There will be roosters about, some more welcoming than others, when you pull into the gravel parking lot at Walter Scott Wines, a smallish operation perched in the rugged hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, about halfway between McMinnville and Salem. Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow launched the winery in 2008, making them relative newcomers, but their wines already have devoted fans. Especially the chardonnays: Like most other producers here, Landon and Pahlow make pinot noir, from the grape that put Oregon wine on the world’s radar, but right now the noble white has the valley abuzz.
A patio at Bethel Heights Vineyard
These, too, lean French but possess what almost everyone calls “freshness,” an inviting light texture and plenty of fruit. At the recent Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction, put on each year to benefit the grower community, the 2017 chardonnay lots averaged $192, outpacing the average pinot price of $158. These wines may be the most exciting thing emerging on the U.S. scene right now.
None of this is news to the pioneers who have experimented here for decades. Bethel Heights Vineyard first planted chardonnay in 1977, and its Casteel bottling (typically $75) excels year after year. Adelsheim Vineyard began with 19 acres in 1971; the winery’s 2016 Ribbon Springs chardonnay ($50) is its first estate single-vineyard effort.
For a long time, says Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines, Oregon chardonnay “didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up.” His 2016 estate-grown Sigrid bottling ($110)—elegant, biodynamic and perfect with food—shows just how far the wines have come.