New Wave Chardonnay

Image: Nick Stokes

The Pro: Todd Steele

At his Pearl District restaurant Metrovino, this seasoned wine pro harnesses the techy side of the grape with Enomatic wine preservation machines to offer more than 90 choices by the glass [Editor's note: Metrovino closed in September 2013]. Here, Steele reveals the best of Oregon’s gold—modern chardonnays that prove the grape has a home forever in our state’s barrel room. 

1. Bergström wines

2011 Chardonnay Sigrid • Willamette Valley • $80

Josh Bergström is one of the winemakers leading the charge of the next generation of Oregon chardonnay. The Sigrid, named after Bergström’s grandmother, is the winery’s flagship chardonnay, layered with notes of orange blossom, ginger, lemon curd, buttered corn, and baking spices with a silky, rich palate that’s cut with an edge of lemon, tangerine, and lime. 

2. Black Cap wines

2009 Chardonnay • Dundee Hills • $60

Sourced exclusively from David Lett’s pioneering 1966 plantings of chardonnay, this microproduction wine from Jason Lett’s second label oozes old-vine sophistication and modern class. Elegant, focused, and able to age well into the next decade, this stunner should be saved for a special occasion worth savoring. 

3. Antica Terra

2011 Chardonnay • Aurata • Willamette Valley • $75

Vibrant, clean, and invigorating, this racy bottle shatters expectations. Winemaker Maggie Harrison’s signature style is on display in this bottle that balances crisp apple and bright lemon aromas with creamy weight, minerality, and a bit of spice.

4. Brick House Vineyards

2011 Chardonnay • Cascadia • Ribbon Ridge • $36

Brick House’s Doug Tunnell is helping to redefine the varietal by artfully cultivating vibrant acidity and satisfying, creamy weight from biodynamically grown Dijon clone fruit. Bursts of lime, melon, and pears dance in a glass of this elegant, age-worthy golden beauty.

5. Evening Land Vineyards

2010 Chardonnay • Summum • Eola-Amity Hills • $90

Evening Land winemaker Isabelle Meunier’s Burgundian-style chardonnay employs native fermentation, gentle whole-cluster pressing, and close to a year in 27 percent–new oak barrels. The result is bright aromas of orange blossom, wet stone, tropical fruit, and flint. 

Breathtaking Bubbles

Image: Nick Stokes

The Pro: David Speer

Portland’s sole sparkling-wine sommelier opened Ambonnay—the first Champagne bar in the Northwest—in 2011, a jewel box of a space with a growing cult following. Speer also serves as an educator at his Red Slate Wine Company, so we called upon his expertise to spotlight five effervescent favorites worth relishing. 

1. Soter Vineyards

2009 Brut Rosé • Mineral Springs Ranch • Yamhill-Carlton • $65

Modeled on Champagne, this wine has become an ambassador of the potential for top-shelf sparkling wine in Oregon. With bright acidity, and notes of rhubarb, strawberries, apple blossoms, and dark-cherry skins, this is the bottle for your celebratory sipping. 

2. Argyle Winery

2009 Blanc de Blancs • Dundee Hills • $50

Often overlooked in favor of Argyle’s better-known sparklers, this crisp and delicious wine dances on the palate with plenty of green apple, lemon, and mineral tones. Trust the pioneers of Oregon bubbles to get it right—the Dundee-based winery has been producing world-class sparkling wine since 1987.

3. J. Albin Winery 

2007 Brut Rosé • Willamette Valley • $30

Using fruit from the Chehalem Mountains vineyard he planted in 1981, John Albin’s rosé offers flavors of strawberries and cherries balanced by grounding minerality. Bring this one to the Thanksgiving table for holiday pairing success.

4. King Estate

2008 Blanc de Gris • Willamette Valley • $35

Pure pinot gris sparklers are a rare breed—but considering the success of this bottle, they shouldn’t be. Classic flavors of pear and citrus come to life in this easy-drinking wine made with organically grown fruit, with bright and playful bubbles and aromas that won’t quit. 

5. Kramer Vineyards 

2010 Brut Methode Traditionelle • Yamhill-Carlton • $26

Kramer has often been considered a second-tier winery, but if this gorgeous brut is any indicator, a new generation is steering the ship in the right direction. Singing with flavors of apples, blueberries, honey, and brioche, this is the best bubbly for sippers seeking sweetness.