So you want to meet the winemakers, feel the grapes, soak up the views and learn the difference between a $20 bottle and $100 bottle of Oregon pinot noir? Um, yes — we like to geek out to wine, too. There’s just one thing that often stands in the way of a carefree day or weekend of wine-tasting: a lack of a designated driver.
Luckily in Oregon, touring wine country has never been more accessible, no matter which part of the state you are coming from or headed to. Shuttles and guided tours (on four wheels, two wheels and even by horseback and helicopter) abound, ranging from luxury-class excursions (including lunch and behind-the-scenes tours) to bare-bones transportation service only.
During Oregon Wine Month in May as well as year-round (check wineries for seasonal hours), here are several ways you can get to and from wine country without the worry.
Tours from: around Portland
Portland’s DIY spirit has exploded in recent years, with an outcropping of urban wineries — 16 and counting within the city limits. Shuttles like the Portland Short Bus offer a party vibe as you spend your day sipping and visiting. For trips from Portland metro-area cities to Willamette Valley wine country, try outfitters like Oregon Vine2Wine (which leaves from Portland as well as Salem, Eugene and Roseburg, and includes meeting with winemakers); ecoShuttle (which runs 100-percent biodiesel-powered charter buses); Drive Me To Drink Wine Tours (includes meeting with winemakers); and A Great Oregon Wine Tour (focus on winemaking education).
Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge
Tours from: Hood River and Portland
Known for its variety of wines, abundance of microclimates and wild beauty — from the peaks of Mt. Hood to the Columbia River Gorge and valley below, this region is home to more than 30 wineries and 45 vineyards within a 40-mile stretch. The vineyards grow world-class grapes in two different climate zones and rich basaltic soil. Pop into four wineries on a 4-hour trip with Columbia Wine Tours, tag along with your personal sommelier with Triangle Wine Country, cruise old-school in a 1945 Chevy school bus with Vintage Tour Bus Co. (tours to Willamette Valley wineries available too) or hop on an e-bike with MountNBarreL, where you’ll feel zip between tasting rooms along quiet country roads.
Tours from: Portland Region and beyond
From shiny and sleek to rustic and intimate, the 500 tasting rooms here in Oregon’s largest wine region — named 2016 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine — make for a world-class touring experience. Discover the difference between the Willamette Valley’s six fertile wine-growing regions — including the Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville and Yamhill-Carlton — with a car-free excursion that suits you, from almost anywhere in the state. Focus on boutique wineries at Backcountry Wine Tours; ride in style with Tesla Custom Winery Tours, or arrange a horse-drawn carriage ride or wine tasting by horseback experience with Equestrian Wine Tours. Or let Tour DeVine by Heli swoop you up like royalty for five hours of wine tasting by helicopter, for an unrivaled view. Sunshine Limo Service picks up revelers from Eugene, Springfield, Albany, Bend, Corvallis and Salem. Cork and Barrel Tours serves the Eugene area and Prestige Wine Tours leave from Salem. America’s Hub World Tours also launched a new wine tour in the South Willamette Valley that can be customized with trips to Eugene’s biggest attractions.
Tours from: Ashland and Medford
With its seven months of sunshine, mountainous terrain and big temperature swings, Southern Oregon wines are in a category of their own. The region is home to more than 70 grape varieties, with distinctions between the Applegate and Jacksonville regions as well as Elkton, Illinois, Rogue and Umpqua valleys. You’ll find pinot noir and pinot gris here, as well as gewürztraminer, baco noir, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, tempranillo, syrah, chardonnay, muscat, dolcetto, grenache and zinfandel. Try Wine Hopper Tours, with daily trips year-round from Ashland and Medford to several of the Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley tasting rooms, including visits with the winemakers and behind-the-scenes peeks at the barrels.