Willamette Valley vineyard crafting top-notch wines

March 16, 2011 

Harry Peterson-Nedry set his roots in the rich Willamette Valley soil when he began planting pinot noir on remote Ribbon Ridge in 1980. In the three decades since, he has established himself as one of the northern Willamette Valley's most important figures, pushing quality and definition in his beloved pinot noir.

Today, one of the most desirable and fashionable viticulture areas in the northern Willamette is Ribbon Ridge, near the Yamhill County town of Newberg. In 1980, Peterson-Nedry was all alone when he began planting grapes. A decade later, he launched Chehalem Wines not far away and has since planted Corral Creek Vineyards near his winery and Stoller Vineyards in the Dundee Hills with partners Bill and Cathy Stoller.

Peterson-Nedry authored the petition to make Ribbon Ridge an official grape-growing region in the eyes of the federal government, and the Ribbon Ridge American Viticulture Area was approved in 2005. And he was heavily involved in the establishment of the Chehalem Mountains AVA in 2006.

On top of all this, he makes great wines. In Wine Press Northwest’s recent blind judging of 170 Northwest Pinot Noirs, Chehalem’s Ridgecrest was No. 2 overall. He and co-winemaker Mike Eyres are passionate about their craft and produce some of the finest examples in the Northwest. Here are a few Chehalem wines we’ve tasted recently:

Chehalem Wines 2008 Ridgecrest Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $44: These grapes came from Peterson-Nedry’s original plantings in the Northwest’s smallest appellation. Aromas of wild strawberries, caramel and tobacco leaf draw you into flavors of raspberries, rhubarb and hints of new leather. Bright acidity and silky tannins allow the fruit to sashay to a beautiful finish.

Chehalem Wines 2008 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $44: Black cherry, strawberry, blueberry, tobacco, tar, leather and cedar aromas transition into a smooth and juicy wine. Creamy roundness carries through the finish of showy acidity and late tannins.

Chehalem Wines 2008 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $27: This uses grapes from the estate Ridgecrest, Stoller and Corral Creek vineyards. On the nose, it reveals aromas of strawberries, cracked pepper and cedar shavings, followed by flavors of currants, black tea and cranberries.

Chehalem Wines 2009 INOX Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $17: Peterson-Nedry helped make this style of chardonnay famous in Oregon and beyond, and its proprietary name comes from the French term for stainless steel – inoxydable. The nose features Fuji apple, Key lime pie, starfruit and a Lady of the Night flower blossom. Its crisp palate gathers in pear, lemon peel and the return of lime with a hint of caramel in the finish. Enjoy this with flaky halibut.

Chehalem Wines 2009 Reserve Dry Riesling, Willamette Valley, $21: Peterson-Nedry prides himself on thoughtful riesling. This vintage, the forces of nature and viticulture in estate vineyards of Corral Creek and Stoller create a spellbinder that opens with aromas of a grape Popsicle, orange blossom, lavender, jasmine and green tea with honey. Flavors pour in with a fruit cocktailish blend of Mandarin orange, peach and apricot, backed by a sprig of fresh mint and more jasmine. The structure is slatey, dry (0.45% residual sugar) and akin to peach pit.

Chehalem Wines 2009 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Blanc, Dundee Hills, $17: The nose shows minerality, pineapple and lemon along with hints of banana. They meet again on the palate, joined by fresh-picked Bartlett pear, sliced ginger, Mandarin orange and anise in the finish. Despite the lofty alcohol and dry approach, skillful winemaking provides balance.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest. For more information, go to www.winepressnw.com.

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