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.
2014 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Æolian – 95 | 625 cases made
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.