Oregon Chardonnay Celebration 2023

Oregon Chardonnay Celebration

Last weekend, I attended the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration for the third year in a row, and I have to say, each year has been a different experience for me. Every year keeps getting better and better, even though the event format was different this year.

Let’s dive into this year’s Oregon Chardonnay Celebration

Typically, it’s a two-day event. Friday night begins with a panel followed by a smaller tasting. Saturday starts with a Grand Seminar and the Grand Tasting. This year, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration focused on foods that pair with Chardonnay, showcasing the chefs behind the foods for a Saturday-only event. I liked the format and talked so much that I hardly got my hands on much food. Despite the different format of the OCC this year, it felt different for me because I had this feeling of being around friends. It’s a nice and warm fuzzy feeling to have.

My first tasting was with Jay McDonald of EIEIO. He was pouring his 2021 Yates Conwill Vineyard Chardonnay. We chatted a bit; I’m unsure if he knows me, but I am such a massive fan of his work. You know, someday, I should ask him to be on the podcast. Anyway, starting the celebration with Jay’s wine was a fabulous treat!

Next to Jay was Emelia from Flaneur, with big, ole smiles all around. I would have gotten a 2021 Bon Vivant Chardonnay splash, but I hadn’t even taken a sip of Jay’s wine yet. Emelia asked how things were going, and of course, I had to mention the launch of Block 55’s reservation system for wineries. As we finished catching up, I promised to return for some Bon Vivant!

I walked around the room a little, enjoying the Conwill Vineyard Chardonnay from Jay before feeling more awkward, telling people I would be back to taste their wine. What a treat it was, starting with Jay’s wine for the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration!

My next pour was Gran Moraine’s 2021 Yamhill Carlton Chardonnay. We talked, and I was told that a secret pour of their Blanc de Blanc was under the table. I took note and said I would be back! At some point, I did go back, and oh, Holy Toledo, Batman, it was so good!

Early on for the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, I entered the hallway and heard someone call my name. I turned around, and it was Thomas, the winemaker at Lingua Franca. He wanted to connect and talk about the podcast interview we had scheduled for the following Tuesday. My initial plan was for me to come out to him, but they are doing major construction at the winery, and it would be too noisy. I threw out the idea of doing it at my house, and poof, we had a game plan put together!

I noticed David Adelsheim walking around in one of the other rooms. I so wanted to strike up a conversation with him and ask him to be on the podcast. I chickened out. I saw him again later, passed him, turned back in his direction, and chickened out a second time. He would be such a great person to have on the podcast, but I keep telling myself he isn’t interested. He has done so many interviews; why would he want to do another one? Not the best self-talk, I know.

In the summer of 2021, I worked on an Oregon Sparkling report. One of the people I interviewed for the report was Rachel Zasadni with Domaine Serene. She was the mastermind who started the Sparkling program at DS. Within the last year, she decided to spend more time with her family. I mention all of this because I enjoyed catching up with her at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration.

There was also a rumor that some Domaine Serene had some Blanc de Blanc under the table. They were waiting to open the second bottle the first time I went over. In the meantime, I tried the 2021 Aspect Chardonnay. It was pretty darn yummy. When I returned, the second bottle of Blanc de Blanc was open, and Rachel was there, revisiting one of her creations. Seeing her explore one of the wines she made was such a joy.

Speaking of the podcast, I noticed Seth Morgen Long was pouring for his label at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, Morgen Long. If you are not aware, Seth focuses only on Chardonnay, and all of them are mind-blowing! The first time I went over, he was busy pouring and talking. I got a sample of his 2021 Willamette Valley Chardonnay, and wow.

The second time I went over, Seth said, “Oh, coming back for seconds,” as he poured me a little more. I responded, “Well, I wanted to see if you were interested in being on the podcast.” I could see a slight hesitation, and I was a bit worried. As I tell everyone, “You have full editorial control, meaning, during or after the interview, if you say something you want removed, poof, it’s gone.” I think that was all he needed. Andrew Riechers telling him I was a pretty nice guy probably didn’t hurt either.

Speaking of Andrew Riechers, he wasn’t there, but he is involved in a Sparkling project called Missoula Flood. Seth and I talked about this a teeny bit. Stay tuned for Seth’s podcast interview coming out in the first part of May.

