Chehalem wines are distinctly Oregon with Burgundian refinement.
Harry Peterson-Nedry has a distinct fingerprint in the wines made at Chehalem Winery, but he also has a mark on future winemakers as a mentor who is willing to teach his craft to those willing to listen.
Bill and Cathy Stoller are co-owners of Chehalem and owners of one of the three Estate Vineyards Chehalem uses, Stoller Vineyards. Stoller now releases wines under its own label, Stoller Vineyards.
As co-owner/founder of the Newberg, Oregon winery, Peterson-Nedry makes some of the most distinctive, Burgundian-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the state. Words like muscular, sensual, supple and chewy are tossed into the mix when describing the Chehalem Pinot Noirs.
The Chardonnay is sophisticated, complex,
and well balanced.
More About Chehalem Wines
The winery grows its own grapes on a 167 acre estate, with 65 acres planted. About 12,000 cases are produced each year, including several vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs, a dry Riesling reserve, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Passionate about big red wines, Peterson-Nedry also helps to perpetuate the wine industry by working with young people, teaching his skills and methods and sharing the joys and anticipation of winemaking. Chehalem's former winemaker, Cheryl Francis spent time working in the wine industry in Burgundy, New Zealand and Oregon before coming to Chehalem in 1996.
Harry first developed Chehalem by making wine in his tiny 1000 sq. ft. garage in Newberg in 1990. He continued this way until 1995 when he purchased a winery called Veritas from the Howiesons. The Howiesons hired Cheryl in 1994 and Harry knew right away that he wanted Cheryl to "crossover" and be a part of Chehalem's growth going forward. From day one at the new facility Harry and Cheryl shared all winemaking responsibility. Finished wines truly reflected both their philosophies on winemaking and style. With her departure, Harry and Michael, now lead the charge for new techniques and experiments, and guiding a team of harvest interns from Argentina and New Zealand.
Cheryl and her husband Sam, who is the
winemaker at Shea Vineyards are developing
their own vineyard in the Dundee Hills and released their first wines
under the Francis Tannahill label in early 2004. Ironically, the new
winemaker at Archery Summit is Anna Matzinger, eternally
to Michael Davies, Chehalem's vineyard manager.
In business since 1980, Peterson-Nedry has seen a number of different people enter the wine business, including technical school renegades, doctors who drank wine and decided to make it, home winemakers who decided to do it commercially and the new crop of apprentices.
"I like this new crop of people - they make it their
job to reinvent themselves and come in with fresh ideas. The younger
people will come in and take the lead. It is how it should be."
Another young and dynamic member of the Chehalem team is Michael Davies. Michael joined Chehalem in 1999 from New Zealand as vineyard manager for Ridgecrest and Corral Creek. Michael worked harvest in '99 and Harry offered him full time employment following. In the few short years Michael has been with Chehalem they have seen dramatic improvements in fruit quality and overall vineyard health. Additionally, their sustainable agricultural practices have been unyielding. Michael is another young, energetic addition to Chehalem that works closely with Harry and Cheryl on all aspects of viticulture.
While Harry is always present at the winery, offering
guidance and insight at every opportunity, he has dedicated many of his
energies in the last 18 months to new vineyard development on Ribbon
Ridge. Chehalem will begin planting 57 newly acquired acres adjacent
to Ridgecrest Vineyard in the spring of 2003. On the docket is approximately
13 total acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (maybe even some Riesling!)
Peterson-Nedry creates wines that age exceptionally well. It is the difference between Chehalem wines and other Pinot Noirs in Oregon.
"We like the elegance, but we also like intensity," Peterson-Nedry said. "You can drink our wines now, but they have staying power and cellar very well."
Chehalem Pinot Noirs are big, with deep fruit and good acid. He continues to strive for refinement in experiment after experiment, using enzymes to break down the fruit, and vigorous punch downs.
"When you quit experimenting, you quit improving," he added.
"Our wines are drinkable young, but they aren't optimum until about two years after release. We're not a big oak house either, so you won't have all that oak flavor-just a big concentration of fruit."
Harry and Judy Peterson-Nedry moved to the Northwest in 1972. He was educated as a chemist, but spent most of his adult career in technical and management roles in the high tech manufacturing industries, focusing on quality and process control. (His daughter Wynne is a senior in college, majoring in chemistry and may follow in her dad's footsteps.) The property for Chehalem was purchased in 1980, with the first crop of grapes harvested in 1985.
The label on Chehalem wines is artistic and abstract. Peterson-Nedry says the staff each sees something different in the art label.
"It says something about wine, too," he said. "It's subjective. It's OK to be different from someone else. We like that idea a lot."
Chehalem recently released a Pinot Gris that is getting noticed by wine publications and critics. The winemakers nursed the Pinot Gris grapes as though they were children, dropping their crop to one-third of the normal size to get more concentration.
"We didn't skimp on our babies," Peterson-Nedry said.
In addition, Chehalem is experimenting with synthetic corks and using them more often each year on the white wines. Peterson-Nedry, along with many other Oregon and Washington wineries, are losing wines to poor-quality corks. So far, Chehalem winemakers are satisfied with synthetic corks but are waiting to see how well they hold up in red wines.