Tag Archive | Chehalem

Oregon Wine Tasting – Chehalem Best Barrel Day

On our full day in Portland, my cousin Megan wanted to spend the day doing some wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.  My mom volunteered to be our designated driver, so we made plans to visit a couple of wineries and spend the day socializing and trying some new wines.  Being from Michigan, Megan had never tried tried Oregon wines before, so she was looking forward to experiencing something new.  To be honest though, I was a little concerned because Michigan wineries tend to make much sweeter wines than the wineries on the West Coast.  I wasn’t sure if Megan would like them!

After catching a bit of my nieces’ T-Ball game, we headed over to the Willamette Valley and made our first stop at Chehalem Winery.  Chehalem is one of my absolute favorite wineries, and I was super-excited to be there because it was Best Barrel Day.  Best Barrel Day is a special event that Chehalem puts on each year in May, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend.  Jon and I are wine club members, one of the very few wine clubs that we belong to.  The Best Barrels are available only to club members, and they are only available for tasting this particular weekend (they might taste them again the next weekend – Memorial Day – if there is still enough available).

Megan and I began our tasting with the commercially released whites.  We began with Inox Chardonnay, which is a wonderful crisp stainless steel aged Chardonnay.  This is a fantastic white wine, that is consistent year to year and always a crowd pleaser when we have guests over.  The Corral Creek Riesling is a great Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, with just enough sweetness.

Chehalem Barrels - Waiting for Some Wine!

Chehalem Barrels – Waiting for Some Wine!

After tasting the whites, we went into the cellar to taste the barrels.  Chehalem produces several single vineyard Pinot Noirs and a single vineyard Chardonnay each year, and every year, the winemaker selects one barrel from each wine that exemplifies what that particular wine is supposed to be – the best barrel.  The best barrel is then aged and bottled by itself and sold in 6-packs to wine club members.  The five wines were:

  • 2012 Stoller Vineyards Chardonnay – this wine is aged on oak, so it is a bigger, bolder Chardonnay than the Inox, which is made from grapes from the same vineyard.  It is wonderfully balanced between fruit and oak, with flavors of honey, pear and floral notes.
  • 2012 Corral Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir – Corral Creek Vineyard is the Chehalem vineyard that produces the softest, most elegant Pinot Noirs.  They are some of my favorites.  This barrel is excellent, but this years Corral Creek grapes are more robust than typical, with a bit more earthy flavor than normal.  It still has light tannins and the cranberry and cherry flavors that I enjoy so much.
  • 2012 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir – This wine is very big, with a much darker purple color that a typical Pinot Noir.  It is very spicy  with much heavier tannins than many Pinots.  This was my least favorite barrel of the bunch.  That said, as the wine is not finished aging, I have every expectation that this wine will transform into a beautiful Pinot – Chehalem’s wines always do.
  • 2012 Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noir – This Ridgecrest Pinot Noir came from a block planted in 1983, and shows moderate tannins, some blackberry mixed into the cherry, and some light spice flavors (is it oregano or thyme?).  This wine was my favorite from the five barrels.
  • 2012 Wind Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir – Wind Ridge is a smaller section within the Ridgecrest vineyard, and has characteristics that are similar to the Ridgecrest barrel.  There are the same flavors of blackberry and spice, but a bit more pepper and earth than the Ridgecrest vineyard barrel.  It was hard to choose the favorite between this one and the Ridgecrest, but this one came in a close second for me.

It was always interesting to taste from the barrel – these young wines will change a lot before they are finally bottled and sold, but you can taste the beginnings of what they are going to become.  After the barrel tasting, we headed back out to the event tent, where we got to taste the bottled versions of the Pinots that were recently released – 2011.  The bottlings were the commercially released wines, so essentially, we were tasting the versions from all the barrels from the vineyards that were not selected as the best barrel.

Even though these aren’t the Best Barrels, these wines are certainly nothing to turn your nose up at!  The 2011 Corral Creek, Stoller, and Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noirs are all excellent, and Megan and I enjoyed them immensely.  They were served with some gourmet hors d’oeuvres, which paired nicely with the wines.

Even though we don’t often have the opportunity to visit Chehalem, their events are always second to none.  They make you feel welcome and valued when you visit, and I always have a great time.  Still at the top of my list for wineries!

