Shortly after I moved to Oregon three years ago, I managed to sort of piss off David Adelsheim. THE David Adelsheim of pioneering Pinot fame. I thought, “Well fudge [or maybe another word].” I hoped I was the only one who remembered, but at a recent tasting of Breaking Ground, Adelsheim Vineyard’s new Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir label, I broached the subject. Me: “David, do you remember when I interviewed you about…” and he cut in, “and I pitched a fit?” Yikes, he did remember. He was smiling though so I guess I’m okay.
The article, of which I am still quite proud, was called Appellation Pinot. In it I interviewed winemakers from all of Oregon’s AVAs to discover the varied expressions of Pinot Noir. Mr. Adelsheim felt my efforts were “premature” and suggested waiting until a three vintage study was completed by an OSU (Oregon State University) enologist.
I learned that Adelsheim Vineyard had released a Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir, not to highlight the differences of the AVA’s three main soil types ,but to highlight the AVAs commonalities. I thought David was finally ready to define Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir. Nope, not really. Dave Paige, Adelsheim Vineyard’s winemaker, said, “When a producer tells you why a wine tastes the way it does it is complete bullshit.” You gotta love Dave.
Actually Chehalem Mountains is one of the more difficult AVAs to define because it includes three different soil types; marine sedimentary, volcanic basalt, and wind blown loess. Dave recalls tasting through the different Willamette Valley appellations with a group of wine retailers to determine the AVA’s flavor profile. “We could identify a familiar strain within 3-6 wines in the other AVAs but it took a dozen for Chehalem Mountains.”
Se if we aren’t nailing down the Chehalem flavor then what is Breaking Ground all about? It is a celebration of sorts, a wine to honor the AVA and to mark Adelsheim’s long history in the area. In 1971 Adelsheim purchased the second vineyard site in what would become the Chehalem Mountains AVA. They established the 1st winery in Chehalem Mountains in 1975. Today Adelsheim Vineyards farms and manages over 180 estate acres in Chehalem Mountains across 7 vineyard sites. “In many ways,” explains David , “we are the only ones qualified to tell the story [of the AVA].”
And according to David and Dave that story is of commonality through variety. Breaking Ground encompasses all 3 soils of the AVA, elevation from 200-800 feet, different harvest dates, 11 clones, 4 rootstocks. All blended together the wine revealed itself without a predestined intention and continues to evolve. Dave explains, “It different than 6 months ago. It is getting leaner and more focused. We are as much of a spectator as you are.” Adelsheim points out that it expresses the purity of fruit of a single vineyard wine.
It is the first new label from Adelsheim Vineyard since 2005. There’s only about 1800 cases but it is distributed so you can get a taste of Chehalem Mountains from a stellar producer for $45. Just, for goodness sakes don’t ask them to explain why it tastes the way it does.