When the words “Roulot” and “Coche Dury” along with “American Chardonnay” are in the same sentence together, you know these wines must mean business. And that is exactly what is being said of 00 Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where Chris and Kathryn Hermann have been quietly producing excellent Burgundian quality Chardonnay (and Pinot) since 2015. It was through drinking David Lett’s Eyrie Chardonnay (an early pioneer in Oregon and exclusive to G+C) as well as being a keen White Burgundy lover that the Hermanns’ realized the hidden potential for this variety in a place like Oregon where the latitude and climate shares a lot of similarities with Burgundy.
Quietly researching the best Chardonnay terroir with a combination of selecting the right plots, soils and clones, they sourced fruit from the best AVAs such as Seven Springs, Chehalem Mountain, Eola Springs, Hyland and Open Claim.
At the same time, they enlisted the help of Burgundian consultant Pierre Millemann, who refined their techniques and advised the revival of the long-forgotten “Black Chardonnay” style of winemaking, once practiced in Burgundy in the early 20th Century. The aim was to produce Chardonnay that not only vividly expresses their terroir, but also “echo White Burgundy”, tackling the question of “what makes Coche Dury and Roulot what they are” according to Chris. This technique involves exposing the must (grape juice) to a large amount of oxygen, foot crushing and pressing aggressively with maceration on skins overnight, contrary to the modern thought of handling the variety as gently as possible to protect it from oxygen. The maximum extraction of phenolics from the skins and seeds along with the aggressive oxidation turns the must into a dark brown/black color, hence its name. Though the idea of a “black” Chardonnay may at first sound alarming, the phenols from the skin-extraction magically consume the oxygen in the must, quickly clarifying the color naturally, resulting in an oxidation-resistant, highly aromatic and refreshing Chardonnay.
Their simply named flagships “Extra Good” and “Very Good” White are in no way simple at all, with tiny allocations sold in the US via a private waiting list only. They are lean, vibrant, age-worthy and exhilarating wines that easily stand their ground alongside many top 1er Cru and even Grand Cru Burgundy, demonstrating how far Oregon has come as a wine region.