Corral Creek Vineyard
by Harry Pederson-Nedry, Chehalem Winery
Corral Creek Vineyards surrounds Chehalem's winery. Named for a creek draining the Rex Hill and Parrett Mountain region and the road forming the southern perimeter of the vineyard, Corral Creek is the only estate vineyard we did not choose and plant ourselves. Purchased from the Howiesons of Veritas Vineyard Winery in 1995 at the same time we expanded winery operations by buying their facility, it is a good site that for certain wines and in certain vintages elevates to a great site.
Corral Creek Winery
Were it not for this vineyard Chehalem would have no Dry Riesling Reserve, would likely have no 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir and would have less visibility and accessibility, it being adjacent to 99W across from our friends at Rex Hill Winery, at the gates of Wine Country.
In normal years Chehalem uses 20% of Corral Creek's pinot noir, the rest being sold. The pinot noir is characteristically strawberry or light cherry in aroma and flavor and carries a firm tannic structure. Assuming this to be an expression of the Laurelwood soil type, sedimentary soils at low to medium elevations and carrying moderate richness and soil depth, these flavors are consistent except in stingy harvests like 1998, when the wines were whole with seamlessly deep, rich black cherry. This came at a price, however, since the yield was less than 1 ton per acre.
A regular core element of 3 Vineyards Pinot Noir, it knits well with fruit and texture complements from the other two vineyards, yielding a very consistent and early accessible wine. Its lower elevations give early ripening, generally lower acidity and higher pH and predictability. Upper elevations at Corral Creek are a reasonable 450 feet, but with farming over the decades have become eroded and shallow, requiring us to begin drip irrigation in 2000 to keep vines photosynthesizing late in the year. Viticultural tweaks of this type have improved fruit quality, so that it is now seen in single vineyard designated wines from several smaller wineries such as Andrew Rich, Wilridge, Phantom Hill, Morne and Idylwood. Other improvements include grafting of 108 chardonnay to Dijon clones and Muller-thurgau to pinot gris.
Corral Creek Vineyards has 28 acres of vines: 17 pinot noir, 7 chardonnay, 3 pinot gris and just over one acre of riesling. In the middle of the vineyard is The Chehalem House, a guesthouse that watches seasons change as nothing short of a 1920s Craftsman Style can.
From the air, the contour-conscious planting of the vineyard gives an interesting pattern of whorls and cross-hatching. It is a favorite subject for artists and photographers from the area, including Humberto Gonzalez and Doreen Wynja, who are featured with others in this year's August 26-27 Art Show and Reserve Release. Our first single-vineyard Corral Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir from 1998 is being released at the same time, along with the other two estate vineyards' 1998 pinot noirs.