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Chapter 24 Last Chapter Pinot Noir 2012
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Utilizing the proprietary infusion technique of consulting Burgundian winemaker Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, Chapter 24’s winemaking is more akin to steeping rather than an aggressive extraction process. This does not mean they have reinvented the wheel or discovered some form of secret winemaking technique that hasn’t already been used in Oregon. What they have done, however, is brought together a number of variables which, on their own, don’t contribute great changes, but as a whole, markedly change the direction of a wine’s final destination to more closely resemble the structure of beloved Pinot Noirs. That is, Pinot Noir elegantly crafted for immediate enjoyment, without negating its ability to age impeccably.
Chapter 24 Vineyards was named after the last chapter of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. This particular chapter was added long after Homer died. The Greeks continued the tale to satisfy themselves despite the author thinking he was finished after Chapter 23. The mark of a great ending is not what it says about the past, but rather what it promises for the future, and Chapter 23 clearly raised more questions than it answered. In this same spirit, the story of Chapter 24’s wines continues well past the cellar door. Winemaking is just the beginning of the story. The wine may be finished but it is not the end.
Home of the first Pinot noir vineyard of the Willamette Valley, planted by David Lett of Eyrie Vineyard in 1966, today the Dundee Hills AVA remains the most densely planted AVA in the valley (and state). To its north sits the Chehalem Valley and to its south, runs the Willamette River. Within the region’s 12,500 acres, about 1,700 are planted to vine on predominantly basalt-based, volcanic, Jory soil.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Villages or Cru level wines.