Archive for the ‘The Vineyard Life’ 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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Terry was recognized as Legacy Winemaker of the year at the ¡Salud! Pinot Noir Auction on Saturday, for his many contributions to the work of ¡Salud! and to Oregon wine over the years. He received a standing ovation for the thoughts he shared when he stood up to acknowledge the honor.

“As Oregon Pinot noir has grown in stature and reputation, it has been built by growers and winemakers who trust this place to be the right place; who have learned from the land how it needs to be farmed; and from the grape how it needs to be treated and respected in the winery so when it finally goes to bottle, it is an honest reflection of vintage and place.  Pinot noir is a creature of place.  It teaches us lessons, lessons about respecting differences, about putting differences at the very center of our values, of not giving in to the late night temptation to bury our mistakes in the big tank around the corner, and standing strong against the temptation to lose the unique and special offering of the land in “essence of oak” or over-extraction. The winemakers who follow that broader path are not trusting the wine to tell its own story.  It is a uniquely Oregon story, rooted here, not transferable to any other place.

“My hope for my sons’ generation is that they will continue to celebrate the differences, take heart in each other’s triumphs and support each other when they inevitably fall short of the mark; that they will continue to relish a healthy competition that forces us all to get better, but never forget that it was the spirit of cooperation and shared vision and purpose that won us a place at the world’s wine table.”


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2010 was the most compressed harvest we’ve had in the Willamette Valley since sometime back in the dim and distant 70’s.  We waited until the last possible minute to pick, waiting for our gorgeous Indian Summer to bring on the final flavor development that makes a great vintage.   When that moment came, there were storm clouds on the horizon.

We could never have pulled off this vintage without a vineyard crew that went way above and beyond the call of duty.  Our crew of twenty-five people worked ten hours a day for five straight days, barely stopping to eat.  They picked 95 tons at Bethel Heights and Justice in just 5 days = 190,000 pounds = 38,000 pounds per day = 1520 pounds per person per day = 95 buckets per person per day.

These are the heroes of the 2010 vintage!



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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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Today our vineyard crew started as usual at daybreak, picking a few tons next door at Temperance Hill Vineyard before coming down to Bethel Heights around 10:30. By noon they had finished the Flat Block, the last of our 2010 Pinot noir!   We thought they would have to call it a day by the time they finished picking the Wente Chardonnay and the Pinot blanc around 2:00, but with serious grey clouds piling up to the west, they kept going until 4:00 and brought in all the Pinot gris as well.  Everyone is going the extra mile in this most compressed harvest that anyone can remember.

All the white grapes look beautifully ripe, with nice brown stems and golden colored fruit (small crop pay-off).  But the trouble with white grapes is you can’t just sort and destem and throw them into a fermenter to chill out.  The whites all have to be pressed first, and every press  
load takes hours, and then the press cleanup after each load is incredibly sticky and messy and time-consuming.  Here it is 11:00 at night, and our midnight shift (Mimi and Alex tonight) is still pressing Chardonnay, and eating the last of the delicious lentil-sausage soup that Marilyn made for lunch today.

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Don, New Kate, and Mimi smiling on Pinot

Another long and very satisfying day:  25 tons of gorgeous Pinot noir, including all of the Southeast Block and South Block, harvested under sunny skies.   6:45 pm:  Sun setting, Moon and Jupiter rising, and everyone is still smiling tonight as the work goes on.

Ted, Marilyn and Ben smiling on lunch

What the crush crew had for lunch today:  beef kebobs with chanterelles over risotto, and a side of Caesar salad – Marilyn is spoiling us, but no wonder everyone is still smiling!   We have TWO chanterelle hunters on our crush crew this year, our brand new Kate and our good old Alex.

Jack hanging in there

Jack is home from the kennel, cannon shell-shock averted.  Now that harvest is underway, he can head for the winery at daybreak (cannon-break) and spend the day under the table in the office until Ted turns off the cannons and it’s time for a moonrise walk!


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