illcrest Orchard has approximately 200 acres in production. Pear varieties include Comice, Bosc, green Bartlett, Forelle, and Starkrimson. The orchard consigns pears to local packing houses for fresh fruit sales. Comice pears fill Christmas gift boxes while some Bartlett pears are sold to canneries. The orchard also produces several varieties of apples and peaches, as well as vegetables, which are sold in the local market and at the fruit stand in the Hillcrest Barn.
The planting of Hillcrest’s vineyard began in 1997 with Merlot and Cabernet grapes. Hillcrest has expanded varietals selection along with acreage. Currently fourteen commercial varieties are planted on over forty acres. Hillcrest plans to expand to approximately 100 acres of vineyard.
Bordeaux and Rhone varieties that flourish in the Rogue River Valley’s warm climate have thrived in similar climates and soils in Europe for hundreds of years. Local shallow clay soils help the vines concentrate the flavors in the fruit rather than producing huge vines. The viticulture and wine-making team at RoxyAnn are evaluating varieties suited to our site.
Bordeaux varieties grown at Hillcrest include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, Petite Verdot and Malbec. Rhone grapes include Roussane, Syrah, Viognier, Petite Syrah and Mourvedre. Grenache (Rhone/Spanish) and Tempranillo (Spanish) grapes are also grown.
For many years, Hillcrest Orchard has worked closely with Oregon State University-Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and the National Resource Conservation Service to implement more sustainable and environmentally friendly growing practices. The orchard supervisory staff bases pest control and fertilization methods on the plants’ needs and strives for the least detrimental effect on the environment.
Hillcrest’s workers use biological and cultural control methods first and employ chemical methods sparingly to preserve beneficial and predatory insects and organisms. Hillcrest Orchard was one of the first to convert flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation to save water and lessen soil erosion. Cover crops are planted to prevent erosion, help build the soil, and create a better surface to work than loose soil.
Built by Jerry Toney Construction, new construction has expanded Hillcrest. RoxyAnn Winery opened in 2002. The winery is named for the prominent peak to the east, which honors Roxy Ann Bowen, wife of John Bowen and mother of Samuel Bowen, whose donation land claim is now part of Hillcrest Orchard. RoxyAnn Winery uses Hillcrest grapes along with those from other local vineyards to produce wine for sale on-site and elsewhere. Additional building at Hillcrest also includes the tasting room and small wine storage in the Barn (2003) and an office in the Packing House (2004). Employee housing built in 2003 includes two duplexes each with two bedrooms and a separate laundry facility. This new complex replaces the older 1940s-era Labor Camp which was removed in 2004.
Owned by Reginald and Maude Bemis Parsons and three succeeding generations of their family for 100 years in 2008, Hillcrest is an invaluable component of the southern Oregon landscape and of the region’s cultural history. Hillcrest’s founders helped pioneer the growth of Rogue River Valley orchards; its current owners continue this tradition by sustaining a vital, thriving regional wine industry.
Sources: Kay Atwood and Gail Evans, Hillcrest Orchard National Register Nomination, 1982.
Warren C. Bayliss, “History of Mountcrest Ranch,” The Siskiyou Pioneer 4, no. 8, 1975: 78-82.