Label Lust: Chehalem Pinot Noir

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by

chehalem pinot noir oregon

I have to say this is the first time I’ve been contacted by a winery not only because they wanted me to try a new release, but also because they wanted me to check out their new label. So I was intrigued to have a sample bottle of 2010 Chehalem Pinot Noir, from the Stoller Vineyards in the Dundee Hills region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, arrive in the mail. A short 28 mile jaunt from Portland, it would be criminal to love Pinot Noir, live in Portland, and not pay a visit. (This from the guy who’s lived in Seattle for eight years and never been to the top of the Space Needle.)

Normally I’m attracted, like an insect to bright light, to wine labels with showy graphic design chock-full of colors and shapes. But I have to say I was captivated by this label from Chehalem. And it’s gusty, after 20 years, to decide to radically change something that had been working fine up to that point. The picture above, from the label of the bottle I received, is courtesy of photographer Shawn Linehan. It was so vivid I nearly gasped, and had thoughts of digging my hands into the dirt, maybe even rolling around a bit. Really, this photo would be enough for me to have onset Label Lust.

If you, however, require a little suggestive and informative text that runs the gamut from the whimsical to the technical, this Chehalem Pinot Noir has got you covered.

chehalem pinot noir oregon

You’re probably not that excited about the government warning and the UPC code, though. Sorry. Not even Chehalem’s design team at Sandstrom Partners could add sizzle to that steak-umm. But what I like about the text and the layout here is, as Founder/Owner/Winemaker and Acrylic Artist (sheesh!) Harry Peterson-Nedry explains, the “journal or lab notebook approach.” That’s something I can totally appreciate, since I prefer to take my wine notes in one of these:

chehalem pinot noir oregonNow, really, the whole story here is not just about the label; of course Chehalem wanted me to drink the dang wine! So I broke out the Field Notes and got to work. This Stoller Vineyards Pinot is not the kind of red wine that’s going to hit you over the head with force and impact. It’s more like a wine that runs its fingers through your hair, and makes a teasing comment about your bald spot. With charm and elegance to spare, it’s a very pretty wine. Though with a suggested retail price of $48, this Chehalem Pinot Noir is certainly not going to become your house wine, but would be lovely for a special occasion or an occasion that can be made special by this wine.

You might be disappointed that this red wine does not set off Michael Bay-esque fireworks, explosions, and/or CGI extravaganzas, which I think is one way to judge a wine that is nearly 50 dollars. It just has a very silky, pure quality to it that I find both pleasurable and comforting. And though the next 2-5 wines you buy may give you change back on a fifty, try splitting a bottle with a friend and  grill up some salmon. Or, what I’m thinking, just get a mushroom pizza to take down to a waterfront park, engage in some clandestine Pinot Noir drinking with someone special, watch the boats sail by, and create your own fireworks.

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4 Responses

  1. That is a really cool label. Something I hadn’t seen before with a direct photograph.

  2. Sara says:


    Chahalem valley you say? That is a very delightful picture! You know I’ve taken to hitting the open road and driving out towards Wenatchee as a habit when the weather starts to warm up around here. This weekend I went up into the Methow area… Any recommendations on white wines from that region? I fell for those rolling hills and want to go again, this time maybe find a bottle of something good from mother earth while I’m there, so I can savor sunshine on my return to rain city? I like dry minerally, mediterranean, like my gardens <3


    • Jameson says:


      The photo is really fantastic. I’ll have to do some digging for wines from that region for you; happy to do so.



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