I took a vacation day on Friday to spend some time with Ben for his birthday week. Originally planning on traveling to California to see the Redwoods, we were exhausted from driving so much in the past two weeks and called it off. Instead, we decided to stay closer to home but not skimp on the adventure portion of the weekend. Friday, we headed out to the wine tasting region right outside of Portland proper (about 30-40 minutes from downtown). There are so many wineries in the Willamette Valley that I always have a hard time choosing places to go, so I thought I'd make a mini-wine tasting guide for those that are either visiting Oregon or that live here and feel similarly daunted.
If you take a peak at the map below, you can see the 250+ wineries that are located in the Willamette Valley. Each colored area represents an AVA and I'll recommend some wineries in a few of them (listed by proximity to Portland).
Winery Recommendations by AVA
Rex Hill Winery is home to one of our favorite budget-pinot noirs produced under the "A to Z Wineworks" label. We stopped in this past weekend as we're big fans of that pinot as a hostess gift or a nice accompaniment to dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous grounds and awesome Rex Hill pinots. Tastings were $10 per person for four tastings of $35-$52 pinots and one chardonnay. They also had a lovely aromatics table, beautiful interior, and helpful staff. We picked up a bottle of A to Z and a Rex Hill pinot and one of our tasting fees was waived.
Winderlea Vineyard and Winery has one of the most beautiful tasting rooms that I've experienced. It is housed in a modern building with a lovely open deck that looks across the rolling Dundee Hills and miles of grapes. The Winderlea wine tasting is $20 per person for five wines (one chardonnay and four pinot noir), so it's a bit steep, but the pinots are worth it! They also donate some of the tasting fee to charity! Their wines range in price from $38-$75. If you can hit Winderlea on a sunny day, you'll be blown away.
Erath Winery is one of the wineries you may have heard of, or seen on the shelves of your local grocery store in the pinot section. One of my favorite parts about visiting Erath is the lovely porch with blooming flowers, the quiet, rolling hills of wine grapes, and their tasting presentation. The Erath tasting is, I believe, about $10 per person for 6 wines and if you taste with friends, they bring out your wine in little carafes. They have a lovely white, rose, and pretty passable pinot. Each bottle ranges from about $15-$40 and is definitely more affordable.
Archery Summit was one of the wineries we visited this weekend and I'd never heard of it before. It came recommended from a pinot-loving staff member at Rex Hill. We drove out to Archery Summit on a very rainy day, but were still awed by the view and the grounds - absolutely gorgeous! When some of the wineries in the Willamette Valley are just roadside tasting rooms, it's always nice to seek out the ones with actual rolling hills of grape vines. Archery Summit tastings are $15 per person and include 4 wines with the opportunity to "revisit" any you enjoy. The wines for taste range from $38-$85 and are absolutely amazing. When you hit the high range of pinot noir, the complexity and mouthfeel blow you away. It's hard not to make a purchase.
Other places that you may want to explore are:
Argyle - Often seen in-stores and a more popular low-mid cost pinot, the tasting room is road-side (no rolling hills) and does offer a lot of bubbly. I've heard good things but haven't been yet! In the Dundee AVA.
Adelsheim Vineyard - Another well ranked and popular Oregon pinot, Adelsheim is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA and comes highly recommended though a bit off the beaten path. It's a gorgeous winery and vineyard and offers $15 tasting flights.
Bergstrom - Highly recommended by other wineries, Bergstrom is near Adelsheim in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. $15 tasting fee and wine tours available by appointment.
I've also done some tasting in Eugene, Oregon and while the wineries are farther and fewer between, I'd specifically recommend going to King Estate Winery. It has some amazing food, great deals for lunch, and the tour is worth taking (it's free and some of their basic tastings are free as well).