Want to know what the critics have to say about Bethel Heights for current and past vintages? We’ve got the highs (and sometimes the lows) for you to ponder.
Wine Spectator, February 2017
A Pioneer Reaches the Pinnacle in Oregon
Bethel Heights Vineyard grows its grapes on 103 acres in the Eola- Amity Hills AVA, a windy area just north of Salem, the state capital. The family-owned winery is an Oregon pioneer, founded in 1977, and all its wines are produced from estate-owned vineyards. Cousins and co-owners Ben and Mimi Casteel represent the second generation of the winery's founding Casteel, Dudley and Webb families. Ben, the winemaker, pursues a light and delicate style, decidedly old-school, putting the emphasis on fruit flavors and intensity and delivering a marvelous sense of weightlessness in the wines.
The original Bethel Heights vineyard and the adjacent Justice Vineyard, which was planted in 1999, cover 74 acres on the undulating western slopes of the Eola Hills. Ingram Lane, planted in 2008, tucks into rolling hills on the eastern side of the AVA. The winery specializes in Pinot Noir from specific blocks within these three vineyard sites. The family now makes more than 2,000 cases of an entry-level estate Pinot Noir, and more than 1,000 cases of an estate Chardonnay. Smaller lots, including the Casteel Reserve (a blend of selected barrels) and single-block bottlings, go for a bit more. A stunning wine called Æolian is sourced from recent plantings in windy portions of the estate vineyard.
Other bottlings, such as Flat Block, West Block and Southeast Block, each made from specific sections of estate vineyards, demonstrate the differences in flavor and structure that can come from plots literally feet apart. These contrasts are much like those found in Burgundy.
The Casteels identified sections of the vineyard, planted in the 1990s, that are exposed to more wind, and created this aromatically pure, intense and deep style.2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Flat Block - 93 | 300 cases made
Often the estate's best wine, this is always ripe and vibrant, centered on currant and plum flavors. Finishes with harmony.2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Justice Vineyard - 93 | 245 cases made
This bottling often shows generosity, with focus and dark fruit flavors, accented by herbal hints.2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Estate - 92 | 2,319 cases made
This selection from all parts of the vineyard comes together seamlessly on an open texture.2013 Bethel Heights Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills - 90 | 1,084 cases made
This aims for a lighter style, with tension to the fruit and mineral flavors, persisting into an expressive finish.
Wine Enthusiast, February 2017
The top drop from Bethel Heights in this vintage, this is a dark, dense evocation of Pinot Noir at its most authoritative and engaging. It's a muscular mix of mulberry, blueberry and blue plum, with a dash of sassafras for good measure. The length and sense of throttled power suggest that this is a fine cellar candidate. Drink now through 2028.2014 Bethel Heights Southeast Block Pinot Noir - 93
The unique flavors of this special block match pretty red-berry fruit to aromatic suggestions of potpourri and bouquet garni. It's detailed and nicely knitted together, with a pleasing hint of coconut carrying through the finish.2014 Bethel Heights Casteel Chardonnay - 93
As befits a reserve-level wine, this is big, bold, rich and full-flavored. It amplifies the ripe apple and peach fruit, and slathers it in buttery caramel and sweet spice. Drink now through 2020.2014 Bethel Heights Estate Chardonnay - 92
An outstanding value in a top-level Oregon Chardonnay, this beautifully rendered, barrel-fermented wine is a showcase of sharply defined flavors. The tree fruits are highlighted with details of spice and new wood, clearly delineated and well-matched.2014 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir - 91
Lush and forward, this lovely wine is bursting with red and black-cherry fruit. It socks you (gently) in the nose and seduces you in the mouth, with streaks of cola and a dash of pepper. No need to wait on this wine, as it is already drinking like a dream.2014 Bethel Heights Flat Block Pinot Noir - 92
This limited block selection comes from own-rooted vines planted in 1979. Full-fruited flavors combine into a fresh and lush mix of berries and cherries with a citrusy kick. There's a tropical punch sensibility combined with the texture and depth of a very fine Pinot. The tannins are polished and in perfect proportion.2014 Bethel Heights Justice Vineyard Pinot Noir - 92
Firm black cherry fruit opens with a slightly liquorous, Bourbon barrel accent. This young wine is still knitting together, but with ample breathing time it smoothes out, delivering a robust mix of ripe fruit, highlights of sassafras, and a hint of charcoal. Drink now or tuck it away another few years.2013 Bethel Heights Casteel Pinot Noir - 92
A barrel by barrel selection results in this reserve-level cuvée. Round, forward, spicy and toasty, it's a solid, almost chunky style with bold black-cherry fruit. Barrel aging brings up highlights of coffee and toast. Think duck confit with this bottle, and enjoy it over the next few years.2013 Bethel Heights Casteel Chardonnay - 92
A reserve-level, barrel-fermented cuvée, this has a fresh and creamy mouthfeel. It blends crisp tree fruits with bracing minerality, and finishes lightly with a pat of butter.2013 Bethel Heights Estate Chardonnay - 90
Firm and polished, this barrel-fermented wine is just rounded off enough, without damping the bright, almost crunchy fruit. There's a light touch of toast and the structure for further bottle age to improve it. Drink 2017–2025.
