About a year ago, I was browsing the wine aisle at Target. I don’t often buy wine at Target, but the wine aisle called me that day to see what kind of Oregon chardonnay they had in stock. The Target near me usually has a couple dozen Oregon pinots in stock, so I figured they’d have a few Oregon chardonnays as well.
There I was, crouched down in the wine aisle seeing only California chardonnay (bleh) when I was approached by an official-looking man in a polo shirt with a clipboard, “I’m the wine rep, can I help you find something?”. I mentioned that I was looking for their selection of Oregon chardonnays. He was taken aback that I had asked such a thing and it caught him completely off guard. He went on to tell me that Oregon chardonnays are a rarity and would be very difficult to find.
I could not believe he had said such a thing – my jaw nearly hit the floor. “Seriously?!”, I asked in shock. He named only TWO producers that make chardonnay in Oregon. I looked him straight in the eye, said, “you need to do some research”, and walked away.
Little did he know…
While chardonnay currently makes up only about 8% of planted acreage in Willamette Valley (which is growing every year btw), there are tons of producers making chardonnay! Out of the 363 Willamette Valley wineries listed on the Oregon Wine Board’s website, 238 are making Chardonnay – that’s 65 percent! Out of the 217 Willamette Valley wineries listed on Willamette Valley Wine’s website, 162 are making Chardonnay – 75 percent!
According to the 2019 Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report, there are 676 wineries in Willamette Valley. If we assume that 65-75 percent of them are making chardonnay, per the aforementioned stats, we can estimate there are somewhere between 439-507 wineries making chardonnay in Willamette Valley. I’m sure that number will continue to grow as more and more people come to realize how special Oregon chardonnay can be.
I wish I had these stats ready in Target that day! I’m sure that wine rep would have been floored to learn just how wrong he was about Oregon chard. I frequently check the Target wine aisle and it’s quite clear that rep has yet to do any research on Oregon chardonnay. Come on man! I believe in you!
I’m sure his head would explode if he knew this fun little tidbit: there is one winemaker here in Willamette Valley that has dedicated every ounce of his energy to make ONLY chardonnay. I can’t wait to tell you more about that winemaker! Stay tuned.