Carabella: Pinot as it Was Meant to Be
There are many superb producers of Pinot Noir in the Chehalem Mountains. Chehalem (Sha-HAY-lum) is
derived from a Native American word, Chahelim, that was the name of a band of Native Americans who lived in
this part of the Willamette Valley. The name translates as “gentle place” or “place of flowers.” Dick Erath
planted the first vineyards in this region in 1968 on a 49-acre property he bought and named Chehalem
Mountain Vineyards. David Adelsheim, Dick Ponzi and others led the second wave in the 1970s. Carabella
Vineyard is a more recent addition to the Chehalem Mountains landscape, releasing its first vintage in 1998
from a 27-acre vineyard located on a 58-acre site on the southeastern side of Parrett Mountain, one of the
three sub-regions of the Chehalem Mountains appellation. Carabella Vineyard is part of the Inchinnan Farm, a
hazelnut orchard still owned by the McDonald family.
Carabella’s winemaker is geologist and petroleum engineer Mike Hallock. Trained as a winemaker in Colorado
of all places, (the owner of the Combine Cellars in Denver had moved his winery to Colorado to capture an
emerging wine market there), he searched for twelve years to find an ideal site for growing grapes before
acquiring his site in 1995. He studied the soil types in Oregon and searched for the oldest soils, believing they
produced the best wines. Mike and his wife, Cara, partnered with Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad and
her spouse, John, a retired Oregon University surgeon, to launch the Carabella Vineyard project. For several years
Hallock commuted between Denver and Oregon to make Carabella wines, finally moving to the Willamette
Valley permanently in 2001. He developed his winemaking skills working alongside Kathy Joseph of
Fiddlehead who made wine in Oregon for several years, while taking University of California at Davis classes.
Pinot Noir is the main emphasis at Carabella Vineyard with five Pinot Noir clones planted including Pommard,
Wädenswil, and Dijon 113, 114 and 115. There are also two blocks of Pinot Gris and two blocks of Dijon 76
Chardonnay. Planting started in 1996 with added vines in 2007. The soils are mainly Nekia and Jory volcanic
gravel. The vineyard is farmed sustainably and without irrigation.
Currently, Hallock crafts his wines at the 12th & Maple Wine Company custom crush facility in Dundee. About
half of the Carabella Vineyard grapes are sold to other wineries, including Daedalus, Owen Roe, Rex Hill and
Hallock has sought to create Pinot Noirs with finesse and elegance and his 2008 vintage Pinot Noirs are proof
that he has achieved his goals. New oak is limited to 33% with the remainder of the aging carried out in second
and third year French oak barrels. Hallock’s years of experience with his vineyard is now paying off and his
current offerings are Pinot Noir as it was meant to be: aromatic, charming, refined and charismatic. His wines
are among the finest I have sampled from Oregon’s superb 2008 vintage. All the wines were released
November 1, 2010. The Pinot Noirs are all 100% Pinot Noir.
2008 Carabella Dijon 76 Clone Chehalem Mountains Oregon Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 208 cases, $26.
Light straw color in the glass. Lovely scents of
green apple, lemon zest, jasmine, vanilla and polished wood. Reserved but
pleasing flavors of lemon, papaya, and apple. Fresh and crisp with an
underlying minerality unadorned with oak. Hallock takes Chardonnay seriously
and it shows. Good.
2008 Carabella Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 681
cases, $35. This wine is a blend of the entire vineyard.
Knockout fruity nose
right out of the bottle redolent with hi-tone spicy plum and berry aromas.
Delicious essence of perfectly ripe cherry and berry fruits offered in a
moderately rich format supported by fine-grain tannins and complimentary
mineral-driven acidity. The wine is smooth and easygoing with beautiful
harmony. Still fine the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle
indicating a respectable longevity. Very good.
2008 Carabella Mistake Block Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 90 cases, $55. In 1998, while planting Dijon 113
vines, some vines were mislabeled resulting in 13 rows of Pommard
clone which gave some of the best wine from the vineyard in 2008.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. All the Pinot fruits are
represented in the nose with some added floral interest and spice.
Very tasty melange of dark red berries, black cherries and plums with an
earthy undertone. Constantly intriguing, revealing nuances with every sip.
Pleasingly smooth in the mouth with firm but silky tannins. I just love the
seamless texture of this wine.
2008 Carabella Inchinnan Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 150 cases, $54. 57% Wädenswil plus Dijon 115 and 114.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Picks up aromatic intensity in
the glass over time offering a plethora of aromas of dark stone fruits, allspice, rose
petals, and a hint of cut flowers. Delicious dark plum and blackberry fruit flavors
with a bit of sauvage, with eye-opening mid palate intensity, yet still only
hinting at its future potential. Very smoothly textured with amazing
persistence on the prodigious finish. A benchmark Pinot Noir for Oregon in 2008
that will be nothing short of spectacular in five years.
Carabella wines are sold as futures with futures samples poured on Thanksgiving and Memorial Day
weekends. Mailing list members receive futures offers in January. Current releases are available through the
website (www.carabellawine.com). The phone is 503-925-0972.