A wine tasting itinerary in Oregon's Eola-Amity Hills
Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills, located west of Salem and 45 minutes southwest of Portland, features some of the top vineyards and wineries in the state.
There are nearly 30 wineries throughout the Eola-Amity Hills, including well-established wineries like Bethel Heights and rising stars like Walter Scott Wines. A defining characteristic of this region is the cool maritime air that flows from the coast to the valley via the Van Duzer Corridor. This cold air keeps daytime temperatures in check and ultimately pushes the vines to work harder, heightening the aromatic qualities of wine made from the region’s grapes.
The Eola-Amity Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a wonderland for tasters looking to get a bit off the beaten path in search of some of Oregon’s best wine. As with all AVA’s, you can’t see it all in one day. That said, this particular itinerary gives tourists a taste of what the region has to offer, from tasting rooms with unparalleled views to up-and-coming wineries where the hospitality is second to none.
Bethel Heights Vineyard
Start your tour at Bethel Heights Vineyard, which was founded back in 1977 by the Casteel/Dudley family. The winery features a beautiful tasting room with southwestern views overlooking the vineyard. There’s plenty of room to spread out inside the tasting room, but on nicer days tasters should take advantage of the patio seating. Bethel Heights has come to be known for their acclaimed Pinot noir wines, but tasters will also be wowed by their white wines. As this remains a family-run affair, tasters will almost certainly meet a member of the Casteel/Dudley family while visiting.
A five minute drive down the hill from Bethel Heights will bring tasters to Cristom Vineyards. Founded in 1992, Cristom consistently produces very high-quality Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Viognier and a small amount of estate-grown Syrah (the wines have earned them a sort of cult following over the years). The tasting room hosts are always very friendly as they introduce guests to the current wine releases.
The majority of the wine is made from estate vineyards that lie just up the hill from the winery and tasting room. Each Pinot noir vineyard is named after a matriarch in the founders’ family, which is fitting considering that each vineyard (and the wine it produces) takes on a personality of its own.
From Cristom it’s a twelve minute jaunt over to the fabulous tasting room of Brooks Wines. The road you will take (Spring Valley Road) is enchantingly filed with old Victorian houses, the upper crust of 1890s Salem. Brooks has always (and by always we mean since 1998) been making really nice wines, and in 2013 they finished construction of a fancy new tasting room.
An interior designers’ canvas, the tasting room manages to facilitate an awesome tasting experience without coming off as pretentious or over the top. Tasters can sink into soft leather couches while sampling the Pinots, Rieslings, and other white wines that compose their extensive wine portfolio. Insider Tip: Ask to see a food menu while tasting. Their meat and cheese plate is to die for!
Keeler Estate Vineyard
For your final stop of the day, head to Keeler Estate Vineyard. This up and coming winery in Amity makes fantastic wines from the estate, biodynamic/organic vineyards. The recently completed tasting room may seem humble compared to the likes of Brooks, but it’s a welcome change thanks to the beauty of the property, the friendliness of the staff and the quality of the wine.
You will quickly feel like part of the family while visiting, with the winery dogs often lounging with you in the tasting room. On particularly nice days or with advance reservation, you may be taken on a short trip into the vineyard and up the hill to the vineyard observation deck.This is the ideal spot to look out over the vineyard and feel fully immersed in wine country. You can also arrange for a private tour of their biodynamic vineyard.
A Few Final Notes
How can you learn more about this AVA?
Learn more about the Eola Amity Hills on the official AVA Website here. There are nearly 30 wineries to visit!