Eagles Nest Reserve sits at the transition between the deep fertile soils of the Tualatin Valley and the forested hills of the Tualatin Mountains. This transitional zone is incredibly rich in wildlife, with forested cover in the upper Reserve, and lush meadows and vineyards to provide sustenance below. The alluvial silt from the Missoula floods created the deep soils in the lower parts of the Reserve, and rich windblown loess coming down the Columbia Gorge covered the ridges. The Atafalati people had lived in the area of the Reserve for thousands of years, with villages in Waibel Gulch near the winery and Eagles Nest Barn. The Ataflati hunted in the forests and Tualatin Valley meadows, and crossed over the Tualatin Mountains to harvest wapato at Sauvies Island each year.
Arrowheads noted to be several thousand years old have been found on the ridge in the main vineyard, made from local stones mined from local streambeds. Ravaged by diseases introduced with the first contact arrival of Europeans at the mouth of the Columbia River and Fort Vancouver, these settlements faded and settlers began arriving. In the late 19th Century, as immigrants from Switzerland came on ships to homestead in the area, they adopted the name Helvetia (Latin for Switzerland).
Located in the heart of Swiss Helvetia, Eagles Nest Reserve has a rich history. The 160 acre Reserve is a composite of the three homestead farms of Bischoff, Wenger, and Korn. The Joseph Bischoff Barn, built in 1876, still stands below the winery, with an enormous heirloom walnut nearby. One of the 12 original linden trees brought by Swiss immigrants grows at the Wenger Homestead below the main vineyard. The Helvetia Community Church, constructed in 1899, is in picturesque view from the tasting room at the barn. The historic site of Cowaniah’s Battlefield is a short hike by trail north of the Eagles Nest Barn. In this meadow, early settlers led by Native American homesteader Charles Cowaniah skirmished with Klickitat raiders who crossed the Tualatin Hills to raid Willamette Valley settlements. At the three Treaty Rocks below Beaumont Pond, the parties were said to reach agreement that ended further raids. For a number of years, settlers would travel to the site to see the bones of Cowaniah’s horse that was shot during the conflict.The largely self-sufficient homesteads persisted on these rich lands for nearly a century, but were slowly replaced by single cash crop agriculture and forestry.
In the 1970’s, it was recognized that these transitional zones between the valley floors and their adjacent uplands were ideal sites for grazing and growing Pinot Noir and other wine grapes. The upper well-drained ridges of Eagles Nest Reserve had been studied by noted wine consultant Jeffery Lamy of Lamy Wine Consultants and found to be ideal for winegrapes. The lower meadows were reserved for grazing for the Pacific Crest/Accoyo America alpaca herd and wildlife habitat. Eagles Nest Reserve Vineyard and Winery was born!
Eagles Nest Reserve is perhaps best known for its timber frame mortise-and-tenon barn. An imposing structure of Douglas fir posts and beams woven together with oak pegs and fitted joints, it is visible in Helvetia from the Sunset Highway. The design is an adaptive modification of a traditional Japanese farmhouse. It’s hip roofs in both first and second story maximize wind shear protection. The ground floor is divided into two sections; an external openness around the outside to facilitate working with separate groups of animals and further reduce wind shear, and a central enclosed weather-protected area that opens vertically to the third level cupola. Originally constructed to house the Pacific Crest Accoyo America alpaca herd, it hosted the international Parade of Champions alpaca auction for 15 years before being converted to the heart center of Eagles Nest Reserve Vineyard.
Alpacas are domesticated ruminant camelids from the Peruvian Andes and one of the finest-fleeced animals in the world. In 1993, we started an alpaca breeding stock business near Glenwood, Oregon. In 1996, we moved the Pacific Crest Accoyo America alpaca herd out of the Coast Range to the more fertile pastures of Helvetia. We built what is now the Eagles Nest Reserve Barn to house them. They thrived on the lush pastures and the herd grew to 240 head. In 1999, we started the Parade of Champions Auction, the first private alpaca auction in the US. The Parade was an annual 4th of July event that drew international buyers and continued for 15 years, until the majority of the herd was sold to New York. A small group of alpacas continue to reside on the Reserve to help maintain control of the pasture for fire prevention and provide organic fertilizer for the vineyards.