Jun 5, 2014

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The History, Ecosystem, Vineyard, Soils and Wines of Keeler Estate Vineyard

In continuation of my ever-popular weekly column on Eugene Daily News, Wine Down Eugene, where I highlighted five outstanding wines from Oregon’s Keeler Estate Vineyard, there’s so much more to share about this vineyard that really makes them stand out from the crowd.  So I asked my readers from Eugene Daily News to follow me over here, to WineJulia.com for a more in-depth look at a vineyard that is really quite amazing.

KEV entrance sign on gate

The entrance gate to the Estate property

The History

A little over 25 years ago, Gabriele and Craig Keeler searched properties in Oregon while beginning a new chapter in their lives.  When looking out over a long-time abandoned 200 acre property that was taken over by blackberries, dilapidated structures and rocky terrain, Gabriele mainly took note of the view to the south where Oregon’s Mary’s Peak rises from the Siuslaw National Forest and to the southwest where the Coastal Range graces the landscape from one end of the state to the next – she knew right away that she had found the place she wanted to be.

The Ecosystem

Many years of hard work transformed their long time abandoned property with a view into what it is today: “a truly magical place consisting of a thriving biodynamic vineyard, gardens, forest, lakes, streams, acres of landscaping and plenty room for entertaining.”  The Keeler’s consider themselves Polyculture Farmers, as their land functions as a natural ecosystem where wildlife activity is encouraged.  From the bees that give the Keeler’s jars full of honey to the perches they’ve built for hawks and owls that work efficiently on keeping the vineyard free of pesty rodents, like voles, the entire property is a biodiversity of living, breathing plants and animals.  The Keeler’s are even growing their own mushrooms on fallen oaks that have been inoculated with a little slice of gourmet mushroom heaven:  Blue Oyster, Golden Oyster, Shitake, Chicken of the Woods, Reishi and Maitake.


Keeler Estate tri-fold with photos of their thriving ecosystem

Keeler Estate tri-fold with photos of their thriving ecosystem

The Vineyard

The vineyard is Demeter Biodynamic certified and contains LIVE, Stellar Organic and Salmon-Safe designations.  The vines are planted on a hillside at 230-500 feet above sea level, and 30 acres of planted grapes include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  In honor of Gabriele’s German heritage, they planted Riesling ENTAV-INRA® 49 – a Riesling clone that is known to produce very well balanced wines.

The Soil

Being the total dirt nerd that I am, I could really go all out and tell you all the really awesome details about each of the main soils found on the Keeler Estate property, but unless you love soil like I do, I may simply bore you to tears.  So, to spare you from large yawns and damp eyes, just know that the quality of the unique soils at Keeler Estate, combined with the winds from the Van Duzer Corridor, influences the characteristics of the wines in many fascinating ways.  The shallow soils, which consist of Steiwer, Chehulpum and Hazelair, are well drained and tend to produce smaller grapes with really great concentration and higher acidity levels – characteristics that I personally love to find in wine.  This is why I get excited about wines from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA – the soils create some seriously distinctive characteristics in the fruit that’s grown in them – ending with beautiful terroir driven wines.  And get this, some of the vineyard blocks at Keeler consist of no top soil, so fossilized sea creatures and molluscs can actually be spotted.  All I need is a glass of their 2011 Chardonnay (perhaps I should tote a bottle along too), and I could get willingly lost exploring their vineyards and ecosystem.  Gabriele and Craig may not be up for me getting all into their dirt, so I will certainly settle for a tour of the property…and a glass of wine, of course.

KEV biodynamic farmin technique

Biodynamic farming using cowhorns

The Wines

Keeler Estate Vineyard 2011 Pinot Gris:  Fresh white fruits on the nose and palate are balanced to perfection with just the right amount of zippy acidity.  The lengthy finish will entice you to not put down your glass.  More please.

Keeler Estate Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay:  Balance perfection between alluring tropical fruit notes and solid acidity.  Excellent complexity, yet focused and pure, and the varietal characteristics try shine exactly the way they should.  My favorite Chardonnay of all in 2013.

Keeler Estate 2011 Pinot Noir:  Dark cherries, violets and brown spices showcase delicate elegance on the palate with lovely acidity giving it a nice balance.  The terroir of Eola-Amity shines through as this evolves into an earthy, mushroomy delight by the next day.  This is why I love Oregon Pinot Noir.

Keeler Estate 2012 Pinot Gris:  A lush, juicy summer sipping delight!  Pears, apricots, honeysuckle and star fruit with palate pleasing minerals and excellent acidity.  Exceptional balance.

Keeler Estate 2012 Chardonnay:  Taste the Eola-Amity Hills in this beautiful, crisp refreshing Chardonnay.  Focused, clean and absolutely delicious aromas and flavors of the tropics: pineapple, grapefruit, lemon and Key limes.  Great depth of character and a lush mouthfeel with a zesty lemon finish create a well rounded and absolutely palate pleasing wine.

KEV pinot noir grapes

nearing harvest 2013

Visit Keeler Estate at 5100 SE Rice Lane in Amity, Oregon.

*Photo disclaimer – I borrowed some of the gorgeous photos for this piece from Keeler Estate’s Facebook page since I have not yet been there myself.  Check out their Facebook page for more beautiful shots and to keep up with their events.