Amphorae, riesling, Jura varieties and more with Beckham Estate Vineyard

Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains

Located in the Chehalem Mountains, Beckham is actually on Parrett Mountain on the south east end of the range.  We visited them in July of 2018 to hear their story.  It was a beautiful morning and Annedria set us up on the patio next to the tasting room, (which has a beautiful view), for our tasting. Andrew was busy in the studio making amphorae.

We had discussed the creation of the vineyard (you can see that in our post here).  Now we move on to Annedria telling us about planting their Riesling, expanding the vineyard, their inspiration from the Jura in France and then how the Amphorae Project began.

Planting riesling

Beckham Riesling block
Beckham Riesling block

When choosing a white grape to plant, they settled on Riesling and planted in 2013, the traditional way on the steepest, rockiest part of their vineyard.

“We had to hand pick with a pick axe every hole for each vine because it was just cobble and it’s taken a little while to come along.”

Annedria Beckham, July 2018

They had warm vintages from 2014 to 2017, so the vintage in 2016 was small with an even smaller vintage in 2017 since it is dry farmed.  Annedria was hoping they might have enough this year to do something.  She’s really looking forward to some Riesling. 

When the Riesling was planted they had 6 acres of Pinot Noir and 1 acre of Riesling on their 8 and a half acre parcel.

“I was doing my happy dance thinking we were done.  Now we were finished. No more breaks spent planting vines, pounding posts, no more catch wire. All of the infrastructure was finally in.  We were done.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

More vineyard

Beckham the new block
Beckham the new block of Trousseau Noir

But Andrew was contemplating the acreage behind them.  He spoke to the owner and made a deal to purchase a bit of the parcel. 

The parcel was covered in Douglas Fir.  The family who owned it were Oregon homesteaders and had gone through a variety of crops on the land before settling on timber.  The owner liked that they were farming and was happy to make a deal for the property.  The county, however, couldn’t parcel off the property in smaller blocks, so they ended up with the whole 20 acres.

Soon Andrew was thinking of what else he could plant and the journey of contacting the timber guys, pulling out the Douglas fir and all that follows began again.

They cleared 10 of the 20 acres and prepped it.  At this point they had a bit more knowledge on how to lay out a vineyard and had decided to go with higher density, up to 2000 vines per acre from 1200.  That makes for just a few vines…2000 vines times 7 acres…that’s a chunk of change. They were also ready to go with North American root stock.  The previous vines were own rooted, which was pretty safe up here on Parrett Mountain, as they do not share equipment.

To save a bit, they took cuttings of North American root stock and planted them.  They could get the vines going and when they were ready, purchase bud wood to graft in place.

Falling in love with the Jura

Around this time, they also managed to take their first real vacation in years and and visited France.  They visited Burgundy, which Annedria said was wonderful, but they had enough Pinot Noir planted.  When they visited the Jura, they felt completely at home. This region is one of the undiscovered areas of France for many people. 

“it wasn’t a monoculture there yet.  There were still farms, there were still animals, there were still other crops.  It wasn’t just row after row of vines and hillside after hillside of vines.  And the people…you know, dirt under their fingernails and they were doing it like we were doing it”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

They visited cellars and garages in the Jura and decided that these were the varieties they wanted to plant.

Planting Jura varieties and testing some Italian varieties

There were a couple of vineyards that had planted Trousseau Noir, so it wasn’t completely new, but in around May of 2018 they grafted over 2 acres to 3 or 4 clones of Trousseau Noir, including the Bastardo clone.  They also grafted an acre to Sauvignon Blanc and an acre to Aligote. While they don’t anticipate getting Poulsard, they are looking to add Savagnin.

They also have a test block of a couple of Italian varieties, high alpine Nebbiolo, Montuni and Albana.  These last two from the Emilia Romagna region.  With global warming they are testing the waters to see what might start to grow well.

