Monday, February 10, 2014

Playing Favorites; Anderson Family Vineyard Chardonnay

Early in my wine drinking career, an unpaid career by the way, I was always one to steer away from Chardonnay. (The rhyme was incidental.) I never found it to my liking and at the time I probably didn't use terms like "flabby" but as I think back on my uninitiated palate, that's probably why. I had yet to experience the outstanding white wines of Burgundy or the gems being created from Chardonnay right here in our Northwestern backyard.

Chardonnay was buttery round and well, flabby. It was boring to me, and largely that style is still boring to me. What has changed is that when I taste it these days, I can tell if it's well made in that style, but that doesn't mean I like it. I don't.

Oregon Chardonnay is really on the rise right now. And it should be, it is damn good and with the growing conditions, Oregon is making Chardonnays that are "anything but California" in style. That means balanced and high in acid. You're seeing amazing examples of wines done in steel as well as judicious use of neutral oak and even lees. I discovered Oregon Chardonnay as a wine to take seriously back in 2010. At the time I was writing for the Oregon Wine Blog (the site has since been changed to WestToast) and while sometimes I read some of the older things I've written and cringe, this particular piece has held up fairly well.

Anderson Family Vineyard is a winery outside of "downtown" Newberg that continues to fly under the radar, and I think that probably suits Cliff and Allison Anderson just fine. I came upon them four years ago very simply, I was scanning the Willamette Valley Vineyards brochure, arranged alphabetically of course, and, they were towards the top of the list and may have been the first one, that at the time I hadn't heard of. Most of the fruit from the vineyards goes to other producers like Boedecker, Bergstrom, White Rose and my man John Grochau of Grochau Cellars. They do hold a bit of wine back for themselves and make estate Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Anderson's site is unique, it's steep and while most of the Willamette Valley falls into a couple different kinds of soil types; Willakenzie which is mostly sedimentary and Jory which has lots of "balsaltic" elements to the soil the Anderson's site is particularly rocky.  The Anderson's site is within the Dundee Hills, where clay Jory soils are so prevalent they're known as the Red Hills. What makes the Anderson's site unique, is both it's steepness but also that steepness is the result of a kind of ancient landslide of basalt rock. So, in addition to those Jory soils you have large, chunky rock present in the soils. The steepness combined with the presence of large stones makes for one well drained site. The pedigree of wines grown in rocky soils, whether it's in Walla Walla Valley or Chateauneuf is hard to argue with.

There are a variety of other things that make the Anderson Family wines well curated and cared for (I wrote about most of them in that old piece). Cliff holds onto barrels for a very long time, and they hold the wines back quite awhile before bottling. As I wrote those years ago, it's about patience. And as I concluded it makes for some special wines.

When someone asks me for an under the radar producer to visit in the Willamette Valley, Anderson Family is always one of my first recommendations. Irrespective of if I go alphabetically or not. They are only open on a few occasions (twice a year) and so an appointment is necessary. The last time someone I sent visited Cliff and Allison sent them back with a bottle of their 2010 Chardonnay. It had been a few years since I'd visited with them or their wines.

2010 Anderson Family Vineyard Chardonnay The 2010 and 2011 vintages may just be the Willamette Valley's greatest opportunity in terms of producing fine Chardonnay. Aromas of lemon, honeysuckle and crushed stone. Depth of flavor with intense lemon meringue, and wet limestone. The palate is both light and lively and packed full with layered flavors. How'd they do that? The wine's acidity adds zing to the elegance as opposed to making for a strictly angular (which can also be a good thing) wine. A real beauty. The $85 Bergstrom Sigrid it should be noted uses fruit from Anderson Family Vineyard for that Chardonnay which has become one of Oregon's most renowned (and expensive). From their website: " well as two of Oregon's greatest Chardonnay sites, Temperance Hill and Anderson Family Vineyard." Well I've never had that Chardonnay and I'm sure it's quite good, the thing is the Anderson Family Vineyard Chardonnay is only like $30-35.


Nice insight! Now I want to try out this Anderson Chardonnay. Can you find them in stores?

Not that I'm aware, maybe in the Dundee or Newberg areas, you can call them, click on their name above in the hyper link and it'll take you to their site. Tell them hello for me.

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