Day to day, Bethel Heights is kept on course by an amazing team of multi-talented people. Some have been with us since some of us were children, others have come lately from near and far to land in our place. Some are members of our own family. Nothing we do at Bethel Heights is possible without this team.
Ben is the oldest son of Terry Casteel and Marilyn Webb, co-founders of Bethel Heights Vineyard. Ben spent his summers working for his uncle Ted in the vineyard alongside his brother and cousins, but left for college with a different career path in mind. A declared English major entering the University of Oregon, it was always Ben’s intention to complete his undergraduate studies, pursue a doctorate in English Literature and secure a University teaching position thereafter. A trip to Burgundy to work the 1999 harvest at Domaine de Perdrix changed everything.
After an exhilarating experience working overseas, Ben returned with a mind to work in the wine industry for a period before graduate school. He took a position as cellar assistant with Rex Hill under Lynn Penner-Ash immediately after returning from France in November of 1999 and spent the next five years working his way up from cellar assistant, to Cellar Master, and eventually Assistant Winemaker under new acting Winemaker and friend, Aaron Hess.
Ben’s father called him in the Summer of 2004 to discuss the future of Bethel Heights after his retirement, and six months later Ben accepted the position of Winemaker at Bethel Heights in January of 2005. Ben strives to continue the model established by his father and family in crafting wines that reflect vintage and terroir at Bethel Heights Vineyard. It is a vision born of thoughtful experimentation, patience, and restraint, and one that he believes can only reach fulfillment at the small winery level. The closer the winegrower’s hands are to their wines and vines, the clearer the voice of the place and time will be expressed in the cask and bottle. It is with this vision and passion that Ben hopes to carry Bethel Heights on into the future.
Ted Casteel gave up teaching history at the University of Michigan to grow grapes in Oregon more than thirty years ago and has never looked back. He developed the original fifty-acre Bethel Heights estate vineyard in the late 1970’s, and those 30-year- old own-rooted vines still provide the backbone of our Pinot noir production. In 1999 twenty new acres became available adjacent to Bethel Heights, giving Ted the opportunity to plant Justice Vineyard, using all the latest clones, rootstocks, vine spacing and trellising.
Ted’s commitment to continual improvement of wine quality made him an early adopter of the rigorous crop control and intensive canopy management practices that have become industry standards over the years. And, from the beginning, Ted was committed to maintaining biological diversity and ecological balance on the whole farm, minimizing the use of “off-farm” inputs such as fungicides, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and diesel. “Our family were all environmentalists before we became farmers,” he points out. Trying to figure out how to make these principles work on the ground, without compromising the quality of the fruit, was the impetus behind Ted’s leadership in the foundation of LIVE in 1997.
LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), Oregon’s unique sustainable viticulture certification program, was the first and still is the only organization in the United States certified by the IOBC (International Organization for Biological and Integrated Control of Noxious Animals and Plants). Bethel Heights was among the first vineyards certified under the LIVE standards, and released the first LIVE certified wine in 1999. Ted served for many years on the Board of Directors and technical advisory committee of LIVE, which has grown to include almost thirty percent of the vineyard acres in Oregon.
Ted has been active in all of Oregon’s key viticulture activities over the years. He has chaired the winegrape sessions of the Oregon Horticulture Society, the Grapevine Improvement Committee and the Research Committees of the Oregon Wine Advisory Board. He helped establish the Chemeketa Community College Viticulture Program, and edited two editions of the Oregon Winegrape Growers’ Guide, still the fundamental how-to book for Oregon grape growers. He served as Chair of the Oregon Wine Advisory Board from 1991 To 1993 and again from 2002 to 2003, and helped create the Oregon Wine Institute.
Pat Dudley is President and General Manager of Bethel Heights Vineyard. As one of the four founding family members who have operated Bethel Heights since 1978, Pat left behind an academic career in medieval history to focus on building Bethel Heights Vineyard from the ground up. Over the years Pat’s primary role in the family business has been marketing and promotion, Her larger role has been to work collaboratively with like-minded colleagues to establish international recognition for the Willamette Valley as the home of New World Pinot Noir, and to protect the integrity of the Willamette Valley landscape.
Pat served as Executive Director of the International Pinot Noir Celebration for five years (1992-1996), then went on to become one of the founders of Oregon Pinot Camp, serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2009. Pat helped transform the Yamhill County Wineries Association into the Willamette Valley Wineries Association in 2005, and subsequently served on the WVWA Board of Directors for several terms.
Pat also served for quite a few years on both the Oregon Wine Board and the Oregon State Board of Agriculture, with a particular interest in forwarding the cause of farmland preservation and sustainable agriculture in Oregon. Most recently, Pat became one of the founders of the Willamette Valley Oak Accord, dedicated to organizing private landowners to protect endangered habitat in our region.
