2006 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve Ribbon Ridge
Harry Peterson-Nedry, from his perch on Ribbon Ridge, has made some of Oregon's most memorable Pinot Noirs. There was a time when even the best Oregon winegrowers struggled to get their grapes ripe. No more. The effects of global warming are apparent on most of the world's great wine routes, but nowhere is it more evident than the Willamette Valley.
In 2006, Harry was dealt a funny hand. This was the year of the Oregonian inferno, offering up Pinot Noirs of great richness, packed with sweet red fruit flavors. Only one problem. Many of these wines were soft without enough natural acidity to balance out all that ripe strawberry. But great winemakers seem to dynamically adopt magical methods to offset natural excess. With Chehalem's prized cuvee, the Ridgecrest Vineyard Reserve bottling, Peterson-Nedry played the part of Merlin, putting out a Pinot Noir with the richness of the 2006 inferno, but the firmness and chewy mouthfeel needed to compensate for all that lushness.
The 2006 Chehalem Reserve Pinot Noir is one of the quintessential accomplishments of Harry's brilliant winemaking career. Explosive wild strawberry aromatics, a big chunky middle, and miraculously with just enough nerve to carry the day. This is one of the top three wines of the vintage in Oregon.
How did Harry do it? As Harry Peterson-Nedry walked the Ridgecrest Vineyard, tasting grapes in the last days of the warm 2006 vintage in the Willamette Valley, he knew he was dealing with wildly high natural sugars. He also knew, if he made the right call, that he could not only harness all that red fruit power, but enhance it. There were risks. A heavy hand could push the wine right over the top, but if he got it right, he knew he could make one of the great Pinot Noirs of his career. The key to the winemaking magic would be a combination of early picking (to preserve acid) and the careful addition of whole clusters during fermentation, dosing a certain chewy density into the mix.
What is the impact of the whole clusters? By leaving a certain volume of stems and whole berries at the bottom of the fermenter, Harry carefully extracted more stable color, density and a touch of tannic muscle that serves to almost perfectly counterbalance the unbelievable ripeness of 2006. The result is one of the more stunningly ripe (yet balanced) American Pinots we've tasted in a couple of years -- a sort of faintly New World version of a first-growth Gevrey in a ripe vintage.
Chehalem's Ridgecrest Vineyard
"The 2006 Pinot Noir Reserve is a barrel selection of the best in the cellar. It was aged for 11 months in 50% new French oak. Toast, earth notes, raspberry preserves and cherry pie compose a formidable bouquet leading to a rich, layered, nearly opulent wine with excellent balance and a long, fruit-filled finish."
92 points--Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate