The last decade has seen vast improvement in the quality and perception of Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley. Unlike Burgundy, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are held in fairly equal esteem and planted in even proportions, Chardonnay plantings are a huge minority. Early in the region's evolution there was much discussion on which 'clones' of Chardonnay to plant; certain ones will ripen earlier than others, which is very important in the cooler climate of Oregon, but may not develop the flavor. There was a large push for California clones that were popular at the time, but when they tended to under-perform in tougher vintages, much of it was changed over to the more predictable Pinot Noir. There was even a recent major Oregon wine symposium called 'The Attack of the Clones' (insert Star Wars reference here). 'Those that chose wisely, like Arteberry Maresh and Eyrie, have become legendary, and now you are seeing a second wave of Chardonnay planting with much more promising results. Omero is an up and coming producer of very solid, unpretentious wines that scream Oregon style. Their fruit comes from both older and younger vineyards planted to French clones, and the winemaking style is straight out of Chablis right down to the use of large new and used casks to minimize the barrel flavor intrusion on the juice.
When first popped, the wine is racy and laser-like focused with racy white fruit, lemon zest and cool rindy melon, but as it opens up it starts to take on some of the pulpy fruit elements that comes from the time in barrel and aged on its lees. The palate also takes on a bit of buttery creaminess, but it is only as a compliment to the vibrant natural fruit, not the dominant character. This is an extremely attractive style of Chardonnay for those of you that are finding it harder and harder to find White Burgundy fitting your budget, or are about to considering the difficult 2015 and 2016 vintages that are approaching.
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