Photo Courtesy of Touring & TastingBlessed with one of the most diverse climates in the world, Oregon is a fascinating place to grow wine. Itís also a fascinating place to visit. From the Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge in the north, to the Umpqua, Rogue, and Applegate Valleys in the south, the hills and valleys hold a splendid variety of aromas and flavors. In fact, itís not unusual to find a single winery with two or three Pinot Noirs that grew nearly side-by-side, and were crafted and bottled by the same winemaker in the same year, and yet have completely different flavor profiles.
Oregon wines are seeing a significant increase in out-of-state distribution and it has become easier to find them nationwide. But to really appreciate their sense of place, you must visit the source.
Flora, Fauna, and Farms
The words 'great' and 'outdoors' probably discovered each other in Oregon. Here, wine country is intertwined with natural beauty, both wild and tamed. Get ready to discover flora, fauna, and farms that invite you to tour, pick, and participate in fun, adventurous ways.
Take your hiking shoes to Left Coast Cellars (Rickreall) and enjoy its nine-mile trail through wildflowers, followed by a sandwich paired with Pinot Noir in the cafť. The Oregon Garden Resort (Silverton) gives guests an ideal proximity to this 80-acre botanical sanctuary with waterfalls, ponds, and 20 specialty gardens, including a pet-friendly garden and a childrenís garden with an in-ground Hobbit House.
In mid-summer, lavender is abloom across Oregon wine country. King Estate (Eugene) grows more than an acre of organic lavender along the main driveway and in front of its visitor center. Along the Hood River County Fruit Loop wine trail, visit Cathedral Ridge Winery (Hood River), and sample lavender shortbread at Hood River Lavender. In the fall, Flower Farmer and Phoenix & Holly Railroad (Canby) offers a range of activities for families, including a miniature railroad which transports you through fields of fall flowers and pumpkins. For a garden experience from spring to late fall, step into the gardens that surround the tasting room of Argyle Winery (Dundee) or visit Henry Estate Winery (Umpqua) where you can enjoy a picnic in the lovely Memory Garden.
Oregon wine country boasts a multitude of incredible views. Bring your camera along to capture the mountains, hills, and valleys. Donít miss WillaKenzie Estate (Yamhill), Utopia Vineyard (Newberg), Winderlea Vineyard & Winery and Black Walnut Inn (Dundee), Willamette Valley Vineyards (Salem), and Youngberg Hill (McMinnville).
Art, Fun, and Food
Oregonís talented people enrich the wine country experience too. Besides wonderful wines, youíll discover great art, music, and food.
Trisaetumís (Newberg) tasting room includes a 1,500-square-foot art gallery featuring the stunning paintings and photography of its owner and winemaker James Frey. With the belief that art and wine pair beautifully, The Pines 1852 Vineyard & Winery (Hood River) started its own tasting room gallery featuring the work of regional artists.
Guests at Sweet Cheeks Winery (Eugene) enjoy frequent concerts and cheese pairings on the charming patio, including the twilight tasting every Friday night. Music by candlelight is offered several nights a week at Edgefield Winery (Troutdale). Melrose Vineyards (Roseburg) has a great series that runs in August and September that provides live music and a light dinner in the vineyard. When it comes to food (as it should, when youíre wine tasting), Oregon wine country has plenty of answers. Sample delicacies, like Cherry Hill Wineryís (Rickreall) exquisite dark chocolate covered dried cherries (they pair perfectly with its estate Pinot Noir). Or enjoy an entire meal. Under the direction of Executive Chef Sunny Jin, The Allison Inn & Spaís JORY restaurant offers innovative local seasonal cuisine and a Chefís Table in the bustling kitchen. Wineries with restaurants are few and far between in Oregon, but theyíre all great finds. Besides the aforementioned King Estate (serving elegant French cuisine), and Left Coast Cellars (serving gourmet salads and sandwiches), you can enjoy sophisticated dishes in a bistro-like setting at Biggio Hamina Cellars (McMinnville), Italian-style fare served on weekends at Canaís Feast (Carlton) to pair with its Italian wines, and Sunday Brunch at Eola Hills Winery (Monmouth), and Orchard Heights Winery (Salem).
Family and Friends
It wonít take long to realize that Oregon wine country is a rich tapestry of family and friends. The majority of wineries are family-owned and many rely on others in their community for help at crush and harvest. During your tasting room visits, ask your hosts to tell you their story. Some are funny, some heartwarming, and some are simply inspirational. Among the most memorable stories weíve heard are those told in the tasting rooms of Brooks Wines (Amity), Chehalem (Newberg), Cliff Creek Cellars (Carlton), and Rex Hill (Newberg).
Besides the wines, perhaps the biggest find is the people youíll meet along the way. Unpretentious winemakers, mellow tasting room hosts, friendly fellow tasters. No matter where you tour and taste, youíre bound to find new friends in Oregon wine country.