Location, location, location this is mantra you've probably heard on more than one occasion and what is true in Real Estate is also true in vineyard selection. Quite a bit of time, effort and agonizing goes into the process of site selection. It's not just a matter of finding a plot of vacant land where everyone else has planted their vineyard and throwing down some rootstock and grafting some vine clone you learned about in winery management 101. So pain staking is site selection that theirs was the culmination of a twelve year search for a location, which they understood needed to combine the best criteria of top quality Oregon and French terroirs.
That said, the most fundamental and irreversible decision in the life of a vineyard is the choice of site and one now can only hope that after a twelve year odyssey they've chosen correctly, I for one believe they have. Vineyard Site Selection is a huge topic and not one I wish to tackle in this review as it would really be impossible as well as impractical, but if you choose to understand more about it, feel free to click on this link I've included and have at it!
Focus on Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir appears to be Carabella Vineyards main emphasis, they have five different clonal blocks fermented separately, then blended prior to bottling to exhibit the complex potential of the vineyard. They make modest (this where you have balance) use of new French oak, their stated focus is on the, "purity of fruit and elegance of style" according to their winemaker Mike Hallock. Many folks now consider Pinot Noir as the preeminent red grape, ala a post Sideways era. It has been eluded to in many circles (this time I'm included) that Pinot Noir is able to covey a sense of place (terroir) better than many of its counter parts. According to Michael Franz of (WRO), "when PN is well crafted by a winemaker with a deft hand, Pinot Noir is uniquely capable of transmitting intricate nuances regarding the climate and soils of the place in which it was grown." this is a statement of which I am in total agreement with and leads me into this thought, most Pinot Noir (any wine really) will fall into one camp or the other either it will be thin, rustic and aloof or it will be a over extracted fruit bomb, neither of which a true Pinot Noir is meant to be.
The Vineyards: Where you may ask is this vineyard exactly, the vineyard is located in the newly designated Chehalem Mountains AVA (American Viticultural Areas) in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley. Their vineyard sits on a 58 acre site, on the southeast side of Parret Mountain, with a southeast slope which would seems to be an ideal. The altitude between 500 to 600 feet and the terrior is composed of gravely volcanic soils, Nekia, Saum and Jory (which is the name of my kids, Jk), which have proven perfect for dry farming according to their winemaker Mike Hallock.
This review will focus around two of the wines from Carabella Vineyards one the Plowbuster Pinot Noir described as a second label from Carabella Vineyard and the other was their 2007 Chardonnay featuring the Dijon 76 Clone and this is the Chardonnay I mentioned in my last post as a very good wine that balances the chasm between NO-oak and a gentle oaking.
Full Disclosure: Both these wines were sent as a sample to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for review.
The 2007 Carabella Chardonnay:
First Swirl: In the glass it has a crisply colored straw core and pale straw rim.
First Sniff: After pouring myself a glass, I put my nose into the glass to find aromas of crisp apple and creamy vanilla notes wafting effortlessly from the freshly swirled glass.
First Sip: Ripe and juicy yet restrained (weird I know), with lingering flavors of apple and a mouth coating crème brulée creaminess. Elegant and well balanced, with a subtle spiciness in the finish, akin to a white Burgundian style. In this case it should be call Oregundian, did I just make up a "new" word? Someone check it out for me please, if so I want the credit!
Price: This wine can be found between $23 and $27 in most retail stores and can also be purchased directly from the winery online.
Alcohol and Aging: Weighing in at a mere 13% and for the aging process it was left on yeast lees for 6 months; barrel aged in French oak for 10 months in 13% new oak and bottled last August with just a little over 400 cases produced.
The Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: This wine scored a solid 90 points. This wine would have had a higher score with a lower price point, but with only 400 cases it's hard to keep prices low, just to achieve higher scores.
First Swirl: Into the glass it goes and tilting my glass back to catch the sun beaming onto my patio I found a bright, light colored garnet core, leading to a cerise colored rim.
First Sniff: The swirling above released vibrant berry and brown spice aromas on the nose.
First Sip: Upon initial entry strawberry and a sprinkle of cinnamon, a tepid mid-palate, but classic fine tannins with a silky texture. It finishes nicely with a touch of red berry goodness. Paired nicely with food but it's not built as a stand alone sipper. Possibly this bottle needs another 6 months of bottle aging before it should be opened. I've personally not touched any of my other PN 2007s yet and don't plan to until well after the summer.
Price: This wine can be found online and in retail wine shops for about $17 - $19 depending on where you shop.
The Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: This wine has a score of 89 points.
My Recommendation: Okay here's what I would advise, the Chardonnay is really good and I would grab some if I were you. This wine can be said to "stradle the fence" between the big over oaked Chardonnay and those of the No-Oak ever Chardonnays. Perfectly balanced and a nice compliment to most meals. The Pinot while it is good, it's not a great value in my estimation in terms of QPR and I know this is a second label for them and is sold as value wine. If this wine sold for $15 or less it would be far more attractive.