Vinous, December 2016
Deep red. Sexy, highly perfumed aromas of ripe red and dark berries, patchouli and candied flowers; suave Asian spice and mineral nuances add urgency. Offers juicy, palate-staining black raspberry, cherry cola and spicecake flavors and sweet vanilla and mocha qualities that emerge steadily as the wine opens up. Plays richness off vivacity with a sure hand and closes extremely long, sweet and vaguely smoky, with just a hint of dusty tannins lending shape and grip. -- Josh Raynolds2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Flat Block - 92
Brilliant red. Sexy, mineral-accented cherry and red berry preserve scents pick up floral and cola nuances with air. Fleshy and expansive in the mouth, offering appealingly sweet raspberry and cherry flavors and suggestions of mocha and rose pastille. Nicely energetic for its power, finishing with solid, fruity punch, sneaky tannins and floral notes. -- Josh Raynolds2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Southeast Block - 92
Dark red. Smoke- and mineral-accented red and blue fruits, spicecake and cola on the deeply perfumed nose; suggestions of pungent flowers and licorice come up with aeration. Gently sweet cherry cola and boysenberry flavors are underscored by a core of smoky minerals that gains intensity with air. Smoothly plays power off vivacity and finishes very long and sweet, with harmonious tannins lending gentle grip. -- Josh Raynolds2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir West Block - 93
Ruby-red. Ripe red berry and incense aromas are complicated by suggestions of Asian spices and smoky minerals. Sweet and energetic on the palate, offering juicy red fruit liqueur and spicecake flavors that gain depth with air while picking up deeper licorice and cola nuances. Sappy, seamless and focused on the very long, smoke-tinged finish, which features fine-grained tannins and a late jolt of minerality. -- Josh Raynolds2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Justice Vineyard - 92
Deep red. Powerful, oak-spiced black raspberry, cherry- vanilla and mocha scents, along with hints of licorice and cola. Plush and broad on the palate, offering smoke-tinged cherry and dark berry flavors that slowly become brighter and more lively with air. Showing a fair amount oak influence right now, but there appears to be more than enough fruit to buffer it. Finishes smoky, spicy and very long, featuring an echoing cherry note and mounting tannins. -- Josh Raynolds2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Estate - 90
Limpid red. Vibrant mineral- and spice-tinged aromas of ripe cherry and red berries, complicated by a hint of blood orange. Clean and racy on entry, then deeper in the midpalate, offering bitter cherry and orange pith flavors with a sweet touch of candied rose. Dusty tannins come up slowly on a sappy, focused finish that lingers with very good, gently spicy persistence. -- Josh Raynolds
James Suckling, November 2016
Interesting aromas of blueberries, crush stones and dried strawberries follow through to full body, velvety tannins and a juicy finish. Delicious fruit. Drink or hold.2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Flat Block - 94
Very interesting aromas of rust, stones, rosemary and strawberries. Full-bodied and tight yet formed and toned. Lovely potential here. Give a couple of years to come together. Better in 2018 or after.2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Southeast Block - 93
Aromas of stones, rust and hints of redwood combined with strawberry and plum character. Always subtle. Medium body, a solid core of fruit and velvety tannins. Better in 2019.2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Estate - 93
Lots of plum and spice character on the nose. Dried flowers, too. Full body, a solid core of fruit and ripe tannins. Very long and polished. A beauty now. Drink or hold.
Wine Spectator, August 2016
Fresh and expressive, with depth to the plum, currant, floral and mineral flavors. Comes together seamlessly on the open-textured finish, leaving an echo of prickly tannins. -Harvey Steiman