear, and a jasmine aroma. If you can’t find the 2009, look for the current vintage of 2011 INOX.
Another favorite is the Bethel Heights 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay, with flavors of Asian pear and melon with a hint of flint.
A to Z Wineworks also makes a very drinkable and affordable chardonnay ($15) that is totally fermented in stainless steel. The 2010 A to Z Chardonnay has a tangerine aroma with flavors of honeysuckle, citrus, and stone fruit.
One that I haven’t tried yet but is on my tasting list is the J. Christopher 2011 Chardonnay Cuvee Lunatique. This wine is made with no oak and no malolactic (or secondary) fermentation.
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