Tag Archive | Cerise

Chehalem – YUM!

Sadly every wine tour has to come to an end, and we wrapped up our Memorial Day tasting tour with our favorite – Chehalem. Chehalem is one of the wineries that Jon’s grandfather told us we had to try, and he was right about it’s quality. Chehalem has a tasting room in Newberg, Oregon that is very conveniently located as you head north on Highway 99. It is a standalone brick building, and once you are inside, you are greeted by local art on the walls that changes quarterly. Whoever is in charge of the art has done a great job choosing beautiful works that really fit the wine country and local agriculture theme. I’ve been tempted by several of the pieces. The tasting room staff are always friendly and knowledgeable about the wines, and are very down to earth and fun to talk to.

But this trip we didn’t go to the tasting room – twice a year they open up the winery for tastings there and tours, so we headed there instead. The winery is a few more miles north on 99, close to August Cellars on the other side of the road. We got there and checked in, and told them we are wine club members, which gave us the privilege of a barrel tasting of their 2010 vintage “Best of Barrel” wines. We got our glasses and were told to head on over and start tasting the whites, and Harry would come get us when he was ready for our barrel tasting. We got our wine club shipment a few weeks ago, so we were looking forward to the opportunity to tasting some of the new releases before we opened our bottle.

We started our tasting with a perennial favorite – the Inox Chardonnay. The Inox is a stainless steel aged Chardonnay, so it doesn’t have the oak flavor that so many Chardonnays have. It is an extremely crisp and clean Chardonnay, that pairs well with spicy food and rich foods.

The second wine was a Grüner-Veltliner – a varietal that isn’t very common in the United States yet. The grape is primarily grown in Austria, Slovia and the Czech Republic, where it is commonly grown on extremely steep terraces where it is difficult to retain the soil. Apparently when DNA researchers went looking for the parents of the Grüner-Veltliner grape, they found that one parent was the Traminer grape (also a parent of Gerwurztraminer) and the other parent was unknown. Eventually they discovered one lone vine hanging on in an abandoned vineyard in Austria. The pasture had not been used as a vineyard since the late 1800s, and this was the last remaining vine they could find. They are currently trying to cultivate this last vine to see what kind of properties its grapes have. But I digress. Chehalem’s Grüner-Veltliner is a refreshing white with a lot of minerality.

The last white that we tried was the 3 Vineyard Riesling. This wine is one that I have discussed before in a previous post. I’m happy to say I enjoyed it as much the second time I tried it.

After we tasted the whites, Harry came and got us for our barrel tasting. We happened to be the only ones going on the barrel tasting tour at the time, so we got a private tour. Harry is the owner and founder of Chehalem, and his knowledge and expertise are evident when he talks about his wines. It is Harry’s opinion that the 2010 vintage won’t be horribly ruined, even though the spring weather was cold and rainy, and we got early fall rain as well. For him, it is all a matter of the expertise of the winemaker – and if anyone can do it, Harry can.

The Chehalem Barrel Room is big and plain – not a lot of ornament, just a commitment to making good wine. Each year, Harry selects one barrel from each of the four Pinot Noir vineyards (one isn’t really its own vineyard, rather a section of the Ridgecrest vineyard), and that becomes the “Best Barrel” for the year. That barrel is aged and bottled as a single vineyard wine that is sold as futures to wine club members. The theory behind the Best Barrel choice is that it represents that absolute best of that vineyard for the year. Harry also chooses a Best Barrel for the Chardonnay. This is what we had the opportunity to taste that day. And I tell you, these wines were amazing! We started off with the Chardonnay, which is aged in oak. The other barrels of this Chardonnay become the Ian’s Reserve Chardonnay, so it was nice to have the opportunity to see what our bottle might taste like. The oak on this wine is light and not overpowering, with a light butter that gives it a richness. Jon was head over heels over this wine – I foresee buying futures of it – well, in the future.

The four Pinots each had different characteristics. We tasted Stoller, Corral Creek, Wind Ridge and Ridgecrest. Harry explained the differences in the types of soil and the temperatures of the vineyards. With his descriptions, you can really taste the differences and how the vineyard plays a role. They were all amazing, but our favorite was the Wind Ridge. Wind Ridge is actually a section of the Ridgecrest vineyard, at the highest elevation of the vineyard along a ridge. This is a fairly young planting, and you can tell that the wine is going to improve with age as this vineyard matures. When we have a bit more disposable income, we will certainly be interested in buying these futures wines.

After the barrel tasting, we headed back outside to where they were tasting the reds. They started us off with the Cerise, which is one of my absolute favorite wines. Frankly, I don’t think it gets enough credit. The Cerise is a blend of 80% Gamay Noir and 20% Pinot Noir, and it has a rich Bing cherry flavor. It is really like drinking a delicious cherry pie. It is very reasonably priced as well, with the 2009 vintage retailing for $24.  Unfortunately, you don’t see it around outside the winery much, I think because they don’t produce much of this wine.

