Updated: Dec 9, 2020
My trip to Bethel Heights Vineyard was an unplanned, but pleasant, surprise. If you're coming from Portland, it can be easy to stop at one of the many wineries a bit closer to town, such as in Dundee Hills or the Yamhill-Carlton District, but I would highly suggest making the trip out to Eola-Amity Hills and visiting Bethel Heights. Another local winery referred me, and I was glad I took their advice.
Bethel Heights is one of the "old-school" pioneers of Pinot Noir in the valley, having first planted vines in 1977 in what used to be walnut groves. This was actually before phylloxera had been discovered in Oregon, and the vines were not grafted onto American rootstock; these are currently some of the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines on their own rootstock in the world. I got to try some of these wines, and I have to say that they were stunning.
Betsy was my wine guide that day, and I have to say, she knows her stuff! A retired dean of a local college with a thirst for knowledge (and presumably wine, too)! Some wineries are content to pour and move on, but Betsy really took her time to describe the vineyards, the winemaking, and the history of the property. I always like to recommend wineries that are willing to put in a little more time to educate their customers.
The winery is mostly a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay house with small amounts of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. The wines are divided into tiers, with the "Legacy Blocks" designation indicating that the wine comes from the older own-rooted vines and the "Beyond the Blocks" designation indicating that the winemaker specially selected certain rows of the legacy blocks from which to make a special wine. Up and down the lineup, the wines are solid. I found them to be balanced and not heavy-handed with the usage of new oak. I participated in the standard tasting, but there are also private tasting rooms and options available.
The main tasting room is also a nice place to spend an afternoon. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide a panoramic view out to the vineyards below. Inside the tasting room are many small-round tables with fuzzy white chairs that look like they are straight out of an Alaskan lodge. The outdoor area is not huge, but would be a nice place to buy a bottle and gaze at the views or to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch. The combination of great people, wines and views will have me stopping here again the next time I'm in town.