Making the cool climate style of Pinot Noir that they like is becoming more of a challenge without doing things like making additions, adding water, reacidulating etc in the winery, with the multiple warm vintages that they have been experiencing.  They’ve been doing it, but it is tougher.

A vineyard, a winemaker and an artist with clay – The amphorae project

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road with it’s amphorae

Back to 2013.  They planted the Riesling, bought the new property, started clearing and one night,  Annedria has half a moment to flip thorough a Wine Spectator and comes across a piece on Elizabetta Foradori.

“I was flipping through waiting for my computer to load and I see this photograph of this stunning Italian woman in her underground cellar and row after row of these beautiful terra cotta vessels.  And it was Elizabetta Foradori in her cellar.  And I thought about it 3 different times before I decided to show the article to Andrew, because I knew him well enough that I didn’t want him to get this crazy idea that he needed to start making amphorae, because we had enough on our plate.  But I showed him the article and said “you know I’ve heard of this winemaker and I’ve heard of her wines, we should see if we can get some in Oregon.”  And he flipped through and said “I can make those”  I said “ I know you can dear, but that’s not the point.  How ‘bout we try the wines first?”  And he ordered clay the next day and started working on shape and size.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

This was in his wheelhouse.  Andrew’s pottery had always been large scale, now it had a purpose.  They tried to keep this quiet.  I mean… it was an experiment.  But friends found out and soon there was quite a bit of interest. At this point they just had the amphorae, but they did not have any wine made in it.

Beckham Amphora and barrels
Beckham Amphora and barrels

Trials for amphorae – the experimentation

Andrew worked with a chemist trialing clay.  They searched for an Oregon clay, but the closest they could find was from Sacramento in the delta.  Most terracotta is used for pots for plants, so there are things like barium and color stabilizers in it that would not work for making wine.  The clay body has changed over the years as he trialed the wines.  As the potter and the winemaker he can look at a vintage and see where he might like to tweek the vessel or adjust firing temperatures.  It’s all a big experiment, which, like anything with wine, takes time.

He was scientific in his testing.  The first year they used their estate pinot noir and just did primary fermentation in the amphorae, then pressed and aged in neutral oak.  There were just 24 cases of this wine.  They did not additions other than a touch of sulfur before bottling to keep the variables down as they tested. 

After ferment was complete, he had this empty amphorae just crying to be used, so they picked up some Pinot Gris that another winemaker had and did a little skin contact Pinot Gris.  This first year was 2 weeks skin contact, the next 30 days, the next year 40 days and now he does 10 months.

A summer spent creating amphorae

So in 2014, happy with the initial test, he spent his entire summer break making around 30 amphorae.  The clay body was slightly different this time.  They took a little more of their Estate Pinot Noir fermented it in the amphorae, pressed and then separated half to amphorae and half to neutral oak for aging.  These were later bottled separately as Creta for clay and Ligna for wood. 

“ It was really fun to pour those wines side by side because it was split 50 50 down the middle between what people liked.  Because the ligna wasn’t too far off the beaten path.  You could tell there was a difference.  There was this textural component, this purity but it wasn’t so different to be too far out there.  Where as the Creta in 2014 was very different, was very iron driven, there was a I don’t want to say a “blood character” . There was a very clay textural component.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

But the point wasn’t to taste the clay, the point was to get a purity of place.  So he tweeked the clay body again and settled on one in 2015 that he has moved forward with.  He know feels that you get that textural component, but it’s not so overt that the clay is what stands out.

On to the Winery and fields of amphorae

The Beckham Winery through the vines
The Beckham Winery through the vines

At this point Annedria pours us a little of their Syrah/Viognier and we head up to the winery and studio. The Winery is modest, with the views they have the majority of tastings are done in the tasting room or on the patio, but they can do tastings in the winery. The building was filled with barrels and amphorae in multiple shapes.

  • Tasting in the Beckham Winery
  • Tasting in the Winery at Beckham

Annedria spoke to us about the amphorae, the progression and the process, going through Andrew’s experiments with firing temperatures and how they change the oxygen exposure and can even impart reductive qualities to the wine if fired very hot.

