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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Entries in Ribbon Ridge (2)


Behind the Wine: Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem

There's a rustic old house on Chehalem's Corral Creek Vineyard, just north of 99W in Newberg, Oregon, tucked behind the crush pad and perched on the edge of Riesling and Pinot Gris vines, where I stayed on my visit to the Pacific Northwest last fall. It's the house where owner and winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry has lived for the last 13 years, though now it's also home to harvest interns from as far away as New Zealand through crush, and it's full of its owner's warmth and hospitality, a wide collection of wine glasses and a big, long wood dining table perfect for big meals and tasting parties.

I was a fan of Chehalem's wines (pronounced shu-hay-lem) long before I visited the winery, always impressed with the sheer verve and complexity from the range, from their entry-level Pinot Noir on up through the single vineyard wines. But it wasn't until I met Harry, a quick-to-smile North Carolina native who still speaks with a gentle southern twang, that I realized the wines were not just Oregonian in style, but very Harry, too--thoughtful and generous, but not in your face.

Watch our video interview with Harry Peterson-Nedry, then read on to learn more about the man, the winery and which wines we currently have in stock.

A special thank you to my friend Karen Petersen, who helped me film this and a number of other videos while I was in Oregon.

Harry is one of the linchpins of Oregon wine, planting the 55-acre Ridgecrest Vineyard back in 1980, the first vineyard developed in the newly-designated Ribbon Ridge AVA. Partnering with Bill and Cathy Stoller in 1990, he started Chehalem and began expanding his vineyard holdings not long after, adding Corral Creek and Bill and Cathy's 175-acre Stoller Vineyards in the Dundee Hills to the portfolio. The different soils and microclimates at each vineyard create Pinot Noirs with distinctive characterisitics--from the big, briary, black-fruited style of the Willakenzie soils found at Ridgecrest to the softer, rounder red-fruited wines from the Jory and Nekia soils at Stoller to the brighter, red-fruited, more tannic wines from the Laurelwood soils at Corral Creek. 

But Pinot Noir isn't Chehalem's only game. In fact, Harry has represented Oregon in the International Pinot Gris Symposium in Germany, is one of the founders of the Oregon Chardonnay Alliance (ORCA) and is a passionate advocate for Oregon Riesling. He says he gets bored easily, which is why you'll also find Pinot Blanc, Grüner Veltliner and Gamay Noir wines from Chehalem properties, to keep it interesting. (The winery's 2007 "Cerise" a Burgundian passetoutgrains blend of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir,which is sold out here, was easy-drinking and fun, filled with tangy cranberry and sweet strawberry aromas and flavors.) As a consumer, one of the best things about Chehalem's wines is that they are affordable AND good, allowing you to try a wide variety from the winery without breaking the bank.


K&L currently has the following Chehalem wines in stock:

2008 Chehalem "3 Vineyards" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (375ml $14.99; 750ml $24.99) From the region's defining vintage so far, this has lovely aromas of ripe red and black fruit, forest floor, bacon and violet, and a polished, fresh palate with plenty of secondary notes underneath, if you can hold onto it long enough to let it evolve.

2009 Chehalem "3 Vineyards" Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($16.99) No innocuous, flavorless white wine, this. Chehalem's Pinot Gris has honeysuckle, mango and passion fruit character galore, built on a bed of slate-y minerality. Juicy, bold and broad.

2009 Chehalem "Reserve" Willamette Valley Dry Riesling ($19.99) The great unsung varietal of the Pacific Northwest, this dry Riesling has lovely lemon marmalade qualities with surprising hints of Ranier cherry to complement the stone fruit and spice. Great acidity and weight. As one of my favorite varietals when aged, I'm looking forward to seeing how this evolves.

2008 Chehalem "Inox" Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($15.99) A figgy, flinty, crisp Chardonnay that easily demonstrates the varietal's potential in the Northwest, now that earlier-ripening Dijon clones have made their way there. I'd easily drink this in place of Chablis.

2007 Chehalem "Ian's Reserve" Stoller Vineyards Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($29.99) A more unctuous, pear and apple-flavored style of Chardonnay, spiked with baking spice and creamy at the core, the Ian's still has the acid backbone that so many wines in this style lack. 

2009 Chehalem "Wind Ridge Vineyard" Ribbon Ridge Grüner Veltliner ($18.99) Staving off boredom for Harry is awfully tasty for the rest of us. This is the second vintage of Grüner from Chehalem and it's spicy, dry, minerally and fun. I love all the white pepper and ginger notes, which complement quince and muskmelon character like a pillbox hat complements a Chanel suit.


Read our Q&A with Harry Peterson-Nedry from last March.

Visit the winery's website.

Visit the winery's tasting room in downtown Newberg, Oregon. 

Leah Greenstein


Winemaker Interview: Harry Peterson-Nedry


Photo by Marvin CollinsName: Harry Peterson-Nedry                        


Number of years in business:  29 years (Began first vineyard, Ridgecrest Vineyards in 1980, first vineyard in Ribbon Ridge AVA)

How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?

I’m a believer in setting up a dynamic tension between what might seem to be polar opposite approaches. 

We strive for elegance, complexity and ageability in our wines. This means pitting the controls that keep key variables the same—fermentation-to-fermentation, barrel-to-barrel, etc.—against ongoing experimentation and innovation—i.e., left brain vs right brain.  Complexity and nuance come from inherent fruit differences and from intentionally varying some things—like forests/barrel makers (e.g., we use 10 different coopers in PN) and yeasts in barrel and small stainless fermented whites, and four different vineyards in blended wines—while predictability of general style benefits from strictly controlling temperatures and yields and the like. 

