The AVA’s motto is “down to earth,” which reflects both people and place.
Yamill-Carlton AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley was the final destination for many pioneers of the early Oregon Trail. But it’s a good first stop for people wanting to discover the state’s Chardonnays. Located in the northern Willamette Valley and bisected by the North Yamill River, the AVA was founded in 2004. The Coastal Range (3,500 feet asl) to the west provided a beneficial rain shadow and other hilly formations—Chehalem Mountain to the north and the Dundee Hills to the east give an assist. The quick-draining soils here are among the oldest in the valley. Some 52 wineries cultivate 110 vineyards (planted 200-800 free (asl), with 2,500 acres under vine, planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Here’s a starter kit for getting to know the AVA.
Roco Marsh Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, Yamill-Carlton. Certified sustainable, Dijon clone 95 in marine soils. Pale yellow in color, nice lemon curd burst, clean/pure fruit, pretty pear tones, no discernible winemaking manipulation. Pristine and fresh, 200 cases made, 13.5%
Raptor’s Ridge 2017 Gran Moraine Vineyard, Yamill-Carlton. Deeper richer expression with more herbal tang. Yellow apple, but more savory: anise-driven with lots of fennel. Glycerol mouthfeel, evident oak tones best with light roasts match to match the weight and depth of this wine. Fewer than 250 cases made
Kramer Vineyards 2018, Yamill-Carlton. Made from sustainably farmed grapes, sur lie for 10 months. Subdued fruit leaning toward oxidized apple; round, honied, textured. Savory herbal nose, thyme and ripe-on-the-counter yellow apple. Lovely and quiet wine, when so many drinkers go for a jumpy and nervous wine. Great with shallot roasted chicken and mushrooms. 14%
Kramer Vineyards 2018 Yamill-Carlton. Dijon clones, warm toned, butterscotch hints without being buttery. Cooked lemon flavors, rounds and rich, med bodied, elegant and intentional. Aged 10 months in wood. Slightly botanical: adds some dimension. Elevated and nuanced. Lovely 14.3% **
Nicolas Jay 2018, Bishop Creek, Nicolas Jay 2018, Bishop Creek, Yamill-Carlton. Deep and full bodied with rich fruit concentration: apple and pear, some brioche, warm hazel notes. Judicious use of oak that doesn’t interfere with fruit character. The weight of this wine wants food to play along with it.
Westmount Chardonnay, 2010 Yamill-Carlton. Nuanced, pretty, white floral and clean. Yellow fruit focused on apple, warm oak and vanilla, Don’t drink too cold. Brugundian style, rich and full 13.5% **
Domaine Roy & Fils, “Incline” Yamill-Carlton Estate, 2019, Yamill-Carlton. Made with organic cgrapes from Quartz Acorn vineyard. Marine sediment soils, transparent fruit showing apple and pear. A touch of butterscotch on the nose, yellow apple on palate. A thinner expression: more purity than power. A little bitter herbal finish is not distracting. Cooked Meyer lemon/compote gives a pleasing weight to this pretty wine. Fresh and pleasant; slightly glycerol.
Domaine Daniel Laurent “Solena” 2019, Yamill-Carlton. Wild herbal nose and ripe yellow fruit. Nice interpretation of a richer style, full bodied w/o the heaviness. Small lot, aged in French oak for 18 months but has a lighter touch than what the barrel time suggests. A bit of fennel bulb on the finish. A nice, complete and satisfying wine that doesn’t leave one wanting. 13.5% **