She also mentioned some other vintners who were using Andrew’s amphorae. We had seen a couple of these amphorae when we visited Montinore and spoke with Rudy Marchesi. I also remember seeing later that Ross & Bee of Maloof wines had picked up an amphorae, and I look forward to tasting the wine they make in this.

We continued on and met Andrew in the studio where he was in the process of making another amphorae. I think that you can look forward to tasting many wines aged in his amphorae in the future, from winemakers around the region and beyond.

Visiting Beckham Estate Vineyard

Beckham Estate Vineyard is located at

30790 SW Heater Road, Sherwood, OR 97140

Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains
Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains

You can reach them at 971.645.3466 or by emailing Annedria at [email protected]

They are open typically for drop in tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Outside of that time you can feel free to contact them in advance to schedule a tasting by appointment.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Beckham Estate Vineyard – The story

It was early morning of our last day in the Willamette Valley and we drove North from (where we were staying) heading toward the Chehalem Mountains. The road into Portland was moving fast and we came up a hill, with the side of the roads deeply forested. There was our turn. We had to make it fast. And suddenly, from the whirl of fast trucks, we turned and turned again into the quiet of the forests on Chehalem mountain. This is timber country. Deep forests with early morning mist. It was a magical escape from the fast morning pace on the road behind us.

We were running early (it’s in our nature), so we had time to drive and explore the mountain. When you reach the top, you find clearings, fields with houses or sometimes, giant pink painted adirondack chairs, between bunches of Douglas fir. We followed the google maps and ended up on a gravel road at one point, but found our way back around to Beckham which actually sits on Parrett Mountain on the South west end of Chahalem Mountain. We knew we were in the right place before we could read the sign, because of the clay amphorae at the gate.

Discovering Beckham

I came upon Beckham in the usual way, at least for me. When researching where to go in a region, I head to the regions site, in this case the Willamette Valley Wine and one by one, I click through the links and check out the sites for each winery. The Beckham site stopped me as I saw their Amphorae Project video. I read on, and knew that these were people I wanted to meet.

We arrived and met Annedria Beckham who walked us to their tasting room, that sits just down from their home, next to the garden. We met Ruby Tuesday, their dog and Annedria set us up at the picnic table on the patio for a tasting.

She and Andrew bought this property in 2004 to build an art studio. Andrew is a high school art teacher and a ceramics artist. He teaches in Beaverton at the High School. They bought this little house in the woods to grow a garden and raise a family.

Directly across the street there was a little 2.5 acre vineyard. The owners were in their late 70’s early 80’s and had 20 year old pinot noir and chardonnay vines back in 2004. They farmed the fruit and had someone else make the wine for them and then on Saturdays they would sell their $11 pinot noir out of their garage.

… we were there quite often, fell in love with the idea of growing something on our property.  Andrew went and helped Fred prune the vineyard that first year, came back with a truck load of Pinot Noir cuttings and said “Hey hun, how ‘bout we plant a couple rows right over here for fun.”  I humored him thinking he will get over this crazy notion, we didn’t know anything about growing grapes.  Next thing I know we are propagating vines on the coffee table in the living room.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

As the tale goes, the vines then went to heat mats in the garage and then a timber company was called to see what the 60 year old Douglas Fir on the property was worth. They negotiated and had the company come and cut the timber, but they were left with the stumps, limbs and the mess. They cleaned that up themselves with a rented track hoe and a cat. There were some pretty big bonfires and they have been using the limbs for firewood ever since. Finally, after some grading, the first block was ready to be planted in May of 2005.

Beckham Estate Vineyard Panorama

They began with own rooted, dry farmed Pommard and Wadenswil. They added on and planted about 2.5 acres the first year and another 1.5 the next. This was a gradual slow process, bit by bit as their budget and time could allow. This is a labor of love, that grew out of a passion. They dove in headfirst into farming.

