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.
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.
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.
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.
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."