Black Cap Chardonnay 06
Avalon Employees Pick from the Many Wines We Taste Each Week
Avalon Wine of the Week
"Oregon Chardonnay - The Next Big Thing!?!"
“...predict Chardonnay will be Oregon’s Next Big Thing”
-- heard recently from Oregon winemakers --
Buzz about Oregon Chardonnay is limited to local winemakers - so far. Gossip about the exceptional Black Cap Chardonnay 06 and a few other Oregon Chards is reaching "insider" collectors and wine writers. You can expect to hear a lot more about Oregon Chardonnay this summer and fall.
Small plots of "old vine" Chardonnay have Oregon winemakers buzzing. Most of the old Draper and 108 clone Chardonnay vines were grafted over to Pinot noir or Pinot gris in the 1990's. The grapes of the few vines left - old, self rooted Draper clone vines - are sought after. “Old vines” in Oregon produce small yields of grapes with intense flavor. The resulting wines can rival the finest white Burgundy. Foremost among these wines is the Black Cap Chardonnay, our Wine of the Week. It is made from Eyrie's oldest Chardonnay vines.
Black Cap Chardonnay is one of two wines made under the personal label of Jason Lett, winemaker at Eyrie Vineyards. Jason is the second generation of his family to make Eyrie's wines. His father, David Lett, is widely acknowledged as one of Oregon’s most influential winemakers, founding Eyrie in 1966 and pioneering vinifera grape production in the state.
Back when the Oregon wine industry was just a dream, David Lett was planting Chardonnay in the WIllamette Valley. The vine cuttings came from California.
According to Jason "they were vines personally selected by Jerry Draper for Dad in 1964. Thus it is called the "Draper Selection." It's not really one clone; it is more of a selecion massale. If you walk through the Chardonnay plantings you will see a huge diversity in the conformation of the vines."
Jason continues: "When Dad moved up from California he brought the cuttings with him. Dad came to Oregon in January '65, temporarily rooted the plants outside Corvallis, and looked for a vineyard site. He discovered the Dundee Hills in 1966, bought his land, and by the autumn of '66 had moved the vines from their temporary location and was planting the original vineyard."
Jason’s Black Cap Chardonnay 06 is made from some of those first 1966 plantings.
Jason says: "In 2006 those original Chardonnay vines produced a total of 44 cases of BlackCap, 320 cases of Eyrie Estate Chardonnay, and 125 cases of Eyrie Chardonnay Reserve. So yes, yields are small but we also have significant plantings of those older vines."
the Black Cap Chardonnay 06 is a memorable example of the rare old vine Chardonnays of Oregon . Two barrels were produced in 2006 (up from one barrel in 04 and 05). Elegant, sensuous, and feminine, it explodes with rich pear and apricot, honey, minerals and earth, and careful tasting reveals fleeting hints of jasmine and rose petal. It is one of the most refined and cleanly focused Chardonnays we've ever experienced from the Pacific Northwest. If there's an aristocracy of Oregon wine, this Chardonnay ranks high among the noble.