Oregon wines featured at next tasting
By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
June 9, 2004
Last week we wrote about the wonderful wines of Oregon. A local couple who comes to the monthly tastings returned recently from that state and gave them a strong thumbs-up. So, this month we've decided to give you the opportunity of tasting them as well.
The wines of Oregon will be the feature of the tasting on June 24, and there are several unique features about them. We've done our homework and picked two, and only two of Oregon's outstanding wineries to feature. One reason is their wines are available in Mississippi. The other is because these represent two of the best in a state which has built a reputation for the quality of their pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. We're going head to head, winery against winery and may the best producer win.
One is the Chehalem winery in Oregon's Willamette Valley. We found a review of this outstanding producer in the Wine Spectator magazine.
Chehalem is a local American Indian word best translated as "gentle land" or "valley of flowers," it said, "which captures a long-standing, almost religious reverence for the land. Chehalem Winery understands this reverence for they consider themselves a vineyard winery, dedicated to reflecting as purely as possible what the vineyard has produced with minimal processing and without compromising great fruit. Stylistically, look for the wines to be forward and sometimes shocking in ripeness, fruit and spice with a complexity that is bright and brazen."
It's a small operation with only seven employees and an annual case production of just 10,000. They've been producing quality wines for 14 years.
Chehalem wines will be matched against Oregon's giant, King Estate Winery, also in the Willamette Valley of the state.
Wine Spectator gave us this review: "Located 22 miles Southwest of Eugene, Ore., King Estate is known for producing exceptional quality pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay. The estate, totaling 820 acres, includes a state of the art winemaking facility crafted in the traditional style of a French chateau, a vine propagation and nursery facility known as Lorane grapevines, a 11/2-acre organic garden and 15 acres of fruit orchards."
In contrast to Chehalem's relatively tiny output, King Estate produces 80,000 cases per year. They are a 12-year-old operation founded in 1992.
I've tasted their wines several times and they are state of the art. Representatives of that winery regularly work Mississippi's casinos and, as a result, they have developed a certain popularity with those who visit the state's casino restaurants, usually among Mississippi's best.
On the other hand I know little about Chehalem except they receive outstanding reviews and they are priced with Oregon's best offerings. Both of those facts constitute a recommendation in my book.
Since it is acknowledged that pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay are the state's best grapes, that is what we shall taste. We'll match Chehalem chardonnay estate against King Estate chardonnay reserve.
Then we'll pair Chehalem pinot noir No. 3 vineyard versus King Estate's famous pinot noir. Finally, we'll taste Chehalem pinot gris reserve against King Estate's pinot gris reserve, top wine against top wine.
In other words four of the wines will be white, two red. No wine to be served sells for less than $20 and the top one crowds $30.
The door wine will also be from Oregon, a semi-sparkling wine we know you'll enjoy.
We doubt if you are familiar with any of these wines. Oregon wines are not seen that often in Mississippi. But they are all worthy and we suspect most of them will be memorable.
The tasting is priced at $30 and reservations are now being accepted. Call 482-0930 if you plan to attend this interesting evening of wine tasting and learning experience. It will start at our usual 6:30 p.m. at Northwood Country Club and the public is welcome. But you must make a reservation in order that we know how much wine to purchase. So, call at your earliest opportunity. If you'd simply prefer to send in your check, make it out to Wines Unlimited, P.O. Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302.