With close to 200 wineries to choose from in the Willamette Valley alone, how does one find their favorite? By trying them all, of course!
Instead of fighting the shopping crowds on Thanksgiving weekend, visit one of the many wineries opening for Wine Country Thanksgiving (the weekend following Thanksgiving Day in any given year), a growing annual event celebrating great Oregon vineyards. Celebrate the holiday season with great fun, food and wine. Many of the participating wineries open only for this event every year.
Limited on time? Choose an area and explore. Here are a few great options for the North Willamette Valley. These selections are within 30 minutes of each other but offer great diversity and panoramic views of the area.
Driving up Northeast Calkins Lane in Newberg, you will find several options for premium quality pinots. Highly recommended stops include Adelsheim & Arbor Brook Vineyards. Adelsheim Vineyards, founded in 1971, believes wine at its best is a reflection of vintage and place.
Adelsheim wines are small-production and single vineyard wines. As such, they are only available through this Newberg tasting room. A gracious staff welcomes guests and personalizes every visit with delightful tasting options at the spacious bar. For those desiring a more private or complete experience, a private dining room, available by reservation only, offers wines paired with local cuisine. You really cannot go wrong with any of the special blend wines offered.
Wine tasting is 15 USD, refundable with a wine purchase.
Arbor Brook Vineyards
Arbor Brook Vineyards possesses farmstead charm with roots back to 1866 when the property was originally established. When Dave and Mary purchased the property in 1999, it was a walnut farm complete with an old barn for processing and drying nuts. However, they were more interested in grapes than walnuts, so a new venture began to transform the land.
Mary’s horses needed a home, so the barn became a horse barn. The walnut trees were removed and the carefully selected grape plantings commenced. In 2005, the vineyard opened with a small tasting room occupying an add-on room of the old barn. It was cozy to say the least. Not wanting to part with the barn, another remodel ensued. Walls were removed, the ceiling raised, a new coat of paint inside and out, and a new tasting bar was born. The horse stalls became storage or tasting stations on busy weekends. The horses lost their stalls but gained new “horse condos” on the back side of the barn.
With the goal of making wine tasting a fun and educational experience, Dave and Mary seek to provide a casual but fun family environment. Space outside allows the kids to run, indoor and outdoor seating offer panoramic views of the Chehalem Valley, and Sophie, the resident Saint Bernard, occasionally visits with their daughter, Sydney. Wine options include white wines, a few Pinot Noirs, and the house specialty, a sauternes-style dessert wine. Don’t skip the dessert wine - it is worth the stop.
Tastings start at 10 USD, refundable with a minimum purchase of wine. Wine clubs offer an additional value with special events and purchasing opportunities.
Four Graces Vineyard
The small town of Dundee, Oregon offers a full day’s worth of exceptional wine tasting opportunities all by itself. Two highly recommended stops include the Four Graces Vineyard and Argyle Winery. A local favorite is The Four Graces, named in honor of the four Black family daughters. Founded in 2003, the vineyard utilizes both biodynamic and sustainable farming practices resulting in rich, elegant, delicious wines. Friendly and knowledgeable vintners guide guests in tasting the various wines available.
If the weather permits, take a stroll through the demonstration vineyard to see the clones, varieties and Trellising techniques used at The Four Graces. You will gain an interesting insight into the making of a great wine. I recommend the 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir. This wine blends the flavors of black plum and ripe berries with just a hint of vanilla and a touch of Earl Grey tea into a delightful harmony of tastes and scents. Serve it with a meal of marinated flank steak and fresh steamed vegetables for a culinary delight.
Tastings are 10 USD. Reservations are requested for groups of 8 or more.
Argyle Winery, also in Dundee, opened a new tasting house this year. The new house features indoor and outdoor seating with native plant landscaping.
Guests can enjoy a leisurely hosted tasting or join in lively discussions in the new bar area. The wine library includes over 4,000 bottles of various vintages dating back to 1987 when the winery was founded. There is definitely something for everyone here. I recommend the Nuthouse Chardonnay, aptly named based on the winery’s history. The Chardonnay balances a smooth creaminess with a bold flavoring of the late-season ripening fruit for a perfect taste.
Tasting flights are 15 USD which is waived with a two bottle purchase. Reservations are requested for groups of six or more.
Time for a lunch break
With all the great wine tasting you are experiencing, you need great local cuisine to nourish the soul, and maybe the stomach, as well. The Dundee Bistro offers a variety of options to meet every need, including a kids menu. Entrees include handmade pizza, fish and chips, mixed green salads, fresh-made soups (the roasted butternut squash soup is excellent), and tasty sandwiches on fresh homemade bread and quality local meats and cheeses. I recommend pizza and a salad for a filling and satisfying meal.
The Bistro focuses on providing excellent culinary choices by fresh baking, braising, grilling, smoking, and roasting for full flavor meals. Most ingredients are locally sourced and sustainably grown. A list of current providers is available upon request.
Entrees range from 10 to 30 USD.
Carlton Cellars has provided highly sought-after wines since 2001 with the release of their Roads End Oregon Pinot Noir. The grapes for this Pinot, named for a special place on the Oregon coast in honor of the influence of the Pacific Northwest geology and climate, grow in volcanic soils rich in marine sediments. In addition to the flagship Pinot, Roads End, three other Pinot Noirs and several white wines are award-winning options.
A great feature of Carlton Cellars is the partnering with other local vintners providing an expanded and outstanding selection of wines and tastes for every palate. Weekends often see live music, great cheese and local bites, and lively conversations over wine tasting trivia.
Tasting is 10 USD.
A relaxing day enjoyed with great food, drink, and friends
Sipping wines and enjoying great local cuisine always tops fighting the crowded shopping malls. These sites are open year round, so if you miss the annual Wine Country Thanksgiving weekend, you can go at any time.
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