Download &
print (pdf)

Chehalem Mountains

Appellation Approval: 2006

History: Chehalem (Sha-HAY-lum) is from a Native American word Chahelim that was the name of a band of Native Americans who lived in this area. The name translates as “gentle place” or “place of flowers.” Dick Erath planted the first grape vineyards here in 1968 on a 49-acre property he bought in Yamhill County and named it Chehalem Mountain Vineyards. David Adelsheim, Dick Ponzi and others followed in the 1970s. The Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers is the appellation’s winery, vineyard and commercial association.

Geography: Chehalem Mountains is located 19 miles southwest of Portland and 45 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. It is a single uplifted landmass with spurs, mountains and ridges. There are three sub-regions within the appellation including Parrot Mountain to the southwest, the northern and southern flanks in the middle and Ribbon Ridge at the southwestern tip. Ribbon Ridge is a separate appellation located entirely within the Chehalem Mountains appellation.

Size: 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, totaling 68,265 acres. The highest mountains in the Willamette Valley are found here, with the tallest being Bald Peak at 1,633 feet above sea level. The appellation extends from 200 to 1,200 feet contour lines.

Vineyards: 1,600 acres, over 120 growers and wineries.

Wineries: 31

Soils: The Chehalem Mountains contain all three of the soil types found in the Willamette Valley. The northwestern flank is composed primarily of Laurelwood soil (loess), which is silty, nearly ashy, rock flour deposited on the mountains from powerful winds from the surrounding landscape during the last Ice Age, 0.5 to 1.5 million years ago. This soil is fine-grained and light brown in color. It is deposited primarily on top of basaltic (Jory) soil. On the southern flank and the southeastern tip known as Parrett Mountain, the geology is distinctly different. Here the primarily Jory soil was formed by lava flows from northeast Oregon known as the Columbia River Basalts 5 to 15 million years ago. The Missoula Floods later brought loam, gravel, rock and boulders to the area from Montana and Washington 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. The shallow topsoil overlies large polished stones and fractured basalt. In the western reaches of the Chehalem Mountains, in the Ribbon Ridge appellation, the soils are derived from ancient sea floor sediments that were uplifted and are yellow to ochre in color. Here the sedimentary soil is silty clay loam over siltstone and sandstone.

Climate: The Chehalem Mountains has significant annual precipitation. As the highest mountains in the Willamette Valley, the Chehalems create a large obstacle for west-to-east moving storms. When the moist air rises over the Chehalem Mountains, water vapor in the cooling air condenses and falls to earth as terraininduced rain. Annual rainfall ranges from 37 inches in the lower elevations to almost 60 inches at the highest elevation at Bald Peak. Temperatures vary more within the Chehalem Mountains than in any other region within the Willamette Valley.

Flavor Profile of Pinot Noirs: This will vary depending on the sub-region of the appellation. In the northern reaches, plum, black pepper; in the southern flank prettier, more red fruited, roasted meat and nuts; in Parrot Mountain more minerality and bright red fruits; in Ribbon Ridge, bright red cherry that can be pushed to darker flavors with oak and extraction, roasted fruit.

Prominent Producers in the Chehalem Mountains appellation: Adelsheim Vineyard, Allore Vineyards, Anam Cara Cellars, ArborBrook Vineyards, Artisanal, August Cellars, Barking Frog, Beran Vineyards, Bergström Wines, Blakeslee Vineyard Estate, Carabella Vineyard, Chehalem, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Et Fille Wines, Freja Cellars, J. Albin Winery, J.K. Carriere, Lachini Vineyards, Laura Volkman Vineyard, Lawton Winery, Natalie’s Estate Winery, Owen Roe, Ponzi Vineyards, Privé Vineyard, Raptor Ridge Winery, Rex Hill Vineyards, Wild Air Cellars.

Appellation Website:

Chehalem Mountains Tasting

Shortly after the ¡Salud! Auction on November 11, 2008, I met with Sheila Nicholas, co-proprietor of Anam Cara Cellars, Dave Paige (photo left), winemaker at Adelsheim Vineyard, and Scott Schull, proprietor and winemaker at Raptor Ridge Winery to sample representative Pinot Noirs from the Chehalem Mountains appellation. This was quite an impressive lineup of Pinot Noirs and I thoroughly enjoyed the indulgence. The showy hedonism of the 2006 vintage in Oregon was in evidence. My tasting notes follow.

