BY WENDY VAN DIVER
(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2009 edition of Touring & Tasting)
I have a confession to make. Until last summer, I had never stepped foot in the state of Oregon. When I finally did, my feet were eager to make up for lost time. I covered as much ground as I could in a comfortable 12 days, which included five distinct wine regions, the city of Portland, and the Pacific coast. I returned home with a lot of magnificent wines and the conviction that Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
PLACES TO STAY:
Rogue and Applegate River Valleys
Columbia Hotel, Ashland columbiahotel.com
The Lodge at Riverside, Grants Pass thelodgeatriverside.com
Delfino Vineyards Bed & Breakfast, Roseburg delfinovineyards.com
Holiday Inn Express, Roseburg rogueweb.com/holidayroseburg
Brookside Inn on Abbey Road, Carlton brooksideinn-oregon.com
The Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg theallison.com
Hood River/Columbia Gorge
Best Western Hood River Inn, Hood River bestwesternoregon.com
Hood River Hotel, Hood River hoodriverhotel.com
ROGUE and APPLEGATE RIVER VALLEYS
Southern Oregon is teeming with natural treasures worth experiencing, like Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, and the scenic Rogue and Applegate rivers. Arrange to stay in the cozy artist’s haven of Ashland or on the banks of the Rogue River in Grants Pass. Most of the wineries are located just off the I-5 north of Ashland and on picturesque farm roads near Highway 238 to Grants Pass. Few offer food, so be sure to bring some crackers and cheese for the road.
Don’t miss: A play in Ashland
Home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 1935, this charming town provides top-notch entertainment on several stages nearly every night of the week.
Don't miss: A jetboat tour in grants pass
Take a two-hour Scenic Hellgate Tour into Hellgate Cavern on a gigantic jetboat. I saw bald eagles, blue herons, and ospreys… one osprey swooped within inches (okay, feet) of my nose!
About an hour farther north along I-5, between Roseburg and Sutherlin, you’ll discover the Umpqua Valley. Here, the wineries are harder to find on your own. You might want to hire a local tour operator, like Oregon Wine Country Tours, to eliminate any fears of getting lost. Better than GPS, Diane and H. Bruce Smith are Sonoma transplants, stressing wine education. You’ll discover mostly small case production wineries owned and operated by many folks who make winemaking their second job. Families are full-time staff in Umpqua Valley and each case is packed with love.
Don’t miss: The waterfalls
Take Highway 138 from Roseburg to Diamond Lake, designated a National Scenic Byway due to its breathtaking collection of waterfalls, fishing holes, and nature trails. Hiking to the waterfalls is easy, and when the snow flies you can enjoy snowmobiling and skiing around Diamond Lake.
The first realization I had when I reached the Willamette Valley is that it is very, very big. It stretches as far south as Eugene and runs more than 120 miles to the town of Forest Grove, which is slightly north of Portland. Again, you may want to hire an education-oriented guide as I did (Fred Gunton, A Nose for Wine Tours), especially for the winery-dense roads around Dundee. An estimated two-thirds of the state’s wineries are found in the Willamette Valley. Known for possessing a variety of microclimates, the area consistently produces stellar Pinot Noir. In fact, a large, tulip-shaped glass, purported to release the essence of the Oregon Pinot Noir, has been designed for those who don’t want to miss a note.
Don’t miss: The Spruce Goose
Also known as the Hughes Flying Boat, this fascinating plane and many others can be found at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville. In addition to aircraft, the museum (which is a working air hangar) also houses a small IMAX theatre. And right next door, another museum dedicated to the history of space travel completes the experience.
HOOD RIVER/COLUMBIA GORGE
You don’t have to go very far on I-84 east of Portland to recognize signs that a very special part of the world lies ahead. Concentrate your touring and tasting energies on the Hood River County Fruit Loop, located just south of the town of Hood River. Named “Fruit Loop” for the number of fruit and berry orchards along the trail, this area is also home to a growing number of excellent vineyards and wineries. And the vistas, which include captivating views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, are the most exhilarating I’ve ever come across in a wine country.
Don’t miss: Mt. Hood
Strikingly beautiful from the tasting rooms below, this mountain is a year-round playground. Downhill skiing is an obvious choice, but there are others. Rent snowshoes or cross-country skis and head for Timberline Lodge. Snowshoe Trail is a breeze. It leads you downhill through the woods to the bottom of the Jeff Flood Express lift. And when the snow thaws in late spring, the hiking is inspiring.
The "V" shaped Willamette Valley is home to over 200 wineries.
Columbia River Area
The Columbia River Gorge AVA is home to one of the most dramatic river canyons in the country.
The beautiful cities of Sutherlin, Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, and Ashland can be found in this region, with numerous historic inns and lodges, riverside hotels and B&Bs.
Success Stories Out of Oregon
Just 40 years ago, there were only five wineries in the whole of Oregon. Today, the bountiful state boasts more than 400. Large or small, they tend to be approachable family-owned operations, with inspiring stories to tell. Here are some of our favorites.
Ohhh Oregon—A foodie tour
Ohhh Oregon—A foodie tour of some wonderful dishes and wines…all from Oregon
Oregon Pinot Noir and Beyond
As a wine lover, when you hear the word “Oregon,” what is the first varietal that comes to mind? Pinot Noir, naturally.
Experience the diversity of Oregon wine country while honoring the pioneer winegrowers and winemakers who first blazed its trails.
Loving Local in Oregon
Discover why locals, and tourists alike, love to eat and drink local in Oregon wine country.
What a Find! Oregon Wine Country
Blessed with one of the most diverse climates in the world, Oregon is a fascinating place to grow wine.
How Oregon Chefs and Wineries Suggest We Enjoy their Wines
Can't wait to visit Oregon? Open a bottle of Oregon wine. Depending on the vintage, you’ll taste the diversity of Oregon terroir in its flavors—ranging from a delicate apple blossom to leathery licorice root. To enhance your tasting experience, pair your next sip with food.
Organic and Biodynamic farming practices are paramount at Brooks Winery, with the conviction that they lead to greater purity and clarity in the wines.
Fate, family, and fortune all played vital roles in the creation of Trisaetum, a blossoming winery located in the heart of Oregon's Ribbon Ridge AVA.
The August Cellars Winery was masterfully built into a hillside around a gravity-flow system, with production facilities on the top two floors and barrel rooms on the bottom.
Colene Clemens Vineyards
Wine tourists who visit the lodge-like tasting room at Colene Clemens are swept away by a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view
Orchard Heights Winery
Perched high in the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains, Orchard Heights Winery offers warm hospitality, intriguing wines, famous food, and a fun place to shop
Willamette Valley Vineyards
The objective of Willamette Valley Wines is to grow the highest quality fruit and to achieve wines that are the purest expression of the variety and the soil from which it’s grown.
Youngberg Hill Vineyard
Located just off the beaten path in central Willamette Valley wine country, Youngberg Hill Vineyard rises to the expectations of those seeking wines that speak to the land where they were born.
Gentle elevation; subtle microclimates; and Oregon's long, cool growing season places ArborBrook Vineyards in an ideal terroir for producing a smooth Pinot Noir that lingers on the palate.