Kate became part of the Bethel Heights family when she babysat Ben and Jon Casteel many years ago. In 1996 she started working part-time in our tasting room when it was still just a small space above the fermentation room with a hand-written receipt book. She has been with us ever since, establishing our Cellar Club in 2000, and managing the remarkable steady growth of our direct sales. Kate’s warm smile and gracious hospitality make every visitor to Bethel Heights feel welcome, and are a constant inspiration to our entire hospitality team.
Jennifer joined Bethel Heights as bookkeeper in 2014, but we have known her since school days, when she lived just up the road at her family’s Christmas tree farm and used to babysit for the Casteel children at Bethel Heights, following in the footsteps of her sister Kate. Jen started working part-time in the tasting room at Bethel Heights in 2006, and her talent for making sense out of wacky wine sales software made her the natural choice when the bookkeeper job opened up. Jen’s diligence and vigilance has gradually transformed that job into a full scale “Accounts Manager” position and now we can hardly imagine how we ever managed without her.
Chris Schwartz moved to Oregon in 2015 after a fourteen-year stint as co-owner of the famous Franks Diner in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Upon arrival in Oregon she took up residence on Bethel Heights Road, and dropped in to the winery looking for a new kind of work. First she worked the crush in 2015, where she quickly convinced everyone of her ability to do pretty much any job you could name, and do it a lot better and a lot faster than almost anyone, while doing three or four other jobs simultaneously, all with an obsession for accuracy that most employers can only dream about. Chris has been our shipping coordinator since early 2016, and there has not been a shipping error since.
Chris also shines in the front of the house, offering glowing hospitality to winery guests several days a week.
Bob Taylor is a renaissance man who grew up in Rochester, NY. He graduated from of the University of Dayton in 1997 and eventually settled in Oregon in 2006. In 2007, Bob worked crush at Bethel Heights and then went on to learn all sides of winegrowing in vineyards and cellars around the Willamette Valley, including some years as vineyard manager at Amity Vineyards and most recently as Cellar Master at Elizabeth Chambers Cellars, with another stint on the Bethel Heights crush crew in 2017. As comfortable and competent in the vineyard as he is in the cellar, Bob agreed to accept a dual position at Bethel Heights as Assistant Winemaker and Assistant Vineyard Manager. When left to his own devices he can usually be found working on his house, gardening or making dinner with his wife Lisa and their two children Winston and Margaret.
Jaime Guzman grew up on Bethel Heights Road next door to Bethel Heights Vineyard and graduated in 2005 from Amity High School (alma mater of Ben, Mimi, Jessie and Jon Casteel). Jaime started working at Bethel Heights on the vineyard crew in 2006 and eventually made his way onto the winery crush crew during harvest. His aptitude for cellar work gradually earned him his full time job as Cellar Assistant. When he’s off the job, he’s on the soccer field, spearheading the championship drive of Team Bethel Heights.
Victor Gonzales Rivas came to work at Bethel Heights in 2016, where his remarkable mechanical skills quickly made him indispensable. Victor can fix any piece of farm equipment that crosses his path, and if the vineyard needs something that doesn’t exist, he fabricates it. He also manages the logistics of moving essential pieces of heavy equipment among three different vineyards as if they were pieces on a chess board. Victor is a magician.
As our roving Bethel Heights ambassador, Jessie can be spotted presenting our wines around Chicago and points east. Daughter of co-founders Ted Casteel and Pat Dudley, Jessie grew up among the vines at Bethel Heights, but she has lived in Chicago ever since she went off to college at the University of Chicago and fell into the temp of urban life. In addition to her ambassadorial duties, Jessie serves on our Board of Directors where she brings a creative outlier perspective to the direction of the family business, as seen in her famous design for the Bethel Heights Family Skeleton t-shirt. “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
Marilyn was an assistant dean of women at the University of Washington when she first met notorious student anti-war activist Terry Casteel. A few years later, when they were married and making a living as practicing therapists in Seattle, they started drinking Burgundy and became wine enthusiasts, and the rest is history.
“When we arrived in Oregon, babies in tow, the first thing I did was organize, mostly by phone, for the dinners celebrating winners of the Oregon State Fair wine competition. Some dinners were better than others, as I recall! That would have been about 1980- 1983.” Marilyn has been cooking food to go with wine ever since, and has created memorable meals for many special occasions at Bethel Heights.
But cooking has never been Marilyn’s day job.
From the beginning, Marilyn lent her considerable organizational talents and hard work to helping to launch the Oregon wine industry. From 1980 to 1984 she served on the Oregon Winegrowers’ Association Board of Directors. In 1983, she edited the second edition of the Oregon Winegrape Growers Guide, still the basic how-to book for everyone coming to this new region to grow grapes. When the Oregon Wine
Advisory Board came into being, she served as a member from 1984 – 1988.
