Home > Handpicked > 2011 Phelps Creek Chardonnay Estate Reserve

Superbly Balanced Chardonnay

Real Quality and Great Value

One advantage of being a professional pilot is having the ability to choose where you might want to live from a “birds-eye point of view”. As a (former) Delta Airlines pilot, Bob Morus, owner of Phelps Creek Vineyards, did just that in the late 1980’s. “Portland presented a better basing option for me than San Francisco, at the point I joined Delta. I was married and originally living/flying out of Chicago. We began a process of researching Oregon (1989), thinking it would be a slow, gradual process to find a perfect place and transfer my base of operation - I drew a radius of 90 miles from PDX (Portland International Airport)”

Every great story has a novel beginning!

Phelps Creek Vineyards is small boutique winery that focuses on estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (Burgundy) varietals; only producing 5,000 cases annually in total. The vineyard management takes center stage in every step of their wine production. Sustainable agricultural practices, combined with careful oversight of the fruit yields on the vines, leads to the noted intensity of their wine portfolio.

They first planted their oldest vines of Pinot Noir in 1990, shortly adding a block of Dijon clone Chardonnay two years later. Incrementally, the vineyards expanded and now nurture 30 acres (25 Acres of Pinot Noir, 4.5 acres of Chardonnay and 1/2 acre of Pinot Gris). In addition to their own estate grown fruit, they’ve also established long-term relationships with some of the most desirable vineyards throughout Orego’s Columbia Gorge AVA (American Viticultural Area).

The experience with winemaker, Alexandrine Roy, has been more than wonderful for Phelps Creek. The total relationship to the wines and her story as a fourth generation winemaker, producing acclaimed wines in both Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy, France) and the Columbia Gorge, has brought much media attention. Her passion for winemaking matches and pairs with the vineyard field employees’ devotion to growing the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state.

“I don’t make wines, I work on growing fruit,” says this dynamo-winemaker, who’s articulate English comes from working at Phelps Creek Winery in Oregon. Her approach in Oregon sums up Burgundy. “My wine is classic in style with acidity—not overripe—delicate and balanced,” she says. “It’s all about the palate.” She shocked the resident team at Phelps Creek by picking a week earlier than they did, de-stemming and using natural yeasts. “Americans like control,” she says. “I leave it up to nature.” So for Alexandrine Roy, the intermittent work as a consultant and guest winemaker easily secured her as Phelps Creek’s overall Director of Winemaking.

Just 60 miles east of Portland, the Columbia Gorge Wine region lies in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, a dramatic river corridor that straddles the Columbia River for 15 miles into both Oregon and Washington. This region, which encompasses 40 miles, includes both the Columbia Gorge AVA and part of the Columbia Valley AVA. Lewis and Clark first made the Columbia Gorge famous when they passed through on their way to the Pacific Ocean in 1805!

The winegrowing region, the climate in the Columbia Gorge appellation changes drastically. To the west is a cooler, marine-influenced climate where it rains 36 inches per year; to the east it's a continental high desert climate with just 10 inches of annual rainfall. This extreme variance of climate means this area can successfully grow a wide range of classical varieties. The Columbia Gorge wine region soils are generally silty loams collected over time from floods, volcanic activity and landslides. The Gorge is the only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountain Range. From north to south there are two iconic geographical features: Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, both part of the central Cascade Mountain range.

“The Phelps Creek 2011 Chardonnay Estate Reserve is delightfully scented with green tea and lime, apple and almond, all of which reunite on a sappy and beautifully balanced palate that is at once caressing and vivacious. Saliva-inducing salinity; pungency of sage and marjoram; as well as a bite of black pepper lend invigorating and unanticipated interest to the finish. Incidentally, fermentation and maturation here was entirely in barrels that had been used already one or more times. I anticipate this performing admirably through at least 2015 – 91 pts. Robert Parker

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