Monday, December 6, 2010

Chehalem Cerise (2006)

Chehalem is one of the many vineyards in Willamette Valley that produces great wines.  Located in Newberg, Oregon, which is located in the northern portion of Willamette Valley, Chehalem -- which is the Calapooia Indian word for the phrase "gentle land" or "valley of flowers" -- grows a wide range of grapes in its vineyards, including, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, and Gamay Noir.

The grapes are grown in three vineyards ... Corral Creek, Ridgecrest, and Stoller.  Ridgecrest is the oldest vineyard, where Pinot Noir grapes are primarily grown, along with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gamay Noir and Riesling grapes.  The other vineyards also grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling.  The three vineyards provide Chehalem with over 360 plantable acres.

When Clare and I were in Oregon, we did not have a chance to visit those vineyards.  Instead, our tour guide took us to the Chehalem tasting room, which is located in Newberg, Oregon.   We had the opportunity to sample several of Chehalem's wines, all of which were very good.  And, after our visit, we left with a couple of bottles, including a bottle of the 2006 Cherise.

The Cherise differs from the typical wine produced in the Willamette Valley.  The most well known wines from the valley are Pinot Noirs, as that is the predominant grape grown through the region.  However, in the Cerise, the Pinot Noir grape plays a secondary role.  The principal grape is the Gamay Noir grape.  The Gamay Noir is primarily grown in France, in Beaujolais and along the Loire, near Tours, France.  The grape was introduced into Willamette Valley by Amity Vineyards, and it has spread throughout the valley, with growers producing wines like the Cherise.  Chehalem produces the Cherise with 80% Gamay Noir grapes and 20% Pinot Noir grapes. 

Unlike many of the Pinot Noirs that I've had (and I've had many), the Cherise pours a little lighter, with more ruby tones than burgundy tones.  The lighter color is also reflected in the taste, as the wine has a brighter flavor.  Rather than dark cherries, one is greeted by an intense cherry flavor.  The cherry flavor is followed by a small amount of pepper on the finish.  The end result is a very drinkable wine that is a little sweeter than expected. 

To the extent it is still available, you would need to go to Oregon or perhaps shop for it online.  For more information on Chehalem and its wines, check out the vineyard's website.


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