Parrett Mountain

2006 Chehalem Corral Creek Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

15.3% alc., 299 cases, $44. Corral Creek Vineyards surround the winery and were planted in 1983 by John and Diane Howieson, founders of Veritas Winery, from whom the vineyard was acquired in 1995. This 28- acre vineyard is predominantly planted to Pinot Noir. Soils are Laurelwood. Visible from Highway 99W, Corral Creek is a much photographed vineyard. Aged 11 months in 39% new French oak barrels. · Aromas of rose petals, red fruits, oak and loam lead to medium-weighted flavors of black cherries which are delicately spiced, oaked and tart. Nicely balanced and somewhat elegant with decent cherry aromas that offer some persistence on the finish.

2006 Eastburn Vineyards Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 450 cases, $38. The first vintage under this label. The 15-acre Eastburn vineyard is planted exclusively to Pinot Noir on an outcrop of red, volcanic Jory soil (rarely found outside of Dundee Hills). There are five acres each of Dijon clones 114, 115 and 777. Planted in 2001 and farmed to LIVE practices. · Well-endowed black raspberry and blackberry jam aromas and flavors with earthy accents. Attractive silkiness on the palate with well-integrated oak.

2006 Carabella Vineyard Inchinnan Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 250 cases, $54. Carabella Vineyard is a 49-acre site on the southeastern side of Parrett Mountain. Winemaker Mike Hallock makes wines exclusively from Carabella Vineyard fruit. Soils are gravelly volcanic. This wine is crafted from clones 113, 115 and Wädenswil. · Some interesting minerality runs through this wine. Luscious black cherry flavor, nicely spiced, with exotic wood accents. A delicious wine with a silky and sensual presence that dances on the palate.

Chehalem Mountain

2006 Alloro Vineyard Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $34. The 70-acre vineyard is situated on Laurel Ridge just north of Newberg at elevations of 375 to 700 feet. The soil is Laurelwood. Dijon and Pommard clones are farmed sustainably. David Nemarnik, founder and vineyard manager, established Alloro (Latin and Italian word for laurel) in 1999. A Mediterranean inspired winery and tasting room with underground cellars was completed in time for the 2003 harvest. This wine is a blend of four estate grown clones, aged in 27% new French oak, and is unfined and unfiltered. · Appealing scent of dark fruits, oak and spice cabinet. Ample ripe black cherry and black raspberry fruit is mouth filling and smoothly textured, and the finish is soft and smooth.

2006 Anam Cara Cellars Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

15.0% alc., 700 cases, $33. The words Anam Cara are Celtic for “friend of my soul” and symbolize the journey the owners, Sheila and Nick Nicholas have taken to make their wine. The winemaker is Aron Hess. Primarily Dijon 115 with added 667 and 777. Aged in 22% new, 15% once filled and 63% neutral French oak for 10 months. · Dark reddish-purple color. Sappy black cherry encased in oak vanillin and toast. Plush and generous, the wine retains a healthy elegance and the silky finish leaves a memorable impression.

2006 Artisanal Wine Cellars Adams Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 286 cases, $28. This wine is composed of 25% self rooted Pommard planted in 1976, 25% self rooted Pommard planted in 1988, and 50% root stock 667 and 777 planted in 2002. Jory soils. Raised in 30% new French oak. Tom and Patricia Feller started Artisanal in 2005. Crafted at August West Cellars on Highway 99W between Sherwood and Newberg. · Bright and fresh red cherry and red berry scents. Light to medium bodied red fruited flavors with mild drying tannins. A decent, but not terribly exciting drink.

2006 Artisanal Wine Cellars Adams Vineyard Reserve Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 214 cses , $38. 80% self rooted Pommard planted in 1976, 10% self rooted Pommard planted in 1988, and 10% root stock 667 and 777 planted in 2002. Aged in 88% new French oak. A barrel selection. · This is clearly a step up from the regular bottling. Vibrant and long well-spiced cherry aromas. Powerfully flavored dark red fruits that are rich and succulent. Beautifully balanced with admirable integration of oak and alcohol. The silky finish goes on and on. Whoa, yeah, hell yeah!

2006 Barking Frog Blakeslee Estate Vineyard Chahalem Mountains Pinot Noir

105 cases, $36. Clones 115 and Pommard planted in Laurelwood soil. Aged 10 months in French oak. Crafted at August West Cellars. · This is a solid wine exhibiting richness with restraint. Plenty of lithe red fruit, spices, moderate ripe tannins and a refreshing finish with good acidic tang.

