Chehalem – Newberg Review
Address: 106 S Center St Newberg,Oregon 97132.
Phone Number: 503-538-4700
Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 4/17/2012
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Its possible that many Willamette Valley tourists end their trips in the Chehalem tasting room, located in downtown Newberg on Highway 99the return leg toward Portland. Its great that its visible and easy to get to, but if its the last place you go after a day of tasting (read that, drinking), you might be making a mistake. Chehalem is one of the most respected wineries in the Valley, with the high scores to prove it, so it might a better place to start.
Chehalems story is one of collaboration: Harry Peterson-Nedry planted vines in 1980 along Ribbon Ridge, making them some of the oldest in the Willamette Valley. In the early 90s, Bill and Cathy Stoller joined the project and shortly after, planted 125 acres that became Stoller Vineyards. Since then, Stoller fruit has become some of the most coveted in the Valley. Sustainability is more than just a buzzword with these people. Its a longstanding practice that pays off in the form of superior fruit.
The wines are, quite simply, fabulous. The 2010 Dry Riesling shows honeysuckle and touch of keroseneunusual for a New World Riesling. Tart, granny smith apple flavors become full and rich, thanks to a ¼% residual sugar. Looking for Americas best Riesling? Chehalem is a contender.
A ripe pear nose of the 2009 Reserve Pinot Gris leads the way to pear and star fruit flavors on the palate, but its the cardamom and mint flavors that are memorable. The spice flavors really raise the bar for this wine.
With mouthwatering peaches in the nose, the 2009 Ians Reserve Chardonnay heralds summer sipping. There are lush, round, peach and nectarine flavors from the warmer vintage. Theres a fresh, ripe fruit character, typical of Stoller Vineyards fruit.
Like the most competent (and financially secure) wineries, Chehalem releases their wines late. The 2010 vintage wont be released until May 2012, a full year after many of their competitors have left the shelves. A light, delicate wine from a cooler vintage benefits greatly from this practice, but big, tart fruit bombs like the 2009 vintage gain a little refinement, too. The 2009 vintage gets a bad rap for its simple, fruity nature and racy acidity, but thats also its advantage: one tasters simple is another tasters accessible. 2009 is a great vintage to introduce Oregon wine to new fans. It was a generous harvest so theres lots of it, which keeps the price down.
Its a bargain, in its way, and the 2009 Corral Creek Pinot Noir is a formidable entry-level selection. Theres the potting soil and compost freshness associated with summer gardening, and the spicy character of berry vines. Oh, the flavors ! Rainier cherries linger in a lovely long finish. This is quality work and reasonably priced.
The hit of the day among tasters was the 2009 Stoller Vineyards. An Earthy, briary, dusty nose with crushed fruit was bewitching. Its a definitive 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with SPLASH of red fruit, broad brush stroke of cherry, raspberry, strawberry flavors. The finish is medium to long. Overall, its a refined and elegant wine for the connoisseur but an accessible introduction to the newbie. Stoller fruit is some of the most coveted fruit in the Valley and this is an example of why.
But the pinnacle of the day was the 2008 Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve. The wine was earthy, with a decadent cherry pie nose. Cherry flavors unfoldedevery variety of cherry imaginablefruit flavors just shy of ripe. Arguably not the most complex wine of the bunch but surely the most focused, and the remarkably loooooong finish was exquisite.
A friendly staff presides over a plain but pleasant tasting room in a renovated historic building. In this case that means a brick, vintage garage-looking place with high ceilings and exposed beams, a handful of tables and requisite barrels. The floor is concrete, painted to look like some sort of granite, which works surprisingly well. Theres a wine rack on the wall opposite the door thats topped with gorgeous fused glass art. Theres no question that the wine is the star here, but the glasswork offers tasters something to rest their eyes on while contemplating winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedrys delicious art.