Note: I apologize for the lack of photos on this post – I was enjoying myself so much that I neglected to take more pictures…  I will try to do better next time.

Chehalem 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir

The other night, my debate wine was the 2007 Chehalem Reserve Pinot Noir.  I’ve blogged about Chehalem before because it is absolutely one of my favorite wineries.

This Pinot is ready to drink now.  2007 was a year of softer, more elegant Pinots, and I think this one is a great example of the vintage.  The nose is strawberry and smoke, with a very light mouthfeel. It tastes of strawberry, cherry and the same smoke that is evident on the nose.  At this age, there is very little of the tart acidity that so many younger Pinots possess.

Chehalem 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir

So how to compare it to the debaters?  Well, this wine is refined.  It doesn’t talk over the moderator, doesn’t try to get the last word in, and doesn’t step on anybody else to try to get its point in.  It just stands on its own merits.

The Kitties are Hot… But the Chehalem is Chilled!

Today it reached a whopping 87 degrees, which is pretty darned hot here in the Northwest.  Of course, this week at work has been insanely busy, so mostly I spent the days inside in the air conditioning, except for a couple one block strolls to meetings in other buildings.  But since our house doesn’t have air conditioning, it is much hotter at home than it is at work.  Today when I got home it was 80 degrees on the first floor, and hotter upstairs where our bedroom is.

The kitties are stretched out on the bed looking like they are going to melt.  I feel badly for them, because they are furry and can’t get any more naked than they already are.  But I didn’t feel sorry enough for them to offer them any of my Chehalem 2010 3 Vineyard Pinot Gris.  I wasn’t going to offer Jon any either, but he just took some!

Chehalem 2010 3 Vineyard Pinot Gris

My brain is too hot and tired to work up a very sophisticated review, so this will have to suffice…

The winemaker’s notes say, “from a cool, low-crop vintage, there are exotic tropical fruit, jasmine, pear juice and papaya aromas and flavors, and racy lemon sorbet and spice palate impressions, set on-edge by great acidity and perfectly balanced minor residual sugar. Perfect food wine.”  It got a score of 90 from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, if the scores are something that interest you.  On the nose, this wine has a nice, light minerality combined with sweetness.  It tastes of Golden delicious apple and pear.  It is fantastic on it’s own or with food.  In fact the only negative thing I can say is that the bottle is almost empty!

Chehalem for Christmas

Here we are, the post Christmas return to normal. I finished the shopping, hung out with the families, and had to go back to work this morning after a lovely 4 day weekend. One of the perks of the new job (although I’ve been there almost a year now!) is that we have both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. When they both fall on a weekend, like this year, we get the business day before and after off instead, so we end up with a four day weekend! I really needed a four day weekend. Of course, I’m fighting another sinus infection that continues to wipe me out. My eyes were really puffy for several days last week, making me look like I just got done with a good cry. This is a fairly new symptom with sinus infections for me, and I’m sure I don’t like it. I think I looked like death warmed over, since I’m more pale than I have been in years, due to the lack of a summer this year.

Jon got my big Christmas gift the Monday before Christmas – the 19th. He was so excited about it that he started texting me in the afternoon, asking if we could open presents that night. I hadn’t actually gotten all his presents at that point, so that made things a bit tougher. I said no, he said yes, and it went round and round like that until he sat me down on the couch with a gift bag and would let me get up until I opened it. It was a Kindle! I’m pretty excited about it, but I didn’t have any time to play with it with the flurry that is the week before Christmas. Now that things have settled down, I’ve had the opportunity to download a few books to read.

On Christmas Eve we opened a bottle of the 2008 Chehalem Corral Creek Pinot Noir. 2008 ended up being an excellent year for Willamette Valley Pinots, with the weather cooperating, and a late summer/fall warmth and sunshine that contributed to a bumper crop. As a result this vintage tends to be very reasonably priced – if you can still find it. The Chehalem Corral Creek Pinot is an excellent single vineyard Pinot, with a softness that really showcases what I think a Pinot ought to be. There are raspberry notes, and a light mouthfeel that is perfect anytime. We enjoyed it with veggies, cheeses and dips before dinner, and although Pinots are light wines, it wasn’t overpowered by any of the snacks.

I have yet to meet a Chehalem wine I haven’t loved, but this one is extra special.  If you have a chance, try it!

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.