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The Chehalem Story > Winery Profile

Chehalem Winery traces its long wine making history back to vineyard operations started by Harry Peterson-Nedry in 1980 at Ridgecrest Vineyards, the pioneering Oregon wine operation on Ribbon Ridge, northwest of Newberg, Oregon. Bill and Cathy Stoller joined Harry at Chehalem winery in 1993 and subsequently began Chehalem Stoller Vineyards—a densely planted, 125 acres on Stoller family farmlands at the southern tip of the Dundee Hills in Oregon wine country. Cheahlem Corral Creek Vineyards, adjacent to the Chehalem winery facility, is Chehalem's third estate vineyard. Chehalem’s first release was the 1990 Ridgecrest Oregon Pinot Noir.

Chehalem is Equally well-known for red and white wine quality, Chehalem carries a passion and focus for cool climate wine varieties that reflect both site and climate in complex, structured and intensely fruited Oregon wines.

Chehalem’s Pinot gris style is unique, largely because of Chehalem’s  standard for emulation is Alsace. Chehalem produces two distinct Oregon wines: a tank fermented Oregon Pinot gris that is bright and crisp, and a rich, round Oregon Pinot Gris Reserve that is barrel fermented in neutral oak. An intense, bone dry Ordgon Riesling and rich, full fruited Oregon Pinot blanc continue our Alsace resemblance. Chehalem  also produces a 100% tank-fermented, unoaked Chehalem Chardonnay, INOX, and Ian's Reserve Chardonnay, a wine rich and full with 100% Dijon clone Oregon wine fruit.

For Pinot noir, Chehalem’s main distribution wine is the Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir, complemented by limited amounts of Chehalem Reserve Pinot Noir and a vineyard designate from each of Chehalem’s estate vineyards.

Chehalem’s philosophy and style do not always follow theOregon wine industry norms or market trends. That Chehalem looks for deftness and elegance in Oregon Pinot noirs at a time when black, opaque, extracted and heavily wooded wines are the norm, speaks to this sense. Chehalem’s crop-thin Pinot gris as aggressively as Chehalem’s Pinot noir and look for optimal ripeness such that it is harvested after Chehalem’s Pinot noir indicates an almost obsessive attention to detail. At a time when Oregon Riesling is being pulled out, Chehalem counter intuitively plants prime acres to this Oergon wine variety, convinced it as sensitively reflects site and climate for white wine as Pinot noir does for red.

CHEHALEM 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir

A classic red-fruited Pinot Noir with dark, earthy, savory elements, characteristically cracked pepper, tea leaf, cinnamon, charcoal, matchstick, spice and plum. The acidity of the vintage gives a structure to suspend wood and tannin elements playfully on the palate. Balance is excellent, length good and final impressions are red, delicate and complex. Silk nap grip on the palate and acidity guarantee a very long life

CHEHALEM Corral Creek Pinot Noir
The freshness found in Corral Creek Pinot Noir is one of the reasons we love Chehalem Mountains AVA so much. The first thing you notice is the lovely red garnet color, beautiful clarity, and a vibrant persistent tart red cherry aroma and flavor. Tannin appears subtlety, almost as a silk nap texture, and is joined to bright acid and sea-air minerality. The finish shows cherry cola, light roast coffee, raspberry, and red plum skin, and the oak is light, yet integrated and complex. Give this elegant beauty a few more years to truly open-up

CHEHALEM Stoller Pinot Noir

Stoller Pinot Noir really excels during cooler vintages – the earthiness and spice aren’t overwhelmed with ripe fruit, and you see a seamless integration in texture and delicate acid. This one in particular shows bright color and a palate that is light and still a bit tight, even 9 months after bottling; somewhat atypical characteristics for Stoller Vineyards. The nose has warm aromas of resin, dusty fruit, seasoned wood, brown spice, white pepper, and milk chocolate. Follow all that by soft tannins and a sour-cherry-accented lingering finish – Beautiful

CHEHALEM Ridgecrest Pinot Noir
Although a cooler year, this Ridgecrest shows layers, ripeness and complexity usually found in warmer vintages. There is an essence of blackberry and spiced cassis through the color, aroma, and flavor, a lush palate, and utterly perfect textural balance. Adjoined to fruit and spice is a vibrancy and freshness that shows the 2011 vintage, but hints more at the longevity and ageability than youth. Overall, the complexity and layers rule this wine, showing (but not limited to) black tea, Italian plum, earth, resin, berry pie, cinnamon, minerality, pencil shavings, and huckleberry

CHEHALEM Wind Ridge Block Pinot Noir
This Pinot is the epitome of concentration on Ribbon Ridge in a small-crop year. The color is dark garnet, and you’ll notice a bit of tar on the nose, combined with briar patch and high-toned dusty fresh black fruit. The palate and nose mingle with black pepper, violets, and toasted seaweed, and transition to tobacco box, warm blueberries, and moderate tannin by mouth. Overall, a very dark and thoughtful (rather than brooding) young wine. Will come out of its shell with coaxing and time