So once we put our little baby sticks in the ground we had to keep them alive.  So when I mentioned dry farming, we hand water about 15 lengths of hose and a few beers and me after work every day,  watering just to keep them alive that first year, and then after that they were on their own. Just a little in 2005 and spot watered some stressed areas in 2006 but since then they haven’t seen a hose.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

At this point they were focused on the farming, so they sold their first tiny batch of fruit to a winery in Dundee in 2007.

But we had those first few babies, we were really excited for and at that point you’ve hand rooted every vine, pounded every post, run every wire, hand hung every cluster and then at that point to give them away to someone else was nearly heartbreaking.  But Andrew got to stay and help with crush deliver the fruit and help with processing and then went back every couple of days. He came home and said “I don’t know that I can continue to farm with this much energy and effort and then just hand it off to someone else.  I think we should make wine.”

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

They did spend another year selling off fruit, while Andrew apprenticed for a few years with different wineries. In 2009 they kept the fruit to make their own wine. The first year it was 250 cases of one wine. In 2011 they opened the tasting room. At the time it had a roof, but no sides, only one light and no running water.

.. but people came and they got to taste one wine about 5 different times, because that was all I had.  And they came back and they bought and they came back and they brought their friends.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

All this time Andrew was still teaching as well as working for a couple of different winemakers and they now had 3 children. Annedria began working for the Chehalem Mountain Wine Growers Association in 2008. Their executive director went on maternity leave and Annedria was asked to fill in, and the previous director never returned. She found this to be a wonderful way to immerse themselves in the community.

When we speak about Oregon wine country, you always find people speaking about the generosity of the community, with people happy to share their time, resources and knowledge.

To have David Adelsheim on speed dial?  How lucky was I to be in that position.  It was a wonderful way to learn how winemaking works and making business decisions….hey this first restaurant wants to have our wine, how do I price it?  I have no idea?  So asking those important questions and having the right people to be able to talk to while Andrew was working in the vineyard and the winery.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

At this point we tasted the first of the wines. It was the 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, which is a composite wine from the entire site. They make about 300 cases of this. It’s 30% whole cluster with native yeast fermentation.

Growing Organically

They farm organically here and have been farming organically since 2013. They are not certified. It’s expensive and time consuming to become certified, and they are looking into that now. They would need to hire someone just to deal with all the paperwork for this and they are a small operation.

Chickens in the vineyard at Beckham

A lot of folks are like “how do we know that you are doing everything organically unless you are certified?” I’m not doing something for someone else, we are small enough that I’m not putting it on my label, we still sell the majority of our wine direct to consumer.  You can walk around and see that we farm things organically.  I grow for my family.  My kids are running around these vines, our chickens are running around these vines.  That we are eating the eggs from,  we have sheep around the vineyard the majority of the year.  We do it for us. 

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
The sheep at Beckham Estate Vineyards

They’ve started some biodynamic practices, burying their first 500 cow horns in 2017 with their first sprayings of the solution in 2018.

Annedria poured us the Dow’s 2015 Pinot Noir, which is from Andrew’s favorite couple of barrels from each vintage.

Their first vintage was in 2009 and all they had was the Estate bottling. Of course it’s tough to do a tasting with just one wine, so she asked Andrew how they might make a second wine, and that is how the Dow’s came about.

2015 Dow’s Pinot Noir Beckham Estate Vineyards

Dow is a family middle name in the Beckham family with over 20 Beckham sons carrying the name. In 2011 they added their wine club and Annedria asked how they might get a 3rd release. They only had Pinot Noir, and rosés were just becoming popular again so Andrew made her the Olivia’s Rosé and Sophia’s Pinot Noir. Sophia’s is the first release, elegant and delicate, the Estate follows with more complexity and then the Dow with a little new oak and a darker fruit profile.

This was all of their estate wine until 2013 when they started the Amphorae Project.

We will continue our visit with Annedria and Andrew Beckham with a pod cast speaking with her about the addition of their riesling, their inspiration in the Jura and the Amphorae Project

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