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Okay, I’m guilty: that was a sensationalist headline. And it’s only half true. But it starts like this:

I received an invite to a dinner called “Eat Dirt” from winemaker Nicholas Keeler, Authentique Wines, based in the Eola-Amity AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Because I had never been to Oregon wine country (guilty as charged!) and because Oregon is a major component of our American Wine Studies program, I took him up on the offer to visit the surrounding wine trails. Along for the ride was Josh Phelps, proprietor of Taken Wine Co, Barrett Corrigan of Cakebread Cellars, and friend and enthusiast J.B. Mitchell.

A photo gallery with captions will take you along my previous week’s journey and the gist is this:

Stopping through the town of Yamhil — we saw lots of hazelnut tree farms. Most everyone used to grow hazelnut trees there. We visited Lenne Estate in the Yamhil-Carlton AVA right near Dundee Hills AVA and near Chehalam Mountain AVA. A 20-acre estate site with 15.5 acres planted mostly to Pinot and Chardonnay. Clones: 114, 115, 667, Pommard. Soil: Peavine soil — sedimentary and gravelly with clay loam.

Then, off to the Dundee Hills AVA at to visit Alexana Winery. With 56 acres planted to vine they have 10 different Pinot clones planted around 350-850 feet above sea level and have categorized 18 different soil types. Side note: they make an Argentine Malbec with consulting winemaker Santiago Achával.

And eventually, we made out way to the Keeler Estate Vineyard in Amity, to “Eat Dirt” with Nicholas Keeler and his co-collaborator, performance artists Betsy Hinze. We started out with Keeler’s Authentique 2011 Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which was his first vintage. It was all raspberry, cherry, earthy, funky, spicy and full bodied from there. Hope you enjoy the slideshow.



JC SquareJonathan Cristaldi is the Editor-in-Chief of Prior to joining the academy, he was the Deputy Editor of two of the largest wine and spirits trade publications in the U.S.: Tasting Panel Magazine, The SOMM Journal and recently a farm-to-table magazine called The Clever Root. In addition to his work with Napa Valley Wine Academy and as a Contributing Editor to those print publications, he is a regular contributor to Vivino, and First We Feast. Cristaldi’s work has also appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, Liquid LA, Thrillist (National Edition), Tasting Table (National Edition), Time Out LA and most recently Psychology Today. He is the co-founder of and founder of and the podcast. Cristaldi’s history of enthusiastic and sometimes avant-garde approach to wine education events earned him the title of “Wine Prophet” by Time Out NY. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is enrolled in the WSET Diploma studies program.