Next we moved to the 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir, which is a blended Pinot Noir that includes grapes from Chehalem’s three estate vineyards (that means that Chehalem owns the vineyards, and they don’t buy the grapes from someone else.) The 3 Vineyard Pinot is a great wine – it has excellent structure, and a nice balance between the fruit and the light oak that it is aged in.

We finished off with the 2009 Corral Creek single vineyard Pinot. This is a big Pinot, mixing cherry and chocolate tastes, but still delivering without being overpowering. It was a great wine to finish off the tasting.

We brought home several bottles for ourselves, and purchased some for Jon’s mom as well. She has been interested in Chehalem since trying their Inox Chardonnay a couple of years ago. Our Chehalem wrapped up the Memorial Day tasting weekend, but we can’t wait for our next visit.

Sokolicious

On New Year’s weekend, Jon and I were heading down to Portland to visit family, so we took a day to ourselves and headed over to one of our favorite wine regions… the Willamette Valley.  We have vowed to go to at least one winery on each visit that we haven’t been to before.  It was New Year’s Eve, which I thought would be very busy, but surprisingly, there weren’t many people out and about.

Our first stop was to Torii Mor winery.  Jon has had their flagship Pinot Noir, the one you can get at the grocery store, but I have never tried their wines.  We sampled their Cote D’Mor Viognier, the Reserve Pinot Gris, the 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the 2008 Deux Verres Pinot Noir and we finished off with their 2006 Syrah Port wine.  I enjoyed their Viognier, but found the Pinot Gris to be not fruity or crisp enough for my taste.  Jon and I both thought the Willamette Valley Pinot was a light and easy everyday drinking wine, but it lacked much pizazz.  The Deux Verres Pinot Noir was very nice, as it has a more robust flavor.  The Port wine was excellent, with a strong flavor that would be great poured over cheesecake or ice cream.  The server was friendly and talkative, and the atmosphere was nice.  We were alone the whole time we were there, so having a personable server really made a difference.

After leaving Torii Mor, we decided to turn right and go up the hill instead of heading back down to Highway 99.  We passed a couple of wineries that looked interesting, but were closed for the New Year’s holiday, so those will be ones we want to visit in the future.  We stopped next at Maresh Red Barn Winery, which for us was a complete unknown.  They have been in business since 1970, but apparently just sell from the winery.  They are located in a 100 year old barn, which had antique glass windows and an amazing view.  This would be a great place to visit in the summer too.  Here we had five wines, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay, and three Pinot Noirs.  The Pinot Gris was the standout here.  It has clean and crisp, with green apple flavors.  The Chardonnay was very good too, but unlike a traditional Chardonnay – this one was completely unoaked.  Their three Pinot Noirs were light and fruity and were all very soft.  I would have preferred a bit more from the Pinot.  We purchased the Pinot Gris, and after leaving, I think we should have purchased two.

Next up we headed to Sokol Blosser, which we have been thinking about visiting for a while.  The atmosphere here is more contemporary, with a a younger vibe.  They have a huge floor to ceiling window in the tasting room that looks out on Mount Hood, which was clearly visible on the day of our visit.  The view was spectacular.  Our servers were both young and hip, but knew about their wines.

Sokol Blosser is a certified organic winery and practices sustainable farming techniques.  We tried their Pinot Gris, which was very well done.  It was another crisp, clean fruity Pinot Gris, that will be perfect when the temperatures warm back up.  We sampled three vintages of their Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, which is a blend of all their blocks of Pinot Noir grapes.  We started with the 2008, and finished with the 2006.  It was interesting to see how the 3 vintages were so different, with the ’08 being a great balanced Pinot, the ’07 being very soft and light, and the ’06 being a robust strong Pinot.  Jon and I both liked the 2008 best.  Jon really liked their 2007 Goosepen Pinot Noir, which is a single vineyard wine, but I thought it wasn’t different enough from the ’07 Dundee Hills to justify the difference in price.  We finished our tasting with the White Riesling Dessert Wine, which was a lovely sweet dessert wine.  Sokol Blosser was our untried winery star for the day – we both really enjoyed all of their wines.

We ended our day at Chehalem, one of our old standbys, which is always excellent.  We tried their Pinot Blanc, which was very good.  There aren’t many Pinot Blanc varietal wines out there, so I’m always looking for good ones.  Jon and  I also both love their Cerise, which is a wine that is Gamay Noir blended with Pinot Noir.  Gamay Noir is a grape similar to Pinot Noir, but it has a strong delicious cherry taste.  Chehalem always does a great job with their Pinots and this year’s are no different.  Everything they have is delicious – you can’t go wrong whatever you buy.

It was certainly another day well-spent in the valley.  Can’t wait to be back again.  I don’t have my camera cord here, so I’ll post pictures soon.