Archive for the ‘Seeking Sustainability’ Category

Predatory Beetles

Flying in from everwhere

Escaping   flooded fields

Fleeing bird’s beaks

Zooming   through vent holes   of compost bins

Feeling safe

Suddenly becoming

The top   of the food chain.

A congress    of beetles

Skating across

The orange flows     Directs the food chain

Of flyers and crawlers.

With the Beetles

In charge

It’s only poop for so long.


(from The Return of the Fertilizer King and Other Tales, by Mark U. Sturges)*


The microcosm of organisms that Mimi has been cultivating inside the old dairy tank experienced a population explosion over the winter, fueled by all those sacks of leftover vegetables that people keep leaving on her desk.

Oblivious to freezing winter temperatures, the red worms have become a mass of squirming spaghetti.  (These are the eisenia fetida worms that are sold live at $45.95 per 1000 in home gardening catalogues, credited with eating half their weight in organic matter every day.)  The tiny threadlike white worms and fat little grubs have been just as prolific, and one can only assume the invisible microorganisms have been no less busy.

In spite of all this prolific life, Mimi has been fretting about the absence of beetles, so imagine the thrill when she opened the lid last week and found they had finally arrived …

The Argytids look

over the pumpkin supply

and then    they breed their way

into proper numbers

to accomplish the job.*

* Mark Sturges, author of 

The Return of the Fertilizer King and Other Tales,


is an old friend of Bethel Heights.  A extraordinarily effective wine salesman in his day job, Mark is now almost entirely devoted to growing compost, which for Mark is a poetic activity.  It was Mark who inspired Mimi’s worm farm project, taught her how to brew compost tea, and provided her starter set of bugs and worms to get it going.   Mark’s farm, Chili Nervanos in Bandon, Oregon, ships organic compost and nematodes and dung beetles to thirty states. Rather than concentrating on thermal composting or composting with worms, as many composters do, Mark encourages the greatest number of creatures possible to inhabit his compost.  He wants “the whole neighborhood.”

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Kate selecting trees for harvest

If you come to Bethel Heights this weekend (December 4th and 5th) you’ll not only get to taste some great wines; you can also take home a fresh cut, sustainably grown Christmas tree.  This weekend, just $30 will get you a taste of all six wines we are pouring (including a special sneak peek at one of our delicious 2009 pinots!) and a beautiful, sustainably grown, 5-7 foot noble fir Christmas tree to take home and deck with yule-tide splendor.

If you’ve ever visited Bethel Heights, you’ve probably met Kate, our Tasting Room/Cellar Club manager.   But you may not know that the Feldman Tree Farm, just a short distance up the road from Bethel Heights Vineyard, is Kate’s family business.  The level of care the Feldman family takes with their trees is above and beyond the rest of the industry.  And it shows; these are beautiful trees!

This coming weekend Kate is going to bring some of her trees down to the winery, and one of them can be yours! So come on out, friends, we have a fire going, we’ve got warm, mulled cider for your post-wine-tasting sipping pleasure, and hey, you needed that tree anyway!

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Seeking more sustainable packaging, Mimi came up with kegs!  3 Doors Down in Portland, a pioneer of kegged wine-by-the-glass, is now pouring Bethel Heights 2009 Estate Grown Pinot Noir (our Black Label Pinot) from a 5-gallon keg instead of from bottles, saving everyone a whole lot of money and a whole lot of carbon footprint.

But, how do you “bottle” wine in a keg?  Not something we’ve done before at Bethel Heights.  Fortunately, Mimi’s husband, Ciderman Nick Gunn, has plenty of kegging experience, with his Anthem Cider on tap in pubs around the country these days.  No problem!

When you’re in Portland, drop into 3 Doors Down and check it out – a preview of our beautiful and bountiful 2009 vintage, and a preview of the wine packaging of the future, perhaps.

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We had a great party yesterday with the fantastic Solar Nation team to celebrate the completion of our solar energy project.   40% of our energy at Bethel Heights is now provided by the sun!

Solar Nation CEO Paul Hodge was on hand to toast the success of our project.

An album of great photos from the party was posted this morning by Rachel Trousdale, “Solar Development Analyst” and top notch party planner.

Visitors to our tasting room can now watch the kilowatt hours mount up and learn how it works on the monitor in our tasting room.  Come see for yourself!

Thanks, Solar Nation!

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Finally got them to  stand still long enough to be introduced!  Top to bottom, wearing their new Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine t-shirts:

Kate Ayres, Mimi Casteel, Jaime Guzman, Alex Bogetti, Pat Dudley, Don Kowitz, Jose Luis Martinez, Ben Casteel, Ted Casteel…   and Marilyn

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Mimi’s worms have done an amazing job of turning llama poop into a sweet-smelling compost teeming with micro-life.  Now comes tea time: fill a bag with the magic compost, fill the brewing tank with water, stir in a concoction of natural nutrients, immerse the bag in the water solution and turn on the mixing pump.  Aerate vigorously for several days and voila, you have miracle tea.

Three weeks ago the magic tea was sprayed on the Flat Block, soil and leaves.   Of our four legacy blocks of own-rooted Pinot noir, the Flat Block looks to be the most in danger of attack by phylloxera.  If the compost tea can give a boost to its immune system, as we think it will, we could have many more years of enjoying the absolutely unique wine that this 3-acre block of old vines keep giving us.

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Solar Nation does not fool around!  These solar panels seemed to go up almost overnight, thanks to the most cheerful hard working construction crew imaginable.

Last week:  pour concrete footings and build the platform.

This week: install the panels.

Dig a trench through the parking lot to connect the panels to the grid, and have it filled in and ready for traffic the very next day?  No problem!

Once this is plugged in it will supply 40% of the electricity for the whole property – winery, two homes, pumps, everything.

We can’t say this too often:  THANK YOU  SOLAR NATION for making it all happen!

Here is the background story.

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