A Well-Aged Vertical: Chehalem 2005 Pinot Noir Reserve and 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve

Pinot Noir taunts you as it ages.  It shows majestically on one day and then crawls into hiding on the next.  So, whatever one says about about an old bottle of Pinot, it should always be taken with some salinity.  But decade old Pinot Noir from Oregon is quite the catch and I'd be remiss to not share my "insights" into these Reserve Pinot Noirs from Chehalem.

In addition to the label differences, the 2005 is bottled under cork and the 2008 is screwcapped.

In addition to the label differences, the 2005 is bottled under cork and the 2008 is screwcapped.

Chehalem 2005 Pinot Noir Reserve.  $33.99 Retail (375ml)

Rated 94/100 points.  A.

Chehalem's website calls 2005 "an old-style Oregon Vintage ... cooler and damper than the average modern vintage."  Perhaps the vintage or perhaps the faster aging of the cork seal lead to a wine that was significantly into secondary flavors.  The aromas were feral and crushed fruit.  Imagine field of black raspberries that has been ravaged by a wild animal. 

The texture of the wine was quite smooth with toast, smoke, and musk aggressively playing with the fruit.  The finish was quite long and felt at times like it was picking up steam.

Chehalem 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve.  $33.99 Retail (375ml)

Rated 94/100.  A.

2008 was "the best vintage" on the market when I first discovered Oregon Pinot Noir.  It is hard to believe that these wines are now eight years old and solidly mature.

The wines aromatics were red purity with the mind imagining perfectly ripe raspberries, cherries, and strawberries.  The palate moved the fruit into red preserves, again deliciously pure.  Coquettishly, there were flavors of gingerbread that came and went throughout the 45 minutes I spent tasting this wine.

A little about Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve and Comparing the Vintages.

Chehalem makes this wine to express the feminine essence of Pinot Noir.  It is considered their "optimally ageable" bottling.  Historically, this wine was largely from the Ridgecrest Estate, but in 2008 it became 100%.

The wines showed completely differently.  The 2005 was all secondary funk and wild complexity, while the 2008 was red fruit purity.  I'm inclined to blame the difference on vintage character and the issue of the seal.  2008 was the best vintage and is also three years younger, so it is likely that fruit would show more strongly.  The screwcap may also delay aging and preserve fruit.

I do, however, view these wines as having equal quality, despite the very different character.

And I do want to taste as many older bottles of Chehalem as I can manage.

FTC Disclosure: My opinions are my own.  They are not paid for by any company and do not necessarily represent the opinions of any company.  I purchased these wines at employee discount pricing.  I work for Cutting Edge Selections which distributes these wines in Ohio and Kentucky.