Wine Country Experiences: Oregon

Located along the western edge of the mainland United States, bordered by Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and the Pacific Ocean.

Published: 8/11/2016

WHEN WE SAYOregon wine,” most of us first think of Pinot Noir, but that’s only the beginning. From its dry, high desert prairies to its lush, green hills and rain-blessed valleys, the state of Oregon is a natural when it comes to growing grapes. Due to its northern latitude, the vineyards receive long hours of summer sunshine, allowing an amazing variety of winegrapes to grow across the state. There are more designated scenic byways and tour routes in Oregon than in any other state, and wine country road trips are fascinating experiences in themselves. Beyond the magnificent Willamette Valley, which stretches 100 miles from Portland to Eugene, there are Southern Oregon’s Umpqua, Applegate, and Rogue Valleys and Northeastern Oregon’s Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge. Wherever you go, you’ll experience wineries with an inspiring pioneering spirit, a commitment to ecological balance, and some very distinctive wines.

Terrific Tastings ArborBrook Vineyards makes wine tasting a fun and educational experience by extending guests’ palates with cheese. A wonderful bite of blue cheese is served to those sampling the Sydney Sémillon, and a delicious assortment of cheese and other tidbits are set out on weekends. In addition, you can purchase a cheese board with three carefully selected cheeses on any day of the week. A former hazelnut processing plant is now home to Argyle Winery’s Tasting House. The new space provides an exhilarating backdrop for wine tasting. Argyle has a long established reputation for aromatic and crisp Sparkling wines with an effervescent finish. The current prestige Sparkling wines are available to taste in a tasting flight as are the Pinot Noirs, and a mix of Sparkling, white, and red wines. Winderlea Vineyard and Winery hosts a series of fabulous three-course luncheons at its estate tasting room in Dundee from July into the fall. Each luncheon begins with a tour of the vineyard, followed by a tasting of current release wines, and then the luncheon, prepared by a gourmet chef. Guests sit at beautifully decorated tables as they enjoy stunning views of the Dundee Hills.

Interesting Places The four-story gravity flow winery at Domaine Drouhin Oregon is fascinating. Make an appointment for a casual walking tour of the winery and get a behind-the-scenes look. As you move from the vineyard to the fermentation room and barrel cellar, you will have the chance to enjoy the Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. Picnics are welcome on weekdays on the terrace with advance notice. Lange Estate Winery is situated in the Dundee Hills with beautiful views. With a call in advance, you can arrange to get a behind-thescenes tour. The itinerary changes with the season, but it may include a walk in the vineyard, a tour through the cellar, or a barrel sampling followed by a guided, seated tasting of the winery’s reserve wines. McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is a must-see for everyone. Home to the original Hughes Flying Boat HK- 1 Spruce Goose and an amazing array of military and civilian aircraft and spacecraft, this fascinating place is largely staffed by veteran pilots who proudly serve as docents. Be sure to give yourself time for a guided docent tour and perhaps a movie (several are shown every day). The adjacent indoor Wings & Waves Waterpark includes a handson museum dedicated to teaching students about the power of water. Just steps from McMinnville’s Granary District, Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is housed in the town’s historic power plant building. This lofty, industrial space has been beautifully restored and transformed into a bright and airy working winery and tasting room, with full-length glass doors and windows, and great acoustics when live bands entertain. Wine barrels serve as bistro tables inside, and outside, a pretty garden patio awaits. Ten buildings on the property of RoxyAnn Winery have earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places, including The Honor Barn, which now houses the winery’s tasting room. Built in 1900, the barn got its name from locals who bought fresh fruit there and left their money in an “honor box.” The barn is a sight to behold. Its original beams and hardwood plank floors remain.

