Posts Tagged ‘Kate Crowe’

When we planted it in 1979, the Southeast Block looked just like the other two Pinot blocks planted that year on the newly cleared east side of our vineyard, with cuttings from Dick Erath’s Pommard clone Pinot noir stuck directly into the ground without benefit of phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

But soon after these three look-alike Pinot blocks started producing fruit, differences in their soil depth began to assert themselves. The South Block was always a bit overly vigorous; the Flat Block was always a bit weak.  The Southeast Block was always Just Right, and was clearly destined to be Goldilocks’ favorite.

To top it off, in 1998 the famous French geologist Yves Herody, consultant to many of Burgundy’s biodynamic vignerons, declared that our Southeast Block was created by a different geological event than the blocks next to it, giving its parent rock a Unique Mineral Content.  By then it had already become our glory hog.

During the ‘80’s, when we were still selling most of our fruit to other wineries, the Southeast Block was the Chosen Block of Domaine Drouhin Oregon.  After 1991, when we started bottling our own Southeast Block designated wine, it regularly got the highest score of all our Pinots.  It was almost always our Featured Wine at the International Pinot Noir Celebration.  It usually provided our Chosen Barrel for the ¡Salud! auction.

Always a prima donna, unwilling to share the spotlight, the SEB has never been a component in our Casteel Reserve.

In 2006 the Southeast Block was the Chosen Block for the Cellar Crawl Collection, a “best block” fruit trade experiment between Bethel Heights, Penner-Ash, Ken Wright, Cristom and Solena.

This year the 2008 Southeast Block was selected as the only Oregon Pinot for the inspiring wine list at Boston’s new Legal Harborside Restaurant, a collection of only 50 wines from around the world “whose personality originates from an individual place, wine whose identity reflects a single family’s connection to the particular parcel of earth that it tends.”

As Ben described it for the Harborside Collection, “The roots of these own-rooted vines have grown down and explored our rocky volcanic soil for over thirty years, and in doing so have produced wines that are defined far more by their place, than by vintage or by the hand of the winemaker.  Since my father first started bottling wines from the Southeast Block as single-block designates in 1991, this block has given us wines with a firm backbone combined with robust savory fruit and a deep minerality that is unique to this place.”

The Southeast Block is thirty-two years old this year. There are signs that phylloxera has finally discovered its unprotected roots, but Mimi’s worm tea is being liberally applied to boost its immune system, and we believe its best years may still be ahead.  Certainly the 2007 and 2008 Southeast Block Pinots are two of the most glorious and ageworthy wines we have ever produced.

If the Southeast Block were a person, who would it be?

Ted:  Spencer Tracy or Humphrey Bogart  (a bit rough on the outside, but solid intellect and sweet heart on the inside)

Mimi:  Robert Redford (good when young, great when old)

Ben:  Paul Newman (better than Redford, same reasons)

Kate:  Katherine Hepburn

Mimi:  SEB can’t be a woman, but if it were, it would be Katherine Hepburn

Pat:  Sean Connery (tough but smooth, becoming more interesting with age)

Mimi:  Not Sean Connery.  SEB can’t have an accent.

Terry:  Jamie Tombaugh (because if the SEB has anything, it has character)

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Kate’s fresh fragrant trees, just cut yesterday, were lining up last night outside the tasting room door, ready for this weekend’s Wine and Trees Special.  Terry was poised to get first choice, but they are all beautiful!

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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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Kate and Baylie selecting Christmas trees for harvest

Kate and Baylie selecting Christmas trees for harvest

About a half mile up the road past Bethel Heights Vineyard, directly above Temperance Hill Vineyard, is the Feldman family tree farm.  And that’s where you can find our tasting room and Cellar Club manager, Kate Crowe (née Feldman) and her daughter Baylie these days, getting ready for the Christmas Tree harvest.  Visitors to Bethel Heights know Kate as the very personification of hospitality in our tasting room, but there is more to Kate than meets the eye.  We finally convinced her to tell you a bit about the other side of her life:

I have spent the last 14 years working part time in the Bethel Heights tasting room.  I get an immense amount of satisfaction pouring wine and visiting with guests from all over the globe.  I have told many visitors that it is how I travel.  It’s great for me because I can learn about so many different places and not have to leave my neighborhood. (I am not a great traveler anyway.) 

View of neighboring vineyards from Feldman farm high above

Looking down at neighboring vineyards from Feldman tree farm high above





Speaking of my neighborhood, what many of you who have met me in the tasting room may not know is that I grew up right here in the Bethel Heights neighborhood.  It is such a beautiful area and a perfect place to raise kids that my husband and I moved back to the farm I grew up on 15 years ago.  My mom and dad were gradually working their way toward retirement and decided they needed someone to run the Christmas tree operation that my family started in 1976.  I seemed to be a good fit since I had continued to work on the farm helping with harvest and other tasks after I had married and started my family.

Oak savannah preserved!

Oak savannah preserved!



We own 350 acres of land here in the beautiful Eola Hills, 45 of it is in Christmas trees. My role is to manage the Christmas trees while my father manages the 150 acres of timber that is on the property. He has also recently started an oak savannah restoration project of which he is extremely proud. About 2 years ago after becoming a certified tree farm we learned that we had a piece of property that was one of the last oak savannahs in the Eola Hills.  There are many species of wildflowers growing there that are considered extremely endangered here in the Willamette Valley.  

Grazing cows complete the ecosystem

Grazing cows complete the ecosystem







My father was a bit hesitant at first about starting the project thinking that we may not be able to allow our cows or my small flock of sheep to graze in that area.  But after discussion with the gentleman from Oregon State University that is guiding us with the project we learned that it is very healthy to have grazing animals on the piece of property because it does not allow the grasses to die and build up. Thus, allowing the wildflowers to germinate.  That was exciting news because I was not about to give up my flock of sheep!

Trees the old-fashioned way

Trees the old-fashioned way



We have always tried to be good stewards of our property by using the “old” farming practices. (Now being called “sustainable farming practices”).  We use little or no pesticide and herbicide on our trees or around our property.  I have had visiting tree farmer’s comment on the amount of weeds we have in our trees or the bees that they see buzzing through the fields.  I just smile and ask them how many times a year they have to spray for aphids or other nasty insects that can damage the trees?  Their answer is usually “as many times as we need too”.  My answer to them is “we never need to”.  The bees take care of the aphids; the skunks take care of the bees and so on and so forth.  The fields don’t always look as well groomed as theirs but I think the weeds are beautiful!

Kate's Tipper would love to help you pick out a perfect Christmas tree

Kate's dog Tipper would love to help you find a perfect Christmas tree




I guess the marketing part of me is now kicking in and I want to invite you to visit our farm and pick up an extremely fresh cut, pesticide free Christmas tree for your holiday décor!  We grow Noble fir and Douglas fir and have all sizes available, and wreaths as well.  We will be open from 9:00 to 5:00 daily from November 28 through December 21. We also give walking tours of our tree farm: just call ahead and be prepared to hike! You can contact me at (503) 363-9919 or kate@feldmantreefarm.com.

I’m second generation on our farm and hope that one day one of our children, Josh, Ethan or Baylie (most likely the latter) will be interested in a role here when I am ready to retire.  I think that may come quicker than I think!

Tasting room manager Kate signing off! 

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