Chardonnay is the most planted grape variety in the world, and it has a wide range of flavors. Many associate Chardonnay with heavy oak and butter flavors, but that’s just one style. Truly, there’s a Chardonnay out there for everyone. At Ponzi Vineyards, a style of Chardonnay is crafted that is both accessible to novice wine drinkers and offers a freshness sought after by aficionados that may be tired of the oak- and butter-bombs stereotypical of Chardonnay.
After more than two decades of dedicated study—including time spent with Chardonnay master Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy—Winemaker Luisa Ponzi has achieved an insider’s understanding of Chardonnay that is demonstrated in Ponzi Vineyards’ continued leadership in defining a new Oregon style. It’s a style that is bright and acidic, with texture and fresh fruit flavors mid-palate. Every vintage is designed to allow expressions of these characteristics. This new take on Chardonnay is enabling Oregon—and Ponzi Vineyards—to set a new standard for the varietal in America and beyond.
One of the first in Oregon Pinot noir, Ponzi Vineyards was also one of the first to plant and produce Chardonnay in the early 1970s. The original vines were clones that thrived in California but ripened late in Oregon’s cooler climate. Eventually, a Dijon clone was discovered that suited the climate of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which has long periods of daylight but cool evening temperatures in the summertime. This discovery changed Oregon Chardonnay forever.
Ponzi Vineyards planted several blocks of this Dijon clone in their Aurora Vineyard and the resulting wines were flavorful, rich, and complex. The vines are now nearly 30-years old, the roots reaching deep into the Laurelwood soil, and the flavors have grown more intense.
With the Aurora Chardonnay thriving, Luisa began experimenting with clones and rootstocks. She found a winning combination and established another block of Chardonnay vines at Ponzi Vineyards’ Avellana Vineyard.
Vintages from both vineyards regularly score very high, revealing the need for this distinct style of cool-climate Chardonnay.
Luisa Ponzi was a panelist at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration in 2017, and Ponzi Vineyards will be a presence there again this year.
For a region known for its Pinot noir, Oregon is most certainly making waves with its distinct Chardonnay style, designed for a new American palate.
"This stellar reserve remains one of the finest Chardonnays from Oregon." – Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast, on the 2014 Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve
“There’s a renaissance happening in Oregon Chardonnay from the state’s Willamette Valley” – Food & Wine
It is a rainy, blustery day at the vineyard today, which makes us nostalgic for the golden days of last year's harvest.
Many will remember 2017 as a rollercoaster year: devastating wildfires, hurricanes, an incredible solar eclipse. Ponzi Vineyards was spared from the smoke caused by fires in the Columbia River Gorge and when harvest approached, luck continued to be on our side with plentiful winds protecting the grapes on over-warm days. And then it was Harvest Day, and "beautiful" was the word spoken most often by Luisa, our winemaker. And the fruit! So much fruit! The crop was abundant.
With big wistful sighs, we present our video of these happy-busy days. Enjoy!
"The weather predictions were not great this year," laughs Ponzi Winemaker Luisa Ponzi. "We were looking at a really beautiful October of clear skies and nice cool temperatures, and it ended up being mostly that, but also there was some pretty intense rain." Watch the video to learn more about the 2017 harvest season at Ponzi Vineyards.
Just before sunrise on September 14, 2017, at Aurora Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, the Ponzi harvest team was already hard at work picking the first Chardonnay grapes for sparkling wine. #pzharvest2017 was off to a sunny, warm and dry start.
Rains and cooler temperatures soon descended on the Pacific Northwest's Willamette Valley, dropping about an inch of precipitation and delaying Ponzi's harvest.
But warmer, dryer mornings returned and the team worked quickly to get all the fruit into the winery before the unpredictable Oregon autumn brought more inclement weather. From Chardonnay to Pinot gris and Pinot noir, we've gently picked ripe clusters of juicy, flavorful grapes.
Sunrise on the last day of harvest burned off a thick layer of eerie fog. Frost covered the ground, but pickers harvested the last grapes on Ponzi's vineyards. Now that the fruit is in, the winery is busy destemming grapes, punching down lees, pressing and barreling the 2017 vintage. Stay tuned for more updates!
As #pzharvest2017 roles along, we want to introduce you to some of the people who help us make Ponzi's world class wines. Ponzi Vineyards Winery has a tough team of passionate wine lovers, but as Assistant Enologist Annett Goetz explains, brute force won't always wine the day. Watch this video to learn about the role of the lab in winemaking.
Ponzi's Harvest Dinner 2017 was a magical evening featuring cozy atmosphere, chatting with two generations of the Ponzi family, a delicious meal and a preview of the 2015 single vineyard Pinot noirs and Chardonnays. Both second generation Ponzi sisters spoke, Luisa presented the new wines and Maria remembered the 2002 vintage.
The evening could not have more perfectly represented indian summer in the Willamette Valley. The clear skies faded into a spectacular sunset!
The dinner itself was an amazing five-course dinner by Winery Culinary Director, Thomas Ghinazzi, with each course perfectly paired with the unreleased 2015 Single Vintage Pinot noir and Chardonnay, plus a surprise library wine: the 2002 Abetina Pinot Noir.
To finish the meal, Chef Tom served a dessert of cheese blintz paired with limited release 2016 Ponzi Vino Gelato.
Please join us next year to celebrate the harvest. Mark your calendars!
The Ponzi Vineyards winery team is pressing our first Pinot noir grapes of #pzharvest2017, this pretty red press was originally made in Germany in 1978 and purchased by Dick Ponzi in 1992 when he bought his house at Aurora Vineyard.
The Willmes press had been abandoned by John Scharffenberger, of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. It seems repairing wine presses was a favorite hobby of the winemaker and chocolatier.
For Winemaker Luisa Ponzi, the press didn't at first meet her standards. So it sat, unused, until 2007, when the winery ran out of room from a particularly large harvest. Luisa dusted off the old press and had to admit she was wrong. It works great!
This week the pace of harvest accelerated, with fruit coming in from a lot of vineyards. The winery staff and harvest interns have been hard at work to keep up with all the fresh grapes coming in. Ponzi's other departments volunteered to help punch down tanks. Sometimes harvest is a team effort!
Punching down the tanks makes sure the juice gets plenty of skin contact and flavor. Here's the view from above a punch down: