United by their interest in wine, in 1977 Ted Casteel, Pat Dudley, Terry Casteel, and Marilyn Webb, together with Pat's sister Barbara Dudley, abandoned the academic life and bought 75 promising-looking acres northwest of Salem, with 14 acres of newly planted cuttings in the ground. They moved to the property in 1978 and started a new life. In 1979 the family cleared and planted 36 more acres and in 1981 they harvested their first crop and started home winemaking in Terry’s basement. In 1984 they produced their first commercial vintage of 3000 cases.
For the first 30 years Ted was responsible for managing the vineyards and Terry was the winemaker. Pat and Marilyn shared responsibilities for marketing and business management. Over thirty years they grew the Estate vineyards to 100 acres, and their wine production to 10,000 cases, and made common cause with their fellow pioneers to establish the Willamette Valley as the home of New World Pinot Noir.
Meanwhile, five cousins grew up at Bethel Heights Vineyard knowing its tidy rows and wild hidden places as their backyard playground, science lab and adventure park. In 2006, cousins Ben Casteel (son of Terry and Marilyn) and Mimi Casteel (daughter of Ted and Pat) took the helm at Bethel Heights. Ben is now our Winemaker, and Mimi is our Viticulturist and General Manager, while the rest of the family continues to play supporting roles. Together Ben and Mimi are launching Bethel Heights into the future with youthful energy, talent, and passion.
Our visitors often ask where the name Bethel Heights came from. The answer may be found in a small booklet written in 1941 by John E. Smith called Bethel, Polk County, Oregon. According to Smith, "One of the earliest settlers in this vicinity was Rev. Glen O. Burnett who came to Oregon in 1846 and built his house half a mile or so north of the present location of Bethel School. To the heights eastward, he gave the name 'Bethel Hills', Bethel being the name of the church in Missouri that he had recently served as pastor."
There are many other landmarks in this area that contain the name “Bethel,” including several roads, a school, a church and a cemetery. The property now known as Bethel Heights Vineyard was originally platted in 1909 and recorded under the name Bethel Heights Walnut Groves. A number of the original walnut trees are still flourishing around the edges of the vineyard.
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