Our story

The Legend

In the 1850s, prospectors discovered gold in the southern region of the Oregon Territory. From the moment gold was struck, the Oregon Territory was flooded with miners seeking their fortune. During the rush, a gold prospector whose identity has been lost to history traveled from the goldfields of Southern Oregon to Portland to sell his gold and make his fortune. He made the fateful decision to stop for the night and set up camp at the top of what is currently the Bayliss farm, the place we now know as Ghost Hill. At the time, the hill and the surrounding land was heavily wooded making it an ideal place to camp in peace. During the night, someone snuck into his camp to rob him of his gold. The miner was killed and his horse was mortally injured. His hard-earned poke of gold disappeared into the night. To this day, the miner is said to wander the hill looking for his stolen gold and to right the wrongs that befell him.

While the miner never recovered his gold, we have found our treasure with our Pinot Noirs.

The Land

Excellent wine starts in a remarkable vineyard. The resplendent, rolling hills of the farm are Willakenzie series soils with marine sediment bedrock. These soils are ideal for the propagation of the difficult-to-grow, but very rewarding, Pinot Noir grape. We strive to produce delicious, elegant wines from the grapes grown in our estate vineyard.

The Bayliss-Bower Vineyard is part of the family’s 234 acre section of land in the Yamhill-Carlton District. The Bayliss family has owned the farm since 1906. The first vines were planted in 1999. Currently, all 16 acres of vines are Pinot Noir of the Pommard, Wadenswil, and Dijon clones 114, 115, 777. One hundred percent of the fruit used to produce the wines of Ghost Hill Cellars comes from the estate vineyard. We only use around a third of the grapes we grow. The rest of our grapes are sold to other wineries looking for exceptional Pinot Noir grapes.

The Family

The quote from Robert Frost “The land was ours before we were the land’s,” epitomizes the bond of the Bayliss family with the land. The Baylisses have been stewards of this piece of the Willamette Valley for more than a century. In 1906, brothers Daniel and Samuel Bayliss purchased the Donation Land Claim of James and Edith Greene. The family started clearing the trees and brush in order to farm the land. The farm added a dairy operation in the 1920s. Samuel Bayliss took milk into Portland to sell on a sternwheeler steamboat.

Daniel’s son, Samuel D. and his wife Barbara purchased the farm in the 1930s. They moved from dairy-based farming to raising wheat, hay, clover, peas and sheep. As their son Mike and daughter-in-law Drenda became more involved in the farm in the 70s and 80s, they began making more grass hay and raising Black Angus cattle for beef. Today, the vineyard is the only crop farmed by the Bayliss family. The fourth and fifth generations of the Bayliss family continue to work and live on the farm today. Mike and Drenda live in the original farmhouse built in 1906 by Daniel and Samuel. Mike, Drenda, their son Michael, their daughter Bernadette and son-in-law, Cameron Bower are working together to make the vineyard and Ghost Hill Cellars a success and preserve the farm for future generations.

Watch an oral interview with Cameron and Bernadette Bower

The Winemaker

Eric Hamacher has become one of Oregon’s most respected and sought-after wine producers. After earning a degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis, Hamacher gained extensive winemaking knowledge and to date, has worked more than 26 vintages at numerous wineries around the world. After producing wine for esteemed wineries such as Mondavi, Chalone, and Etude, he realized his heart was in Oregon. He found his way to the Northwest in pursuit of creating the perfect Pinot Noir. Hamacher takes a very traditional approach to wine production. He believes in traditional minimalist intervention, using wild fermentation yeasts, and gravity blending and bottling. “My attempt is to sculpt consistently complete wines through close management of the vineyards and careful blending at the winery. I believe the best wines are still made by resisting the temptation to do something. Good grapes with gentle and minimal handling describe my winemaking philosophy.”