What: Winemakers say their wines should reflect the place where the grapes are grown. I think drinking a good wine brings to mind memories of those places.
That’s especially true if you have visited the winery and have good memories from it. And that is exactly what I got when I recently drank this beautiful Stoller Chardonnay.
It is a generous, expressive wine that clearly evokes the rolling countryside of Dundee Hills in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This part of Oregon southeast of Portland was made for producing great wines. The soils and climate are especially good for producing great pinot noir, but chardonnay and pinot gris are turning out great here, too.
I visited Oregon with some special friends last fall, and we spent the last four nights in a house that Stoller rents out. The house sits among the vines just below a gentle hillside and a short walk from the tasting room. There’s something magical about waking up and looking out your window at golden grapevines.
We were there in late October, so most of the harvest was over and the leaves were in all their colorful splendor. It’s nice to think that while I was there this wine was sitting in stainless steel tanks, where it spends six months before bottling.
This wine spends no time on oak, keeping it light and fresh.
The wine is a gorgeous pale gold in the glass with floral and pear notes in the aroma. The flavors are crisp and vibrant, with lemon and tropical fruit predominant. The finish is long and smooth, with a rich mouthfeel. The wine is perfectly balanced between fruit and acidity.
Since the first vintage in 2001, Stoller has been making world-class pinot noir and chardonnay. They make a Dundee Hills pinot noir that is an elegant blend of ripe raspberries and integrated tannins. The reserve chardonnay is barrel fermented and aged in oak for 11 months. The reserve pinot noir has deep cherry and raspberry flavors, with an aging potential of several years.
One of my favorites of their wines is the pinot noir rosé. It has inviting aromas of grapefruit and citrus with juicy tropical fruit on the palate. It is a dry, well-balanced, complex rosé made in the restrained French style. It will be a summer sipping favorite.
Winery: Stoller Vineyards owner Bill Stoller has deep roots in the vineyards. He was raised on the family farm outside of Dayton, Ore.
After earning a business degree and an MBA, Stoller co-founded a staffing company that became the largest privately-held staffing company in the world. He later founded a human resources outsource company. All that allowed him to pursue his passion for wine.
In 1993, he and his wife, Cathy, obtained part ownership in Chehalem Wines. Later that year, the family turkey farm that had been established in 1943 by his father and uncle ceased operation. The Stollers bought the property from Bill’s cousin and decided to plant vines. The land was marginal for farming, but the rocky, well-drained volcanic soil was ideal for growing grapes. The Stollers planted their first 20 acres of pinot noir and chardonnay in 1995. The estate is the largest contiguous vineyard in Dundee Hills, and the wines are produced from 100 percent estate fruit.
Stoller built the winery with conservation and preservation in mind. The winery features gravity-flow technology, and it was the first in the world to receive LEED Gold certification, which means it is sustainably built and environmentally friendly.
The 4,000-square-foot tasting room is a stunner, with floor-to-ceiling glass garage doors that are opened in nice weather. The south-facing roof is covered with solar panels. The view is to the hillside vineyard.
The property covers 373 acres, with 200 acres under vine at elevations ranging from 220 to 640 feet. Surrounding mountains protect the vineyards and create a warmer microclimate. The vineyard is divided into 101 sections, planted in pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling, tempranillo, syrah and pinot blanc. The vineyard is primarily known for its six clones of pinot noir and three clones of chardonnay.
The guest house we stayed in is one of three available to rent. All are among the vines and provide a memorable wine experience.
Goes With: We had the Stoller chardonnay with chicken soup, one of those comfort foods I could eat every week. The crisp acidity in the wine perfectly cut through the rich savory flavors of the soup. Each spoonful of soup made the wine better and each sip of wine made the soup better. It was a perfect match.
This wine also would pair well with shrimp and other shellfish, roast chicken, a Waldorf salad, grilled mahi mahi or nearly any fresh fish and grilled pork. I also like sipping this wine by itself.
Making this soup is simple. I boil a while chicken (or sometimes 2-4 bone-in breasts and 4 thighs) until the meat is falling off the bones. Remove the chicken to let it cool and scoop out all the small scraps of skin and bone that remain in the pot.
As the chicken cools, add chopped sweet onion, diced carrots, sliced celery, chopped green onion, chopped parsley and a sprig or two of thyme. I usually add a tablespoon or two of Morton Nature’s Seasons, salt and pepper. Depending on what’s in the refrigerator, I sometimes add other vegetables such as corn scraped from the cob, sliced okra, diced parsnips or chopped leek.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull it from the bones, cut into bite-sized pieces and return to the pot. I usually add a box or two of chicken broth and some concentrated chicken flavoring.
Let it all cook for 50-60 minutes and you have several meals. I especially like to serve this soup over fine noodles, but you could serve it over rice.