2007 Longplay Lia’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 420 cases, $28. Inaugural release from the 25-acre Lia’s Vineyard which is composed of five Pinot Noir clones (115, 667, Pommard, Wädenswil and Mariafeld) planted in Jory soil from 1990 to 2002. Lia’s Vineyard was originally part of Rex Hill’s Jacob-Hart Vineyard. The older vines are own rooted. The vines are spaced at 5 x 9 with VSP trellising and are non-irrigated. This wine is 50% Dijon clones. The grower is Todd Hansen and winemaker is Aron Hess (formerly Rex Hill, now Daedalus Cellars and Anam Cara Cellars). · Light crimson in color. A demure wine that is red fruit driven with an appealing accent of oak spice and minerality. Picked at an average brix of 23 at harvest, this wine is understandably light in weight with a good acid spine. Will appeal to Pinot purists.

2006 Ponzi Reserve Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 700 cases, $60. Produced from LIVE Sustainable vineyards planted primarily on Laurelwood soil. The blend is selected from Ponzi’s Madrona, Abetina and Aurora Vineyards as well as fruit sourced from Gemini, Linda Vista Vineyards and Lazy River Vineyards. 100% destemmed. Five day cold soak. Fermenters were aerated or manually punched down twice a day for 12-20 days. 7-day post-fermentation maceration. Aged in 50% new oak barrels for 20 months. Unfined and unfiltered and aged in bottle five months before release. · A regal wine with a lovely perfume that is both floral and intensely fruity. In the mouth, beautiful dark fruits are nicely spiced and adeptly framed by oak. Long, stylish and smooth with impeccable balance. Simply a great wine and an impressive followup to the incredible 2005 Ponzi Reserve.

2006 Raptor Ridge Adalfo’s Block Raptor Ridge Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

15.4% alc., $48.The 27-acre Raptor Ridge estate vineyard was planted to several clones in 2001 in deep Laurelwood soil. This wine represents the first harvest from the estate vineyard. · The palate of dark fruits is vigorous with flavor and character. The sappy blackberry liquor is long and tasty. A gentle touch of herbs and spice adds interest. The alcohol is well-integrated and the whole package is quite satisfying.

Ribbon Ridge

2006 Adelsheim Ribbon Springs Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 299 cases, $58. Sedimentary sandstone based soils make up the Ribbon Springs Vineyard consisting of 80 acres of primarily Pinot Noir grapes. Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon clones. The winemaker is Dave Paige. · The palate is all Pinot with mixed berry and black cherry fruit, uplifting acidity and supple tannins. Lovely texture and commendable balance. Gorgeous and pure.

2006 Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., 587 cases, $44. Chehalem has had this bottling since its first release in 1990. Ridgecrest is a 55-acre vineyard on a 176-acre property. This site pioneered grape growing on Ribbon Ridge and dates to 1980. The soils are Willakenzie. Native yeast fermentation, 30% whole cluster, 6-10 days premaceration, aged 10 months, racking twice, with 50% new French oak barrels. · A powerhouse of a wine with intense aromas of crushed black cherries, spice, soy and roasted nuts. Mouth-coating with copious sweet, tangy black fruit that grabs a hold and persists on the finish. The racy acidity predicts a long life ahead.

2006 RR (Ribbon Ridge) Ridgecrest Vineyards Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 594 cases, $69. This bottling represents the best wines sourced from the Ridgecrest Vineyards estate. Harry Peterson-Nedry, one of the founding partners of Chehalem, is the sole owner of this label. This wine is crafted in a masculine style in counterpart to the more feminine Chehalem Reserve sourced from this vineyard. · A powerful and charming nose of roasted black cherry fruit and nuts with a rose petal flourish. On the palate the fruit is thin and closed with plentiful acidity and notable oak on the finish. Right now this wine smells considerably better than it tastes and it needs more time in the bottle to unravel.

2006 Styring Vineyards Premier Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 75 cases. · Interesting aromas of spiced berries and fennel seed. Raspberry flavors stand out with hints of anise. Well-crafted with a silky texture and fine-grained tannins. Delicious.

Also Tasted:

2006 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 15,521 cases, $31. The flagship Pinot Noir from Adelsheim sourced from seven estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains and nine vineyards in other parts of the Willamette Valley. Both Jory and Willakenzie soil types are represented. 24% new French oak was used. · Cherries, spice and roasted nuts are quite flavorful in this wine which is light on its feet. Silky textured with refined acidity and a hint of earthiness on the finish. A perfectly fine entry wine.

Previous article:
Willamette Valley Appellations
Next article:
Dundee Hills

Print entire newsletter

Wineries in this Article