After not even my first glass of wine at the very first winery we arrived at during our recent trip to the Willamette Valley I announced, “I want to own a winery. Let’s build a house on a winery, make wine, have a tasting room and host wine dinners!!” Obviously the most brilliant idea E-V-E-R.
My husband just chuckled because if you know me, you know I want to do everything. I want to travel the world, be a professional cook, a food writer, a travel writer, a marketing guru, have my own business, own a food truck, be a professional dancer…you get the idea, the list goes on and on. So what’s one more big dream to add to the list?
Anyways, I grew up in the Willamette Valley but all I remember about Oregon is it rains. Why does anyone want to live in Oregon where it rains so much? Well, clearly I wasn’t over 21 when I lived in Oregon because if I lived there now, well, I’d at least try to live on a winery if not be there every weekend. I suppose sometimes you never truly experience and appreciate where you live until you come back and visit it.
On our last trip to Portland a few weeks ago I finally discovered the Willamette Valley that I not only lived close to but basically lived in but never realized it until now.
As you can see, even on a brisk winter afternoon the wineries were still full of magic.
The Willamette Valley is home to more than 300 wineries (we only made it to four in one day, I’m telling you wine for months!) and many say that it is recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir producing regions in the world.
With a little research and my family ready for an adventure, we chose which wineries to venture out to on our day trip. Without a driver arranged ahead of time, we wanted to make sure the day ended successfully and safely so we tried to limit the wineries we visited (from past experience) and make sure they were in close proximity to each other.
I found four wineries that were ten to fifteen minutes apart that we explored on this beautiful winter day: Allora, Blakeslee, Rex Hill, and Duck Pond.
We choose these based not only on where they were located but also on whether or not we needed reservations and the amount of pours we could get for the money. I recommend planning your day online before you go with sites like this or Travel Portland to make the most of your day.
Here’s a quick run down of my thoughts on each of the wineries:
1. Allora Vineyards: Out of all the vineyards we visited this one was my favorite. The tasting room felt like we were invited into someone’s home with it’s cozy dining room area and beautiful kitchen (I want my kitchen to look like that!). All of the wines, including the dessert wine that we ended with were complex yet easy drinking. In fact, it’s possible we may have taken home a bottle of 4 out of 5 of the wines we tasted that day!
2. Blakeslee Vineyards: Owned by the Blakeslee’s, this is a newer vineyard that just opened their tasting room in the last year or so. While it was a nice place to visit during the winter, and the guy pouring us wine had excellent pairing suggestions, I think I’d like to come back and experience this place in the spring or summer. The property and what they’re planning for this place for members of the vineyard and events are inspiring.
3. Rex Hill Vineyards: Of all of the vineyards we visited this one is probably the most well known. While it was very good and we learned that A to Z is also part of this winery (another favorite, affordable label of mine) this vineyard was not only by far the busiest but also the most commercial.
4. Duck Pond: We ended our wine tasting adventure with our last tasting at Duck Pond, which actually offers a flight of free wines. Probably the least interesting of the bunch we had but you can’t really argue with free. For an added cost of about $5 you can try other flights of four or five wines. There was an interesting warehouse in the back of this tasting room that looks like it can be used for events and a large retail area where they sold all kinds of items for wine lovers.
All in all, it was an excellent first take on wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.
It’s probably a good thing that we don’t live there anymore because let’s face it, I’d be broke. I’d be wine tasting every month and my glass would always be full. Hey, at least I’d be happy!
Next adventure for Portland? On to the craft breweries!