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Northwest Wines: Washington Chardonnays continue to gain in popularity

Chardonnay has been Washington’s bread-and-butter white wine since the early 1990s and has continued to be one of its strongest grape varieties through the past 20 years.

Thanks to growth from the top (Chateau Ste. Michelle makes about 1 million cases of Chardonnay annually), Washington wineries have embraced the noble white variety in a big way.

Chardonnay is easy to pronounce — and easy to love. Most Chardonnays pair well with a wide variety of food, from seafood to chicken to pork to roasted vegetables.

Here are several Washington Chardonnays we’ve tasted in recent weeks. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

The Conqueror 2013 Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $26: Seattle-based Precept Wine’s new Chardonnay is heady and hedonistic, starting with aromas of toasted oak, almond butter and sweet apricot jam. Inside, it features round flavors of butterscotch, crushed pears and lemon curd with a cleansing finish of lemon pith.

Long Shadows Vintners 2013 Dance Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $37: This starts with clean and bright aromas of apple, pineapple and the minerality often found in wines from the Horse Heaven Hills. There’s no disappointment to the drink, which includes some lychee notes as well as white peach, capped by more of that pleasing minerality.

Ryan Patrick Vineyards 2013 Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10: Here is a marvelous stainless steel Chardonnay with aromas of fresh-cut pineapple and guava, There’s complexity to the structure that opens with a pleasing mouth feel from stirring on the lees as flavors of Asian pear and dried apricot transition to a crisp finish with Gala apple.

Buty Winery 2013 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $40: This tropical, buttery and bright Chardonnay is from one of the Columbia Valley’s top vineyards. Rich aromas of buttered toast, piña colada, dried pineapple, butterscotch and lemon chiffon also come through on the palate. Hints of honeydew melon are found at the midpalate, which leads to a finish of yellow grapefruit.

Tsillan Cellars 2014 Estate Chardonnay, Lake Chelan, $23: This Tuscan-themed winery overlooking Lake Chelan presents a youthful Chardonnay with panache. It opens with a theme of Spanish almond, toast, vanilla, pear and includes a creamy mouth feel of butterscotch. Lemon pudding in the finish offers enough acidity to work with suggested pairings of pork loin, Fettuccine Alfredo and artichokes with herb-influenced goat cheese.

Buried Cane 2014 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $14: Rich and alluring aromas of mango lassi, marshmallow, cocoa butter, spice and lemon make their way to the palate. A lemon cream entry — a sign of the Sèmillon (11 percent) — picks up hints of papaya and sweet butter on the midpalate, backed by a kiss of honey and bite of Golden Delicious apple for balance.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $21: This vineyard-designated Chardonnay opens with aromas of lemon zest, a hint of toast and dustiness and a bit of tropical fruit. On the palate, it bursts with flavors of Mandarin orange, pineapple, banana and a bit of butterscotch. It is backed with a round mouth feel and lovely richness throughout.

Tenor Wines 2013 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $48: A deft touch with the 50 percent new oak allows for a fruit expression that starts with aromas of sweet lemon, ripe Asian pear, pineapple, coconut and a touch of minerality. There’s little sign of oak on the palate, which brings flavors of sweet mango, Golden Delicious apple and Bartlett pear.

Dusted Valley Vintners 2013 French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $29: Aromas of fresh coconut, cotton candy, pineapple and toasted pine nuts transition to a luscious drink. Round flavors of pineapple, fresh caramel and buttered bread include butterscotch.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.

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