CHEHALEM Tasting Panel Cuvée Pinot Noir
The deep purple/garnet color on this cuvée shows the palpable intensity of the vintage that our Pinot Noirs showed across the board. A low-crop year for most of Ribbon Ridge gave depth and concentration, and ripe fruit all around makes this blend bigger, softer, and fuller than the last couple of years. There is earthiness, raw red-black fruit, and brightness on the nose that is racy and inviting. Flavors show cherry cola, dusty sweet red cherry, sea air, campfire, and a playful lingering finish. There is a lot of youth in this wine, needing some time to turn from a baby into an adult.

CHEHALEM makes sustainability a priority in every step of winemaking, from the conscientious farming choices we make in our vineyards to the recyclable wine shippers that arrive at your door. Our name means “valley of the flowers,” and following are some of the actions we are taking to keep our valley filled with flowers in the future:

Chehalem's Ridgecrest Vineyard, planted in 1982

Smart winemakers agree great wine is grown, not made. Although the wine business is equal labors of growing grapes, making wine and marketing wine, the most important differentiator long-term between wine and great wine is the grape.

Owners, Bill and I appreciate this foundation, both being born into farm families, spending early years becoming attuned to cycles of nature: a hot, bright, lazy summer with workers trying to stay ahead of vegetation, trying to stay cool until evening coastal breezes help set a 10pm sun—an orange sun lighting shorter days as harvest sounds from machinery deep in the rolls of hillside orchards and vineyards continue into night, driven by rains not yet seen but certain, and signaling extended periods when repairing equipment or staring out of raindrop splayed windows, coffee cup in-hand, captures the day.

Once calibrated to the cycles, you can't escape, as we found, returning in the midst of careers in business and industry to the land, and to a sense of regularity and connection to nature.

Improvements in Viticulture: We change as we learn Today, compared to plantings twelve years ago, we are emphasizing rootstocks, slightly denser plant spacings of meter by two meter (recognizing our 1989-90 plantings were double the density of our original 1982 plantings, and 2003's are almost triple), mechanical and mulch weed suppression rather than herbicide, compost not chemical fertilizers, and non-petrochemical sprays deemed Organic. Ridgecrest is now being farmed Organically and others are being moved in that direction.

We have used a little drip irrigation to address problem soil shallowness at Corral Creek and Stoller has drip available to all vines, but ideally we want Mother Nature to determine how hydroponic a vintage will be. Vintage differences enhance appreciation of wine for many, so long as the quality level is high. New Ribbon Ridge plantings will have drip plumbed in, but our intent is to not use it, partly due to the totally dry-farmed history of Ridgecrest and its success, partly to be stubborn.

Probably most significant over the years, we Oregonians have developed knowledge of viticulture that permits harvesting of impeccably ripe and disease-free fruit before significant rains signal an end of the growing season. Restricting yield through crop-thinning, planting more densely so that each plant ripens less fruit, encouraging uniformity of clusters through leaf removal pre-bloom and during ripening, plus through intelligent cluster selection at crop-thin, and improved canopy and spray management have made significant strides.

Every step we take, and change we implement in our vineyards is significant, for as we all know, how wine tastes depends on where and how it is grown.

Bill Stoller is a co-owner of Chehalem, and owns Stoller Vineyards, one of the three Estate Vineyards Chehalem uses. Stoller Vineyards is a modern, 360-acre vineyard on a spectacular hillside locally referred to as Oregon's Corton Hill. Bill lives on-site and makes small amounts of Stoller Vineyards brand Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Owner of an international personnel service business, Express Services, Bill participates in strategic winery management, with partner Harry Peterson-Nedry. Bill is also one of the few Oregon winery principals who can claim to be a native of wine country, having grown up in Yamhill County. He attended Pacific University in Forest Grove as an undergraduate.
Wynne Peterson-Nedry. Wynne has been at Chehalem from the beginning, being a 6-month old in arms as we signed on the original property that would become Ridgecrest Vineyards, personally labeling by hand most of the first release 1990 Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noir, working part of harvest twice despite high school (as part of a chemistry project) and college (break) rigors, and working summers for several years.
Graduating from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in chemistry in 2002, she went on to experience several careers in the outside world before admitting to the fact that her heart resided in the Oregon wine country. She graduated with a Masters’ degree from UC Davis’ Viticulture & Enology program in 2008 and has worked multiple harvests around the world including two vintages in New Zealand, one in Burgundy, and one in California. She officially joined the Chehalem family as assistant winemaker in June of 2009, and in 2012 became our winemaker.