Elegance comes from using restraint (on new oak, on ripeness, on fermentation extraction regimes), yielding finesse rather than power, with an emphasis on balance and texture.  Texture is vitally important to us.  That doesn’t mean when we experiment each year that we don’t push the envelope—e.g., playing with an 88% whole cluster lot in 2008, whereas normally we might use 15% average. 

On the one hand, we are driven by science (e.g., in closure trials and decisions to go screwcap 100%, even on reserve wines; in extreme lab analytical work; in rigorous experimentation every year), while on the other hand, we make final picking decisions by flavors and taste, not grape chemistries.  We do not change our brand look and approach, and yet we are always trying new varieties and wine types—e.g., Gruner Veltliner begun in 2008, sekt-styled semi-sparkling Riesling begun in 2007, a Passetoutsgrains since 1992 (called Cerise).  

What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?

The standards for the varieties we make are always the Old World, and I drink the best from those regions, whether Burgundy, Alsace, Germany or Austria.  They aren’t on average superior to us and our peers, but the best wines from those regions, in the best years, are examples I take to heart and try to emulate.  

How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?  

I started our winery not with barrels and tanks and a building, but with 37 acres of planted vines and almost nine years of maturation before my first commercial vintage, 1990.  We source almost ALL our fruit from our own vineyards, the only exception being some Chardonnay from friends that helps us short-term boost production of INOX, our stainless steel fermented Dijon Chardonnay.  Vineyard is critical to our operations.  We log lots of walked miles in our 4 estate vineyards, especially during final ripening. 

It’s difficult to say we like one child over another.  However, the Reserve Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are almost always exclusively or close to exclusively from Ridgecrest Vineyards—the oldest vineyard, the first on the Ribbon Ridge AVA, the ocean sedimentary soil site and the highest elevation vineyard, meaning it is harvested last.  For white wines, in general, there isn’t a better site in Oregon than Stoller Vineyards and for Riesling, specifically, our Corral Creek site is superior.  Sorry to qualify so much, but Wows come at different times, in different situations.

How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines? 

I’m less impressed with size and power in wines these days, preferring elegance and nuance now.  That means varieties like Riesling and Pinot Noir excite me more, and aged wines from ageable varieties get my attention, even Cab and Merlot.

What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with? 

I think white wines are underappreciated by the average American consumer, because they’ve been told that if they are serious they need to be drinking red.  And my table would suffer greatly if limited to red wines—I appreciate lighter fare like fish (sushi, shellfish, halibut, cod, sole, salmon, etc.), pork, innovative vegetable dishes and desserts, all of which have good matches in our portfolio of wines, especially with 60% of our production being white wines.

What changes are planned for coming vintages?

Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?  We are just releasing a tiny production Reserve-Reserve type wine we call STATEMENT, from 2006 vintage and released only in “declared” vintages—with another scheduled for 2008.  We’ve also begun releasing two special whites:  SEXT, a sekt-type semi-sparkling 5% RS Riesling (patterned after Moscato d’Asti as a dessert wine); and Gruner Veltliner, beginning with the 2008 vintage—looks surprisingly authentic at this stage.

Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it? 

BIG and imbalanced wines aren’t my interest, although I realize that sometimes critics are saddled with picking wines out from a multitude and, mistakenly I think, use size and overtness to make their selection.  Big wines from extraction or wood or overripeness or ML or….hit American between the eyes, but I don’t think that’s necessary except perhaps when consumers’ are beginning and need 2 by 4 guidance.  With maturity, both critics and the consumers they counsel should better value finesse, elegance and nuance of flavours, aromas and textures.

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine? 

You’ve hit on a pet peeve of mine.  Drinking one’s own wine, except in making or evaluating it, is the height of narcissistic or self-serving behaviour.  We should be proud of our own wines, but not to the point we take it with us to restaurants or buy it in shops.  Eating out and drinking wine with friends is a perfect opportunity to continually reshape our palates, appreciate new wines and winemakers and regions, to recalibrate the standards by which we measure ourselves. 

I DO tend to stay in the varietals I make, mainly because I make already what I prefer, drinking the Old World and newer serious winemakers—i.e., Burgundies, Rieslings from Germany, Alsace and Austria, White Burgundies, interesting whites like Albarino, Gruner, Sylvaner, etc.  And great coffees.

Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar? 

I have a cellar going back to the early 70s, with a sprinkling of ancient collectors items.  Lots of Burgundy, Bordeaux, CA Cabernet, Oregon Pinot Noir, and 10+ year old aromatic whites.  I buy auction lots from friends in the industry and trade cases with various people, like Navarro.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today? 

  • The Economy and the resultant slashing of prices to unsustainable levels.  There will be a culling of brands and wines of unpredictable quality on the market—hopefully the inroads into the average American’s lifestyle won’t be lost.
  • Three-tier distribution becoming archaic, due to the creation of only 4-5 mega-distributors, which treat wines as commodities and which fail to serve small wineries.
  • General proliferation of brands and confusion resulting for consumers.
  • New diseases in established wine regions.
  • AND OF COURSE, the changes to established growing regions, their varieties and quality and reputation, due to Global Climate Change.