We love Eola Hills Wine Cellars for their wines that capture the spirit and flavors of Oregon and for their great tasting room experiences. Their original tasting room, located just miles from The Independence provides barrel room ambiance with a serene private garden and their Legacy Estate Vineyard (also nearby) is a vineyard-centric experience with sweeping lawns, trails winding through the vineyards and spectacular views of the valley. Eola Hills Wine Cellars offer a host of events at both locations that allow guests to get a real “sense of place” in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. With summer concerts, yoga among the vines, dining experiences, and their wine bike tours, there is always some adventure to be had.
Back in the early 1980’s, Oregonian Tom Huggins found himself intrigued by the notion of creating great regional wines in the heart of the Willamette Valley and Eola Hills was born.
Today, Eola Hills Wine Cellars is still locally owned and operated and is one of Oregon’s largest wineries, farming over 325 acres of prime vineyard land. Production now surpasses 80,000 cases of fine wines that are enjoyed across the country and internationally.
We talked with General Manager and Head Winemaker, Steve Anderson to learn more about Eolo Hills.
General Manager and Head Winemaker, Steve Anderson
Wine Club Manager, Katie Bass
Indendence Hotel (IH): What is your position at Eola Hills Winery?
Steve Anderson (SA): Winemaker/GM
IH: How would you describe your management style?
SA: Consensus builder through conversation and education.
IH: Eola Hills places a strong emphasis on sustainable growing, with the website referring to the vines as “our legacy to future generations.” Do you think this philosophy was something cultivated out of being a family-run operation? How else do you think being a family-run company has influenced the wine?
SA: Sustainable growing and sustainable business go hand in hand. Eola Hills has entered into a second generation. To preserve continuity and continued success, it is necessary and prudent not to destroy what we have all worked so diligently to achieve. Sustainable means to me, that we protect the land, the vines that grow our grapes, and in turn the lives and livelihood of those who depend on its continued success. A benefit of such care and understanding also has positive benefits in the end result. Fabulous, Eola Hills wines!
The original tasting room in Rickreall (a short driver from The Independence Hotel) offers barrel room ambiance and a serene private garden.
Eola Hills Wine Cellars wines capture the spirit and flavors of Oregon.
IH: Something else that I love about Eola Hills is how hands on the company has been since the very beginning. Not only did this family go into the wine business together, they also built the vineyards together, preparing the site and planting the vines themselves. How do you think this hands on approach shaped the overall philosophy of the winery?
SA: Big question with so many answers. Too many to put succinctly.
IH: Let me say pride and purpose. Farming grapes, making and selling wine is a lifestyle. We live as a family and work as a family, and rely on each other to sustain and benefit the whole. I can’t make wine without good grapes and the sales team can’t sell much wine if it is not of excellent quality.
SA: If we don’t sell wine, there is no need for grapes. EHWC, from the start has been a family and friends operation, and we like it that way. We invite everyone to try our wine and become our friends and family!
Oak Grove Vineyard first harvest, 1985. John Wydronek, Tom Huggins, Jim Huggins
IH: Your website mentions that Eola’s goal is “to make wines that we feel capture the spirit and flavors of Oregon.” What do you think of when you picture the spirit and flavors in Oregon? Do any particular tastes or feelings come to mind? Perhaps it’s a memory?
SA: Somewhat a play on words, but so much more. Wine has alcohol, a spirit! Terroir, a French term loosely interpreted as place to include the land, soil, weather, and influence of man. When we plant grapes in the soil. Those grapes will directly reflect the amount of sunlight, water availability, minerals in the soil, and management practices. Then, when we ferment these into wine, the true spirit and flavors are expressed. This is one reason we strive to plant the right grapes at the right place and treat them as family. Result? Wine of extraordinary quality.
What excites me as winemaker, I can taste the unique spirit in each block of fruit we have planted. Sometimes a difference of 100 feet of distance or elevation will dramatically change the fruit. My job then is to coax the most out of each and present them like debutantes at the ball.
Each block of fruit has a unique spirit, even 100 yards can make a huge difference in taste.
Winemaker, Steve Anderson says his job is to coax the most out of his grapes and present them like debutantes at the ball.
IH: How did Covid-19 change Eola Hills, and are there any changes you’re planning to keep after quarantine is lifted?
SA: It has limited our clients’ access to our product. Restaurants had to shutter. Tasting room access has been limited at times.
Our desire, as I am sure is true for most businesses, is to return to a status quo. What Covid has done, is focus our minds on how to be more efficient in our approach to presenting and selling wine to our clients and future customers.
IH: What would you say is the biggest wine faux pas? And what is your favorite wine to drink?
Do not swirl your glass of sparkling wine!
My favorite wine is the wine in my glass.
IH: If you could, what would you name a wine? And what kind of wine would you want it to be?
Answered by Katie Bass (KB): He did! Our Lucent, which is a white pinot noir. He even helped create the label.
As tempting as it may be with glass in hand, don’t swirl your bubbly!
So many outdoor tasting options at Eola Hills Wine Cellars’ tasting rooms.
IH: Eola holds so many fun annual events, from your “Twilight in the Vines picnic series,” to “Bike Oregon Wine Country,” to “Summer Uncorked Garden Sessions.” Can you tell us a little about them, if they’re open to anyone (or reserved for wine club members) and if you’re planning to hold these events this summer?
KB: Besides our club pickup parties & weddings, our events our open to the public. Of course we always have a special area & deals for our members at events. We will be hosting Covid safe events such as the ones listed above all summer long. We are still fine-tuning the events in our ever-changing world, but I would suggest staying tuned to our site or joining our mailing list to stay up to date!
IH: Your patriot red blend benefits team Rubicon, a veteran led disaster relief organization. Is there a reason this particular organization was chosen?
KB: We chose team Rubicon because we felt that it tied into our current climate. Our area, much like many places, has been through a lot the last year. We liked that they help activate veterans into the community to help with everything that our community was fighting through. The Veteran based programs began because Steve our winemaker is a veteran himself! He used to defuse bombs!
Eola Hills Wine Cellars’ Bike Oregon Wine Country (BOWC) are fully supported and guided tours that take cyclists along scenic backcountry roads, stopping for wine tasting along the way and concluding with a celebratory salmon barbecue feast, live music and wine tasting at our heritage estate winery in Rickreall.
IH: What is the strangest experience you’ve had in the wine industry? (That can be good or bad, however you define it.)
KB: I would say this last Harvest! 2020 was a crazy year for us!
IH: Do you know any good wine jokes?
Do you want some wine? You bet shiraz I do!
IH: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about Eola Hills that I haven’t asked about?
SA and KB: Every bottle is a GRAND opening!
Events and experiences at Eola Hills Wine Cellars are epic! Their Uncorked Summer Concert Series brings live music to the vineyard, the Twilight in the Vines brings delicious food into the beautiful setting of their vineyard, yoga and wellness events occur frequently during summer months, and their vineyards are dog friendly!