FAQs About the Eola-Amity Hills (EAH) Winegrowing Region
What is the history of wine grapes in the EAH AVA?
Vines first came to the Willamette Valley in the mid 1800's, but grapes of the Vitis vinifera species were not as popular as table grapes or the native Vitis labrusca vines. Fruit and berry wines flourished in the earlier years, and it bears mentioning that Honeywood Winery, located in Salem, just south of the EAH AVA boundary, is the oldest continuously operating winery in the state, bonded in 1933. Long known for their fruit and berry wines, Paul and Marlene Gallick, owners, now also have an 18-acre vineyard in the EAH AVA and produce vinifera wines as well.
After the repeal of Prohibition, a host of "farmer wineries" obtained $25 licenses and became bonded wineries, which could sell table wines directly from the home vineyards. In the 1960's, the vinifera revolution began in Oregon. The first to come was Richard Sommer, who planted Hillcrest Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley. He was followed in 1965 by David and Diana Lett, Eyrie Vineyards, in the Dundee Hills, and Charles and Shirley Coury, Charles Coury Vineyards, in Forest Grove. Dick Erath, Erath Vineyards, soon followed in 1969.
The first planting of vinifera grapes in the Eola-Amity Hills was in 1971 by Jerry and Anne Preston, who sold Amity Vineyards to Myron Redford in 1974. Two other vineyards were planted in 1973. Don and Carolyn Byard planted Eola Hills Vineyard in that year, and Jim and Connie Feltz planted their first two acres of Feltz Vineyard.
Others soon followed, including Bethel Heights, in 1977, and the Stangeland Vineyard, planted by the Miller family in 1978. Vic Winquist owned what is now Bethel Heights Vineyard and after the sale of that property, Winquist and his partner, Ron Seely, went on to develop significant nearby properties throughout the early 80's, finding and planting Seven Springs, Witness Tree (formerly Genzkow), Temperance Hill, and Zenith (formerly O'Conner). Elton Vineyard, Orchard Heights (formerly Glencreek) and Canary Hill also were partially planted in those early years.
By 1983, 273 acres were planted in the Eola-Amity Hills, but only Amity Vineyards and Hidden Springs Winery were producing commercial wines. Amity's first wine was released in 1976 and Hidden Springs first release was in 1980. Bethel Heights followed in 1984.
Today, planting in the Eola-Amity Hills has continued at a rapid pace, providing ultra-premium grapes for much of the Pinot noir sold by scores of wineries throughout the state as well as in the EAH AVA. In 2008, 1,469 acres are planted and 25 commercial wineries are producing approximately 83,000 cases of wine in the EAH AVA.