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George Heritier's Tasting Notes

1998 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Gris $14: This pale straw was fermented entirely in stainless steel, seeing no malo. The nose shows green apple/detergent aromas that follow through on the palate with a certain creaminess; there’s good intensity and concentration here. Harry noted a litchi nuttiness, and he had a point. Very nice!

1997 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Gris Ridgecrest Reserve $19: This pale-medium straw gets the full malolactic treatment in 4-5 year old oak barrels. It sacrifices some of the brightness of the regular bottling for richness; it’s softer and creamier with good intensity and acidity.

 1998 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Gris Ridgecrest Reserve $NA: This has sweeter aromatics than the previous vintage, according to Bree; I noted a creamy understated oak bouquet. The cream is turned up a notch on the palate, with green apple/mineral character. There’s excellent consistency here. Bree preferred the Reserve models, while I favored the regular bottling slightly.

1998 Chehalem Willamette Valley Chardonnay: Harry poured this from one of the tanks; it had just been racked and saw 8-9 months in 40-50 % French oak. It’s a medium straw, with a creamy spicy pear nose that follows through on the palate. Harry said they strive for lush fruit, but also a good acid backbone, and this succeeds. The fruit is from 50 % Dijon clone and 50 % 108 clone.

1997 Chehalem Willamette Valley Chardonnay $19: This medium straw has the same percentages as the newer model, and again, creamy green apple/pear flavors and aromas highlighted by hazelnut/mineral/detergent nuances. It finishes long and was received enthusiastically by all.

1997 Chehalem Willamette Valley Chardonnay Ian’s Reserve $32: A medium straw, this is named for Harry’s son, who tragically perished in an auto accident at the age of 19. 90 % Dijon clone, it saw 12-14 months in oak, and it shows in the toasty sweet fruit and cinnamon/allspice/clove/maple syrup complexities. It has a creamy intensity, and Bree opined that it would stand up to any California Chardonnay in a blind tasting. Very nice indeed!

1997 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 3 Vineyard $18: According to Harry, this smoky ruby garnet is made from "what’s left after the others are bottled." It has a smoky black cherry/tea leaf character, and if it could use a little more flesh and concentration, it’s nice for the price.

1997 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Stoller Vineyard $28: The fruit for this from what Harry described as "a precocious young vineyard," it came from only the 2nd crop and 3rd leaf (Wow!) and is 50 % older Pommard clone and 50 % newer Dijon clone. It’s a deeper color than the 3 Vineyard bottling, with more smoky black cherry flavors and aromas and a buttered toast note on the nose. It has silky fine fruit tannins and good acidity. Harry got some "animal" on the nose and said this will be at its best next year and for 5 years beyond. He went on to add that they cold soak their Pinot Noirs, striving for elegance, finesse and balance.

1997 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Ridgecrest Vineyard $28: From Chelalem’s original vineyard, this ruby garnet shows a hint of rust and what Harry likes to call "brown aromas." There’re nice complexities here; I noted forest floor/black cherry, while Jeff got nutmeg; Harry got some cedar box. The flavors echo with smooth pretty fruit, and "the depth and body comes up in the glass," according to Bree.

1996 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Ridgecrest Rion Reserve $38: Named after their friend and consultant, Patrice Rion of Burgundy’s Domaine Rion, this slightly rusty smoky ruby garnet shows a hint of cola nut over refined black cherry/plum flavors and aromas, and is very silky on the palate. This should only get better with age as it develops some complexity, as was indicated by the next selection.

1994 Chehalem Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Ridgecrest Rion Reserve: Smoky garnet with a hint of brick, this shows big smoke over black cherry/plum aromatics, with a some Brasso/cola and a note of maple syrup as it opens. The rich concentrated flavors echo, with an added briar-y nuance, according to Harry

That was the end of the bottled selections, but our host wasn’t done with us yet! He led us out back to the barrel storage building for some barrel tasting, just as the portable bottling truck was pulling in. As we proceeded, he told us that they use 100 % French oak, and a diversity of coopers and yeasts to add complexity.

Our first sample was a ’98 Pinot Noir from a 1 year old barrel, and if he specified where it came from, I failed to record that. (I wasn’t spitting everything…) A purple garnet with "lots of intensity," according to califusa, this showed big sweet yeasty black cherry/dark berry fruit with good density. It received big wows all around.

Next came a taste of the ’98 Corral Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir, also from a 1 year barrel, which Bree likened to Pinot Noir pancake syrup, with its smoky dark berry/black cherry essence. It showed nice creamy oak qualities, and fine, rather than coarse, tannins.

Our final sample came from a new barrel and what Harry described as a 5 acre Pommard block of Pinot Noir, adding that it featured a "lot of smoke and a lot of wood." It has rich sweet fruit and huge aromatics, which came across as toast/black cherry/dark berry flavors and aromas.

Allan Bree's Tasting Notes:

Chehalem 1998 Pinot Gris - all stainless steel - no ML - some flinty notes in the nose as well as a little spice on the palate - the wine is fresh and fruity with slightly crisp acidity and is very pleasing and well balanced.

Chehalem 1997 Pinot Gris Reserve - full lees contact and 100% malolactic - retains an interesting hint of the flinty notes, but one can clearly see how the ML changes the aromatics of the wine - there is a "leesey" loveliness to the nose - a smoother and richer mouthfeel - fascinating contrast in styles - two very different, but interesting and flavorful wines.

Chehalem 1998 Pinot Gris Reserve - tank sample, to be bottled this week - richer fruit flavors, mostly pear and peach - with pleasingly crisp acidity - very interesting and enjoyable wine. Clearly the most fascinating example of this varietal I have had a chance to sample.

Chehalem 1998 Chardonnay Estate from tank - 40-50% new French oak - barrel fermented - the sulfur is up a bit, but that is to be expected, as the wine was racked from barrel into blending tank. The flavors are just lovely - sweet Chard fruit with notes of pear and slightly crisp acidity. With a little bit of time, I think this wine will be a real winner!

Chehalem 1997 Chardonnay Estate - 50% Dijon clone - stylistically very similar to the 98 - good structure - refreshing acidity - a great food wine, but still has ample fruit.

Chehalem 1997 Chardonnay Ian's Reserve - 97% Dijon clone - 14 months in barrel - very impressive wine - deeper in color - on the palate shows loads of sweet varietal fruit and oak that is perfectly integrated - excellent balance, and would show well, I think, against anything that California has to offer.

Chehalem 1997 Pinot Noir Three Vineyards - lovely sweet Pinot fruit with a touch of smoke in the nose - good varietal character on the palate - may lack a touch of intensity, and has some unresolved fruit tannins, but generally a good value at $18, and will show very impressively a year from now.

Chehalem 1997 Pinot Noir Stoller Vineyard - deeper color (from only second harvest) - fascinating nose of purple and black pretty Pinot fruit with hints of loam and toffee. Amazingly this is from third leaf! Certainly a vineyard source to watch.

Chehalem 1996 Pinot Noir Ridgecrest- spice and wood driven aromatics rather than fruit driven - some cedar and brown spice - nutmeg and allspice - and some tobacco leaf - sweeter Pinot fruit on the palate - other hints of spice - good acid structure - perhaps not as impressive as the 97 Stoller, but a competently made Pinot.

Chehalem 1994 Pinot Noir Ridgecrest Rion Reserve - much deeper color with very dark and mysterious black fruits on the nose and significant delicious smoky nuances in the mouth.



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