Returning to the big room of the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, I noticed Kate Payne Brown was pouring wine for a winery I hadn’t heard of. I walked over, as did some others. Kate was busy talking about the wine to some other people as she poured their wine. When she got to my glass, she looked up with a big ole smile, said, “Hi, A.J.,” and reached across the table to give out a huge hug! She went back to talking with the other people, and I started talking with Rob Townsend, the owner of Ambar. It turns out that Ambar is Willamette Valley’s first Regenerative Organic Certified vineyard. I tasted the wine and was blown away! Don’t tell anyone, but it was my favorite wine of the day.

I had yet to visit Dan and Jeanne at Corollary and had to get a splash of the 2018 X-Omni Blanc de Blanc. Oh, I vividly remember when this was announced. I was all in before tasting it. As I got a splash, I was informed they also brought the 2019 X-Omni and some Namaste. I felt like a kid in a candy store with so much yummy goodness!

Ron Acierto, the most fantastic sommelier at okta, was also over by Corollary. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Two super quick things. First, thank you so much for the Missoula Flood Blanc de Blanc pour the other week. It was fabulous! Also, have you tried Kate Payne Brown’s Chardonnay from Ambar?” He smiled at me and agreed Ambar’s Chardonnay was stellar!

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t get to try too much food at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, but I grabbed this yummy plate!

I always have my Leuchtturm1917 hardcover journal if you have seen me out and about. I enjoy using it during food events because I can place my food and wine glass on it while still being able to eat. It’s tough holding wine while trying to eat. I grabbed my food and started talking to someone. We then walked to another room to check out a winery I hadn’t heard of. As we walked, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the angle at which I held my journal. In the middle of the hallway, the plate slid off my journal, onto the floor, and onto my shoe.

There weren’t many napkins around, but luckily, the cheese table had napkins on its back table. I grabbed some, cleaned up my mess as quickly as possible, and tried to pretend nothing happened. Embarrassing, I tell you!

Once everything was cleaned up, I went over and talked with Doug Ackerman of Red Electric who had a table at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration. It turns out they are in Ribbon Ridge. Stay tuned for more information about them in the future. I am coordinating a time to visit, and I am sure you will read all about it here in the newsletter! Thank goodness Doug didn’t see me dump a bunch of food onto my shoe.

One of the people I wanted to talk with was Joe Dobbes from Iterum. His 2020 Orchard House Estate Chardonnay was showing exquisitely! It turns out he is releasing Sparkling very shortly. He had some help from Herb Quady in Southern Oregon getting it bottled. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Speaking of Sparkling, I stopped by Nysa’s table and talked with Monique. She is pouring in Boston this weekend, and we discussed their Blanc de Noirs a little. This is another bottle I am very much looking forward to. Also, if you haven’t visited Nysa, this is a place to get on your radar!

Several times, I walked by Jackson’s table at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration from Granville but never stopped to say hi. I finally did. I also got a splash of their 2021 O’Della Chardonnay. I thanked him in person for allowing me to submit our conversation on the podcast to the James Beard Media Awards for submission. I should be hearing sometime next month if I got nominated or not. Wouldn’t it be cool as all get-out if the Weinnotes Podcast was a James Beard Media Award nominee? As I walked away, Jackson told me he had some of his Koosah Vineyard Chardonnay under the table. Sadly, I ran out of time and didn’t return to grab some.

Early in the day, I talked with Michael Lundeen a little and said I would return. Time was almost up, and I had yet to come by to visit. He was off in the corner of the room with a door propped open, allowing the overheated room to cool down. As I tried his Chardonnay, I mentioned how I would bring up the Bunker Hill vineyard in my interview with Thomas of Lingua Franca. He got a big ole smile on his face and showed me his 2012 Bunker Hill Blanc de Blanc. This is one heck of a bottle of wine, and of course, I had to get a splash. If you have yet to have this wine, take the time to visit Lundeen in McMinnville and ask Lacie about the Bunker Hill Blanc de Blanc. It is a true little gem you need to know about!

Things were winding down for the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration. I looked around the hall and felt a little tug at my arm. I turned around, and it was Beth from Dion. I hadn’t seen Beth in some time, and it was great to see her! I had to mention the sheep currently in the vineyard were adorable. She hoped she wasn’t over-posting about the sheep. Another person and I assured her she wasn’t. I got to see some other pictures of sheep. It’s been too long since I have visited, and I need to get Dion on my list again!

I had to get on the road and pick up my daughter from ballet. Getting home, I had a whole ten minutes to change clothes and pick her up. We made scallops and salmon over crispy rice for dinner as if the past four hours never happened. I was back to living the dad life. The following day, on my walk, I relished all the memories. It was quite some day at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, if I do say so myself!

With Heartfelt Gratitude,

A.J.

Be sure to check out another great event, IPNC!

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