In 1992 Marilyn took an outside job to support college years for sons Ben and Jon, working full time until 2003 for Portland State University as a Director in the School of Extended Studies, and Director of Training for the Child Welfare Partnership – meanwhile working weekends doing all the bookkeeping for Bethel Heights and helping to keep the business plan on track. In 2003 she returned to Bethel Heights full time, serving as Chief Financial Officer.
Barbara Dudley, sister of Pat, has been a partner in Bethel Heights Vineyard since the beginning. Although not involved in the day-to-day operations, as Chair of our Board of Directors and official Ideologue, she brings a helpful outside perspective to our big-picture deliberations about the family business and the family farm.
Barbara received her law degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1971, and has since had a long career working with various labor and environmental organizations and projects, starting as a lawyer with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in California and going on to become Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, and Executive Director of Greenpeace USA from 1992 to 1997. No surprise in 1999 she named our new vineyard “Justice Vineyard.”
Barbara currently teaches at Portland State University, including courses on Social Sustainability, Advocacy, The Globalization of Civil Society, and Student Debt. She is a co-founder and currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor to the Working Families Party of Oregon.
Mimi is the daughter of Ted Casteel and Pat Dudley, co-founders of Bethel Heights. Growing up working in the vineyard and winery, Mimi gained such an appreciation for the industry that she promptly left home after high school. Armed with a BA in History and Classics from Tulane University, Mimi spent the next year working in various National Forests across the west. Her adventures fueled her passion for studying botany, forestry, and ecology. Mimi earned her MS from Oregon State University in Forest Science, and spent the next several years working as a botanist and ecologist for the Forest Service, living in the backcountry. She could never get past the longing for the vineyard and working with the vines. Mimi returned to Bethel Heights in 2005, along with her cousin and childhood best friend Ben, to take the helm as second- generation winegrowers and owners.
In 2016 Mimi left Bethel Heights to grow and make wine at her home vineyard, Hope Well. “Hope Well wine is the alchemy between the natural world, my deep love for this ground and the unsung heroes whose strong hands, hearts and minds have helped me make it. Human. Nature. Hope Well.” www.hopewellwine.com
Jon Casteel, son of Terry Casteel and Marilyn Webb, is the youngest of the Casteel clan who grew up at Bethel Heights, working summers in the vineyard along with his brother and cousins. After working a harvest in New Zealand, he came back to Oregon and spent five years at Rex Hill Vineyard, first as Cellar Rat and eventually as Cellar Master.
One of Jon’s responsibilities at Rex Hill was running the bottling line. When the decision was made to re-build the Rex Hill line, Jon asked to go along to observe and participate. His skills and interest increased, and when a good friend and mentor from California called and told him about the availability of a custom-built mobile bottling line, he saw his opportunity. He approached Bethel Heights (i.e. the rest of the family) to form a partnership. In December, 2006, Casteel Custom Bottling became a reality.
Jon has since gone on to buy out his partners and expand his business to include a second bottling truck and a custom bottling facility in the heart of wine country. His scrupulous attention to detail, uncompromising customer service, and infectious good humor, have made him a success from the beginning.
Terry was the winemaker at Bethel Heights from our first commercial vintage in 1984 until he passed the baton to his son Ben in 2006. The majority of Oregon’s pioneer winemakers came to the region and to the winemaking profession in unpredictable, illogical and amazing ways; Terry’s route is even more circuitous than most. His first degree was in English Literature from the Presbyterian (read no-alcohol) Whitworth College in Spokane. At Princeton, Casteel was awarded a Master’s Degree in Theology. Back in Washington, at the University in Seattle, Casteel received his PhD. in Educational Psychology. Terry started making wine in his basement in Seattle while earning a living practicing psychology in Seattle in the 1970’s.
Terry’s winemaking style evolved along with our vineyard, and always reflected the intimate connection between Bethel Heights Vineyard and the people who live here. His approach was well articulated in an extended interview following the 1999 vintage: “I look for a transparency in our winemaking that allows the character of the site to show through. We want to express in our wine not just the character of Pinot noir, but the character of Bethel Heights. We want to capture the synergy between this grape and this place.”
Besides making wonderfully expressive wines for our first thirty years, Terry was actively involved in the Oregon wine community, and was a respected mentor to many fellow winemakers. Terry served as a founding member of the board of the International Pinot Noir Celebration from 1988 to 2002, and served many years on the board of the ¡Salud! Pinot Noir Auction to support healthcare services for vineyard workers.
Terry is also an accomplished photographer. He created many of the iconic photos of Bethel Heights that can be seen at the winery and on our website.
DeeDee Dudley, daughter of Barbara, lives in Chicago, where she has turned her love for children into a successful career as a professional nanny. DeeDee has a special connection to Bethel Heights as the one place she has always come home to for holidays and vacations since her childhood. Like all the cousins, she has her own special places and memories around the vineyard that she now shares with her own daughter whenever they come here. It is this shared sense of continuity that makes DeeDee a special ambassador for Bethel Heights
wherever she goes.