Tan Fruit: Better than White Burgundy? August 2023

For the last 30+ years the world has been spellbound by the fact that Oregon can produce pinot noir on a par with some of the greatest reds coming out of Burgundy. A visit to the Willamette Valley has become akin to a religious pilgrimage for New World pinot. But what about chardonnay? We’ve read many articles over the years celebrating the growth and quality of this french white in the Willamette, and we’ve tasted a wide number of bottling across varied producers, but excellence has thus far been sparing and often limited to a single top cuvee.

Jim Maresh is turning all of this on its head.

We hope you’re well acquainted with the Maresh family for their stunning examples of old-vine Pinot Noir from exceptional single vineyards. Beginning with the 2019 vintage, Jim Maresh decided to launch a separate label, named Tan Fruit, in order to craft Oregon Chardonnay with a determined focus and greater singularity. The goal of Tan Fruit was to “experiment and play around with techniques” for crafting Chardonnay, and well……..it’s working. A massive understatement.

These wines have averaged 97+ points across 9 cuvees in the 2019 and 2021 vintages from Wine Advocate. Points scores follower or no, this has to be a head turner for you if you’re serious about chardonnay. I find myself comparing the intensity of flavor in these wines to a beautiful young Mersault, but with a greater degree of fruit that’s more akin to the glory day chardonnays of California in the 1970s. The fruit is sourced from parcels around the Willamette Valley and the elevage is a combination of steel and oak; always bringing refreshing richness and deep complexity.

See for yourself:

Tan Fruit ‘Tank Fruit’ Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills 2021 750ml $59 special, 36+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 97 Points “The 2021 Chardonnay Tank Fruit is composed of fruit from the White Walnut Vineyard, a relatively new vineyard comprising eight acres planted around 2015 in the Dundee Hills. “The genetics that produced this is rare,” winemaker Jim Maresh explains, noting that the diverse clonal material in this vineyard includes 10 different heritage selections…The Tank Fruit is bursting with intense aromas of peaches, fruit cocktail, lemongrass and orange oil with streaks of spice and herbs. The medium-bodied palate is satiny and seamless, gaining amplitude in the mouth as it releases wave after wave of concentrated fruit. It has a soft frame of flinty accents, and its fresh acidity calls you in for another sip on the long finish.”

Tan Fruit Maresh Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills 2021 750ml $59 special, 36+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 97 Points “The 2021 Chardonnay Maresh Vineyard has pure aromas of red apples, pie crust, almonds and jasmine blossoms with top notes of salty lemon. The medium-bodied palate is generous yet balanced, with a concentrated core of savory fruit tempered by streaks of matchstick and spice. It has seamless, energetic acidity and a long, nuanced finish and will benefit from 3-5 more years in bottle.”

Wine – and chardonnay in particular – is all about pleasure. Tan Fruit emodies this and offers an experience rarely replicated by white burgundies that cost 2 to 3x its price. This newsletter and the 2021 vintage may perhaps be your last chance to acquire these wines before their price skyrockets and the greater market picks up on their excellence. Don’t miss your chance to put half or full case of these wines down in your cellar.

Tan Fruit Wines Available Now
TAN FRUIT VOJTILLA CHARD 2019 $56.50 32 97 WA Link
TAN FRUIT MARESH VYD CHARD 2019 $59.00 20 97 WA Link
TAN FRUIT FAIRVIEW CHARD 2021 $66.00 17 95 WA Link
TAN FRUIT MARESH VYD CHARD 2021 $59.00 36+ 97 WA Link
TAN FRUIT OAK GROVE CHARD 2021 $59.00 34 97 WA Link
TAN FRUIT SOPHIE’S CHARD 2021 $59.00 36+ 93 WA Link
TAN FRUIT TANK FRUIT CHARD 2021 $59.00 36+ 97 WA Link