Stoller Chardonnay 2015, Dundee Hills, Oregon
Stoller Chardonnay Reserve 2014, Dundee Hills, Oregon
P eople have been raving about Oregon pinot noir for years, and with good reason. The soil and climate combine to make some of the best pinot noir terroir in North America.
For more than a decade Oregon pinots have been getting top ratings all around the world.
Wine lovers often forget that the home of great pinot noir in Burgundy also is the home of great chardonnay. The same conditions that produce great pinot are ideal for chardonnay as well.
Stoller Family Estate has been taking advantage of those conditions to produce first-rate chardonnay and pinot noir for more than 20 years. These two wines are great examples of the kind of chardonnay that can be produced in cool climate areas. The regular Dundee Hills is an unoaked chardonnay while the reserve spends 12 months in oak.
We had both of these wines over a great meal with friends, and while we would have had a great time anyway, the wine was the icing on the cake.
The 2015 Dundee Hills is vibrant and stunning. It is a gorgeous pale gold in the glass with lively aromas of lemon and citrus. The first sip confirms that this is a special wine, full of fresh citrus with notes of pear, apple and tangerine.
The wine spends six months in stainless steel tanks, keeping the flavors fresh. Crisp acidity nicely balances the fruit to present a rounded, flavorful wine. The finish is long and lingering. My friend Steve said that while he doesn’t usually sense a long finish with most chardonnays, he thought both of these had a pleasant aftertaste.
The reserve had the same beautiful color with a more pronounced aroma emphasizing pear and spice. Fermentation and aging in oak gives the reserve more nuanced flavors with layer after layer of pear, apple, citrus and a backbone of refreshing acidity. It is a complex wine.
The grapes all come from nearly 200 acres of estate vines divided into 101 sections at elevations ranging from 220 to 640 feet. The winery picks, processes, ferments and ages each section of fruit separately before blending. That ensures more complex flavors. The grapes for the reserve come from older vines, mostly Dijon clones of chardonnay.
The Stoller estate focuses on pinot noir (63 percent) and chardonnay (28 percent), and includes small amounts of pinot gris, riesling, tempranillo, syrah, and pinot blanc.
Oregon wines will continue to grow in popularity and quality in the coming years. From 2011 to 2015 the Oregon wine industry grew faster than the rest of the economy. During that time wine grape acreage increased 18 percent and tons crushed by 83 percent. The number of Oregon wineries increased by 45 percent, and case sales of Oregon wine increased by 39 percent.
From 2010 to 2013, Oregon winery revenues increased 49 percdent and their net economic impact on the state grew by 28 percent. Pinot noir led the way. Between 2004 and 2013 the tonnage of pinot noir crushed in Oregon tripled. Combined with the highest average price per ton, that means that the value of pinot noir is more than four times that of any other grape in Oregon. Pinot gris is the next most important varietal by total value.
But watch out for chardonnay. Wine drinkers are starting to discover how good the Oregon version is.
Winery: Although the first Stollar Vineyards wine was from the 2001 vintage, the family roots run deep on the property in the Dundee Hills area of the Willamette Valley. Owner Bill Stoller was born on the property and raised on the family farm.
After earning a business degree and and MBA Stoller co-founded a staffing company that became the largest privately-held staffing company in the world. His business success has allowed him to pursue his passion for wine.
In 1993 he and his wife Cathy obtained part ownership in Chehalem Wines. Later that year the family turkey farm that had been established in 1943 by his father and uncle ceased operation. The Stollers bought the property from Bill’s cousin and decided to plant vines.
The land was marginal for farming, but the rocky, well-drained soil was ideal for growing grapes. The Stollers planted their first 20 acres of pinot noir and chardonnay in 1995. The estate is the largest contiguous vineyard in Dundee Hills, and the wines are produced from 100 percent estate fruit.
The winery was the first to receive LEED Gold certification, which means it is sustainably built and environmentally friendly.
The property has a 4,000-square-foot tasting room with floor-to-ceiling glass garage doors that open to the vineyards. It also has three guest houses available to rent.
Stoller produces chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot noir rosé.
Goes with: We had both of these beautiful wines with friends at a special occasion in Savannah. John D., who hosted us with his wife Edith, cooked low country boil with Savannah red rice, cole slaw and garlic bread. The meal was so good I would have been happy with just ice water, but the wines added another level of enjoyment.
This really was a special occasion because of all the ties I have to this group. Steve and Sandy, John D. and Edith, and John B. and Dorothy (who missed the Savannah dinner), invited me to join them on a trip to Napa Valley five years ago. We had a spectacular time and called ourselves the Magnificent Seven.
When I married Teri we became the Magnificent Eight after she passed the rigorous screening. Wine is what brought us together that first time, and we do like to share a few bottles now and then, but we have met in all kinds of places from Edisto Beach to Maggie Valley, N.C. We really like each other’s company.
This event was a concert by a talented singer/songwriter named Danny Schmidt. Steve and Sandy have had two house concerts with Danny and his wife Carrie Elkin. If you can be a groupie at this age (and I’m one of the younger members), the Mag 8 are Danny and Carrie groupies.
When JD noticed Danny was going to play at the Landings on Skidaway Island, he invited us all to stay at their house and go to the concert. We all jumped at the chance to get together and hear Danny.
Carrie stayed home in Texas because their first child is due in September, and she’s not taking any chances. JB and Dorothy couldn’t make it because they were attending a wedding.
But the rest of us had a grand time, starting with prosecco and then moving on to the low country boil and the Stoller wines. They both paired well with the meal and offered a nice contrast.
I thought the unoaked chardonnay was a better match that night, blending well with the sweet, juicy shrimp, sausages, corn and potatoes.
But the reserve also was wonderful and probably would pair better with a heavier, more complex dish.
Everyone around the table seemed to love both wines, but the unoaked version was the clear choice.
Our group is planning a fall trip to Oregon wine country, so we will be sure to look for Stoller. We will just have to bring along our CDs of Danny and Carrie. The concert was even better than we could have hoped for. Danny is one of the best songwriters in the country, and he is a virtuoso guitar player with a mellow voice.
The thrill of the night for me was when he played a song we requested about friendship. The key line is “When I die let them judge me by my company of friends.” I think the Magnificent Eight has decided we want that song played at our respective funerals.
If you can’t get low country boil to pair with these wines, they also would go well with a Waldorf salad, fennel-crusted chicken, goat cheese tart, grilled mahi mahi with passion fruit coulis, pear and blue cheese salad, grilled pork with preserved lemon, nearly any fresh fish or steamed shrimp.
Author Dennis Sodomka