Tom Huggins, founder and general manager of Eola Hills, had a dream rooted in facts. He knew that great wines could only come from great vineyards, and through his former occupation as a agricultural insurance expert, he knew where that precious vineyard land was located. This knowledge enabled him to purchase some of the prime sites for his own vineyards in the rolling terrain of the Northwest Willamette Valley in Oregon wine country, and to fulfill a dream of creating his own wine.Â
Situated in a natural weather shadow of the Coast Range, which shunts storms from the Pacific Ocean north to Portland and south below Salem, the Eola Hills vineyards are protected from weather extremes. Yet in summer, a gorge carved by ancient glaciers draws in maritime air to provide ideal cooling for sensitive varietals in those warmer months.
In 1986 the first crop was harvested and transformed into wine by a nearby winery. The wine's quality provided ample proof of the vineyards' great potential. Therefore, in 1987, Eola Hills Wine Cellars was constructed at Rickreall, 10 miles west of Salem. This location is central to the vineyard holdings as well as other prime vineyards searched out and placed under contract to Eola Hills.Â
With these extensive holdings, the winery is able to control quality throughout the grape growing and wine making processes. This enables Eola Hills to offer the public consumer friendly wines at irresistible prices. For the most sophisticated palates, the winery also produces in very limited quantity, certain Reserve and Late Harvest bottlings, hand-crafted and extensively aged. Always, however, all wines are created to enhance food and ultimate dining pleasure and so are particularly suited to fine restaurants.Â
The Eola Hills premium varietals are aged in a variety of oak barrels, mostly French, to provide subtle complexity to the wines. Several yeast strains are utilized during fermentation to develop appropriate nuances in the various wines. Such attention to detail is also reflected in the vineyards by the hand removal of leaves around each grape cluster to admit maximum sunlight.Â
Eola Hills also produces a number of private label wines for many prestigious restaurants, resorts, hotels and other clients. These wines are identical to those produced under Eola Hills' own label. "Our name," says Tom Huggins, "is on the label as well as the patron's. Both should reap the reputation of serving the very best."
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