2016 ROCO Winery, Gravel Road Chardonnay, $31
Winery Info: In 1987 Rollin Soles and his wife Corby Stonebraker-Soles (the RO and CO of ROCO) purchased a hillside property in the Chehalem Mountain Range with a perfect combination of elevation, soil type, and geological aspect. But for the following 15 years Rollin continued to make winery at Argyle Winery (which he co-founded). In 2001 Rollin and Corby planted their Wits’ End Vineyard on their site, and they produced their first vintage two years later—a wine that was later poured at the White House. His wines have been listed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World 13 times.
Winemaker: Rollin Soles
Grapes: 100% Willamette Valley Chardonnay aged in 20% new French oak.
Vineyard: Wits’ End (Chehalem Mountain AVA), Marsh Estate (Yamhill-Carlton AVA), and Knudsen (Dundee Hills AVA), three top Chardonnay vineyards in the Willamette Valley.
Flavor profile: Rollin’s wines have an excellent balance of minerality and rich power. This Chard has lovely texture and depth, with aromas and flavors of pear, white peach, citrus, and a hint of fig. Rollin notes that the finish is “opulent without going heavy,” and sums it up as a “seamless, cool climate Chardonnay.”
Production: 741 cases produced. This vintage is still in decent supply.
Drinkability: Drink now or over the next year or so.
Food Pairing: Try this versatile Chard with white meat, such as chicken or pork, or with savory dishes.
2014 Belle Pente Vineyard and Winery, Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, $57
Winery Info: Belle Pente is a 70-acre hillside vineyard and winery just east of Carlton, Oregon, founded by Brian and Jill O’Donnell in 1994. Brian has a deep understanding of the geology, geography, and soils of the Willamette Valley and has farmed biodynamically since 2005. Yes, we put a Pinot from Belle Pente in the club last month, but we love Brian’s wines, and this one is from his estate vineyard in a different AVA, and thus has quite a different flavor profile.
Winemaker: Brian O’Donnell
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir aged 18 months in 56% new French oak plus 18 months in bottle before release. 40% Wädensvil clone (planted in 1998), plus about 30% clones 777 and 115 from original 1994 plantings.
Vineyard: Belle Pente’s estate vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
Flavor profile: This wine is sourced from the best lots of their estate vineyard in each vintage. The ancient sedimentary soils produce complex Pinots with excellent structure and rich, dark aromas and flavors. The warm 2014 vintage produced a smooth, concentrated Pinot with notes of fresh herbs and flowers.
Production: 422 cases produced, plus 150 magnums. As the current release, it is still in decent supply.
Drinkability: Usually crafted for aging, the fruit-forward 2014 vintage is delicious now or up to 2025.
Food Pairing: Try it with sage and honey-basted quail with butternut squash coulis and pomegranate reduction, or roast pork with a cranberry glaze.