At its best, Chardonnay is one of the world’s greatest wines: elegant, complex, expressive of soil and climate, displaying an exciting tension between floral and fruit aromas, luscious flavor, texture and mineral steeliness. At its worst, it’s broad, non-dimensional and excessively tropical or lean and phenolic. Much depends on the alignment of climate and soils and their compatibility to the planted vines.

The early Oregon Chardonnays were generally lackluster, eliciting little passion and excitement. So inconsistent were the wines that many producers publicly announced their intention to take out their Chardonnay vines and plant other varieties.

However, a number of vintners in Oregon’s Willamette Valley were united in their firm conviction that superior Chardonnays were attainable. After years of scrutinizing their vines, viticulture and winemaking practices, these friends have recognized their shared passion for quality wine production at all levels by joining forces to form the “Oregon Chardonnay Alliance” (ORCA). Through their joint efforts, combining rigorous self-review, honest critique of each other’s wines, investigation of new ways to solve problems, and testing solutions, they believe that Oregon Chardonnays can be raised to new heights.

Their success is reflected in today’s Oregon Chardonnays. With their characteristic ripe melon, white peach, hazelnut and floral qualities, and an elegant minerality on the finish, these new wines bear little resemblance to their predecessors. The story of this transformation is a testament to ORCA’s enterprising spirit, dedication to the craft of winegrowing, and determination to produce the best New World
Chardonnay possible.

The members of ORCA are David Adelsheim, Adelsheim Vineyard; Rollin Soles, Argyle; Harry Peterson-Nedry, Chehalem; Véronique Drouhin, Domaine Drouhin; Ken and Grace Evenstad, Domaine Serene; Eric Hamacher, Hamacher Wines; and Luisa Ponzi, Ponzi Vineyards.

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