Two Chardonnays from Foundry Vineyards

Hello friends. I’ve often spouted off that the trick to finding good wine is to follow the fruit. True enough. But sometimes it pays to follow the winemaker too.

I first met Ali Mayfield in the spring of 2010. At that point, she was working with Kendall Mix on the winemaking for Tranche Cellars (the Corliss Estates sister project). Her talent was apparent immediately, especially with some of the Tranche whites that were coming out at the time (none more so than the Tranche Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge).

After Ali left Tranche, she was off my radar for awhile, but when I started hearing buzz about new releases from Foundry Vineyards, it came as no surprise to learn that their new winemaker was none other than Ali Mayfield.

The Foundry Vineyards project has always been a fascinating one. It’s related to the Walla Walla Foundry, one of the nation’s finest production facilities for metal sculpture (here’s a recent Seattle Times article that touches on the Foundry, for those interested). Foundry owner Mark Anderson is also a partner in Foundry Vineyards, and the co-owner of Foundry Vineyards is Squire Broel, an artist by trade (see Squire’s art here). I also owe Squire an enduring debt of gratitude for introducing me to the Colville Street Patisserie in Walla Walla, home of transcendent, life-altering pastries (I recently saw the sublime in a banana danish; no lie).

Okay, how did I end up on banana danish? This offering is running off the rails. Back on track!

So, Ali’s first vintage working with Foundry was 2011, which means it will be some time before we see her reds, but her first whites are out now, and they are something special: a pair of Chardonnays from a region she knows well from her Tranche days: the Columbia Gorge.

During a recent visit to Foundry, Ali and Squire revealed that both Chards will be receiving nice reviews from Paul Gregutt in the April Wine Enthusiast, so there’s a little more urgency than I had originally thought. These are micro-production, too: 77 cases of the stainless and 132 cases of the oaked. I special-ordered the wines across the mountains, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the first appearance of these wines in the Seattle market (perhaps first and only?).

What’s extra-cool about these wines is that they were picked from the same vineyard on the same day and treated the same, except: one was matured in stainless steel, the other in oak. While the temptation may be strong to go with the higher-scored wine, there’s a real educational opportunity in trying these two side-by-side. It’s a chance to cast off the shackles of wine fashion and decide for your own palate how you feel about the influence of oak on Chardonnay.

2011 Foundry Vineyards Chardonnay Stainless

Both of these wines come from White Salmon Vineyard, a small site in the Columbia Gorge. I have no idea why, but there is a small amount of Fernao Pires planted in this vineyard, and Ali co-fermented it (7% of the blend) with both Chardonnays (note: Foundry is calling this obscure Portuguese varietal by one of its many synonyms, Maria Gomes). Having never tasted Fernao Pires on its own, I can’t speak to its impact on these wines. All I can say is that they’re both awfully good. This stainless version is all about the fruit: layers of tree fruit, stone fruit, and some tropical nuance, all carried along by the electric acid from a cool vintage in a cool region (both wines clock in at 12.6% alc; typical for Chablis, less so for Washington).

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2011 Foundry Vineyards Chardonnay Oak

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Note: this also contains 7% Fernao Pires. I was a bit more evenly split between the two than PaulG. I thought the oak added some lovely nuance of honeysuckle and smoke to that core of vibrant fruit. I also found this bottling to have a more overt leesy character, a sultry breadiness that adds a savory, almost earthy note to the fruit chorus. For me, you drink the stainless bottling for its fruit purity, the oaked for its balanced complexity. There is a time and a place for both, to be sure.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Stainless and 12 bottles of Oak, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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