Afternoon walk: Family members take a late-winter stroll through the Flat Block, planted in 1979, with the Steep Slope rising in the background. (Photo: David Reamer)
Bud break: The vines awake as buds push out into the Eola Hills spring air. (Photo: Terry Casteel)
Early summer: Brilliant Asian poppies stand watch over our estate vineyard. (Photo: Terry Casteel)
Estate Pinot noir: Own-rooted vines planted in 1977 show a flourish of clusters as harvest time nears. (Photo: Terry Casteel)
Fall afternoon: Our fruit has been picked and the vineyards turn an opulent golden color as fall arrives in Willamette Valley wine country. (Photo: Terry Casteel)
Garden view: An afternoon at Bethel Heights isn’t complete without sipping some wine on our deck amongst native wildflowers and plants.
Neighbors: A sign that spring has arrived: our neighbor’s sheep now have lambs…a great welcoming committee for visitors. (Photo: David Reamer)
Old vines rising: A West Block Pinot noir vine enjoys a sunny winter afternoon. (Photo: David Reamer)
Ongoing education: Ted, Mimi, and Ben Casteel discuss shoot positioning among the West Block Wädenswil-clone Pinot noir vines, planted in 1977. (Photo: David Reamer)
Own-rooted Pinot noir: The heart of Bethel Heights Vineyard: own-rooted Pinot noir planted in 1977, still thriving year after year. (Photo: David Reamer)
Spring rings: Warm early summer sunlight filters across the Eola-Amity Hills. (Photo: Terry Casteel)
View from the office: The breathtaking sight of Mt. Jefferson from Bethel Heights Vineyard on a clear day. (Photo: David Reamer)
Wente Chardonnay: Nearly ripe for the picking, the pride of our white wine program is our Wente clone Chardonnay, planted in 1977 and bottled as our Estate Grown Chardonnay. (Photo: Terry Casteel)
What the birds see: The exceptional view looking across Bethel Heights Vineyard and the winery toward the Coast Range.
We’ve grown our estate vineyards gradually for more than thirty-five years, from the original 14 acres planted in 1977 to just over 100 acres in 2014. Three-fourths of our plantings are Pinot noir, with Chardonnay expanding as our primary white variety.
Our Legacy Blocks of own-rooted vines, planted between 1977 and 1979 before the advent of phylloxera in Oregon, include 23 acres of Pinot noir (Pommard and Wädenswil clones), and 4.5 acres of Wente clone Chardonnay – all still healthy and producing fascinating wines. Later plantings from the ‘90s and beyond include many of the new “Dijon clones” of Pinot noir and Chardonnay, all on phylloxera-resistant rootstock.
All three of our estate vineyards lie within the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Bethel Heights and Justice are side-by-side on the west slope, and Ingram is on the east slope about eight miles to the north of Bethel Heights. (See a map of the AVA here.)
BETHEL HEIGHTS VINEYARD Established 1977
- Total acres: 49.6
- Elevation: 480’ to 620’
- Soil: Volcanic basalt (Nekia series)
JUSTICE VINEYARD Established 1999
- Total acres: 24.4
- Elevation: 400’ to 480’
- Soil: Volcanic basalt above, marine sediment below
INGRAM LANE VINEYARD Established 2008
- Total acres: 28.3
- Elevation: 220’ to 450’
- Soil: Volcanic basalt above, marine sediment mid-slope, Missoula silt below
The Eola-Amity Hills AVA - named for the wind
Bethel Heights is one of the oldest vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills, an independent hill chain in the center of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Early pioneers who settled in this region in the nineteenth century noticed the powerful, predictable marine winds that blow through the Van Duzer Corridor, the lowest point in Oregon’s Coast Range, due west of here. Harking back to their classical education, they named the hills for Aeolus, keeper of the winds in Greek mythology; hence the name Eola Hills.
Because of the dominating effect of these marine winds on our climate, the Eola-Amity Hills generally experience cooler average temperatures during the growing season than other parts of the Willamette Valley. Wine grapes grown in the path of these winds are cooled quickly from the day's heat during the summer, amplifying their aromatic qualities, and preserving their bright, fresh fruit flavors.
The soils are different here too, characteristically shallower and rockier, and therefore better drained, than in other parts of the Willamette Valley.
In these conditions, our grapes can safely ripen on the vines long into October, come heat or rain, reaching full flavor potential without losing the bright acidity and fine-grain tannins that give great wine its structure and balance.
The Eola-Amity Hills became a federally designated AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 2006. Our AVA is now home to more than 2,486 acres of wine grapes and thirty commercial wineries. Learn more about the Eola-Amity Hills AVA here.