Zzzzs & B&Bs From five to six p.m. each day, Hotel Vintage-Portland treats its guests to Oregon wines. Each evening a different winery is featured, so if you stay long enough, you can tour the state without leaving the hotel! The Pazzo Ristorante serves brick oven pizza and the game room can keep you happy for hours. Le Puy A Wine Valley Inn is dedicated to helping guests rebalance themselves in the inn’s peaceful and tranquil setting. Guests are treated to a fresh atmosphere with spa-quality amenities and organic cuisine. The breakfast menu changes daily, offering one of eight delicious organic creations. Another treat, chocolate truffles, are provided in your room. For easy proximity to all the Willamette Valley has to offer, check into Inn at Red Hills. This sleek and well-appointed 20-room hotel is located in the heart of Dundee’s shopping district. Without leaving the block-long building, you can dine at Babica Hen, an inspired bistrostyle restaurant whose delightful breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus feature dishes inspired by local ingredients, including seasonal produce from its onsite garden and fresh eggs from resident chickens. There are also four tasting rooms here, as well as many more an easy stroll away. If you want to immerse yourself in wine country, The Inn at Youngberg Hill has a McMinnville address, but it’s a world apart, set on a hill with vista views of the Willamette Valley. The bed-andbreakfast offers four king suites and four queen guest rooms. A covered porch and gracious lawn wrap around the inn, providing plenty of places to sit with a glass of wine and drink in the scenery. For wine tasting, the closest tasting bar is just steps away: Youngberg Hill is also a winery, specializing in Pinot Noir.

Wine Savvy The small educational vineyard outside the ROCOWinery tasting room is a good indicator of what you can expect inside: a friendly and educational wine tasting experience. You’ll sample the most recent vintages of celebrated winemaker, Rollin Soles, as you ask questions about Oregon wine, sustainable farming, and the winery’s new Sparkling wine program. The Four Graces has a cozy tasting room housed in what was once a farmhouse. You’re welcome to investigate the demonstration vineyard on your own, but guests who call ahead can learn more with a private guided tour. The grounds are lovely and the staff is knowledgeable, so plan to linger a bit longer than usual here. As part of its unique hospitality program, the new tasting room at North Valley Vineyards is scheduling sessions for guests interwine country experiences OREGON ested in taking an in-depth exploration of the Willamette Valley’s North Valley (the Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountain, and McMinnville). Occasional small group master classes in blending are offered as well.

Just Chillin’ There’s nothing quite like watching night fall on the vineyards as you listen to live music. From June through mid-October, Silvan Ridge Winery stays open until nine p.m. on Fridays for its popular Friday Night Concert Series. Guests are invited to bring a blanket and stretch out on the grass with family and friends. The winery’s famous wood-fired pizzas, paired with a glass of wine, are the perfect fare. Yoga Sunday is a monthly experience at Brooks. The free class, which is held on the deck overlooking the vineyards, is held in the morning, before the tasting room opens its doors. Students are guided through a one-hour practice geared to all fitness and skill levels. After a well-earned savasana, students have exclusive access to the tasting room for 30 minutes before the winery opens to the public. Summer Vineyard Hikes at Sokol Blosser are a great way to experience the elevations and natural beauty of the Dundee Hills. The guided hike takes you from the winery’s Cattail block of Pinot Gris vines at 200 feet in elevation, up to its Blackberry block of Pinot Noir at 600 feet. A fascinating lesson in geography and Willamette Valley wine is taught along the way. Hikers need to be prepared for hiking a steep incline, and reservations are required. Left Coast Cellars provides a slice of heaven, especially to those who are ready for a delicious meal. The winery is committed to the land and its preservation for future generations. Its lovingly cultivated vineyards, vegetable and flower gardens, and beehives are all part of its sustainability efforts. The tasting room is also home to a little café where garden-inspired sandwiches and pizzas from the Italian brick oven highlight the menu. The scenic Buchanan Family Century Farm, home to Tyee Wine Cellars, has committed nearly 250 acres to a wetland reserve program. Wine lovers and nature lovers alike are welcome to visit for wine tasting, a picnic in a variety of scenic locations, and hikes along the family’s Beaver Pond Loop Nature Trail. Open all summer, the trail leads you through the native valley wetland and woodland habitat, hazelnut orchards, and farmland.

As seen in the issue Summer/Fall 2016 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.