It’s been a phenomenal year. Over the course of 52 editions of WineSpeed, we tasted thousands of wines. And so many wines stood out—a phenomenal 2017 Vintage Port (Dow’s), a luscious shiraz (Penfold’s St. Henri), a superb Napa cabernet franc (Detert), and, as an eye-opening surprise, a fantastic pinot noir from Patagonia, Argentina (Chacra). Plus many more.
But one wine really galvanized us.
For its sheer deliciousness; for its superb tension between minerality and richness; for being emblematic of the surging success of an entire region; and for costing less than $50 a bottle when so many great wines cost more than $100, we’ve chosen:
GRAN MORAINE Chardonnay 2016 from the Yamhill Carlton district of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Our review (of September 20, 2019) is below. And, yes, you can still get this wonderful wine at Vivino.com.
GRAN MORAINE Chardonnay 2016 (Yamhill Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $43
I don’t usually like it when a wine is defined as being like another wine that exists halfway around the world. But damn, if I had had this wine blind, I most certainly would have guessed it was a white Burgundy. The utter richness spiked by starbursts of minerals…the through-line of fresh acidity…the voluptuousness modulated by tautness…the earthy sensuality. It all added up to: Burgundy. But Gran Moraine is in the Willamette Valley, and (like a few of its neighbors), it’s making serious chardonnays that are knock-outs. The dramatic rise in the quality of Oregon chardonnay over the last few years is still largely an untold story. But try this and see for yourself. Hedonism in a glass anyone? (13.3% abv)
96 points KM
Gran Moraine, by the way, is a small winery in Yamhill Carlton, one of the seven wine districts within the Willamette Valley. In 2013, Jackson Family Wines purchased this 200-acre vineyard in the gently sloping verdant hills here. Barbara Banke, the owner and CEO, had the brilliant sense to put Eugenia Keegan in charge and then leave her alone to create the gem that Gran Moraine has quietly become. Keegan, an overachiever, is superbly up to the task. She’s worked in virtually every capacity that exists in the wine industry from winemaking to distribution. Under Keegan is winemaker Shane Moore who made this terrific chardonnay from vines growing in the valley’s sedimentary soils, deposited by the floods of the last ice age. It’s worth noting that Gran Moraine also makes a tiny amount of an uber-rich chardonnay called Dropstone.
We asked Keegan what she thinks great chardonnay possesses. Here’s what she said: “Great chardonnays possess tension, minerality, depth, and finesse.”