Editor’s note: Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, but businesses may ask you to wear a face cover – bring one along and be patient and kind if asked to wear it. It’s also wildfire season – plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
Oregon’s wine-tasting rooms have always been places that inspire full-sensory delight — from the scenic mountain and vineyard views to the bright pop of a crisp rosé on a sunny day. Many of Oregon’s tasting rooms have been able to weather the storms of 2020 and keep those blissful experiences happening in the fresh air with reimagined patio spaces. Now, as the warmer weather rolls in, even more wineries are reopening and are excited to celebrate Oregon Wine Month in May 2021 with safe tasting experiences for all.
If you’re thinking of visiting, check out what to expect at Oregon wineries during COVID-19, and then get inspired with these unique ways to support Oregon winemakers this season and beyond.
Wine Pods, Cabanas and VR Experiences
Those looking for an exclusive, private tasting experience are in luck — many of Oregon’s wineries are offering premium experiences for those who want to hang out with a small group from the comfort of their own VIP-style shelter. Willamette Valley Vineyards offers igloo-style pods at their main Turner tasting room for up to six guests from two separate households. The reservation fee of $150 is applied as credit for wine or food during your visit. The pods include lighting and a space heater, and are sanitized and aired out between each party. Durant at Red Ridge Farms, in Dayton, lets parties of four book a private cabana for a two-hour slot (available May through October). The experience includes a short ATV ride into the vineyard along their rolling acres of grapes and estate olive orchards; a complimentary bottle of estate wine; and a light picnic for four. Adelsheim Vineyard in Newberg is also offering cabanas for up to eight guests. It’s best to book them by reserving an estate tasting, but walk-ins may be seated in a cabana based on availability. Even more tantalizing options: Soak up the vineyard views at Adelsheim at their new window-seat bar or in their garden in the vineyard.
In the meantime, Stoller Family Estate, in Dayton, has launched a one-of-a-kind immersive experience at their new 8,000-square-foot space, called Stoller Experience Center. Here, next to the vineyard, visitors can sip a flight while boosting their wine knowledge in a fun way, through interactive tasting tables, augmented-reality art, curated videos projected on a large screen and a virtual-reality experience that will be available in late summer 2021.
Barrels (and Bottles) for a Good Cause
There’s growing diversity in Oregon winemaking, which makes for a whole new array of tasting-room experiences. Just in time for Oregon Wine Month, seven local wineries have joined forces to help make Oregon’s wine industry more accessible and inclusive through a new effort called the One Barrel Challenge. Each of the participating wineries have donated a barrel (25 cases) of wine to the cause, with 100% of proceeds devoted to access and education in breaking down barriers in the wine industry. “As we together commemorate Oregon Wine Month this May, my partners in the One Barrel Challenge and I seek to leverage this moment — and this movement — to incite change and increase diversity amongst those seeking careers in our beloved craft, and our commonality in giving back is wine,” says Channing Frye, a former NBA star, creator of Chosen Family Wines and one of the seven founding wineries.
Here are the seven One Barrel Challenge wineries, including their benefit wines available for purchase:
Granville Wine Co. in Dundee (2020 Rosé: $35); McCollum Heritage 91 (2019 chardonnay: $45); Hazelfern Cellars in Newberg (2019 chardonnay, $45); Division Winemaking Company in Portland (2015 syrah: $45); Adelsheim Vineyard in Newberg (2019 pinot noir: $55); L’Angolo Estate in Newberg (2019 pinot noir, $55); Chosen Family Wines in Newberg (2018 Pinot noir, $55). For more inspiration, check out Oregon’s Latinx wineries and Oregon’s celebrity winemakers.
Discover Oregon’s True Character
This year’s Oregon Wine Month is all about Oregon’s True Character — a celebration of the people and places that make Oregon wine just so unique. The best way to discover it for yourself is getting out to the vineyards and wineries of Oregon, especially with new safety protocols in place for your peace of mind. You can order the official Oregon Wine Touring Guide for maps and itineraries of all the state’s winegrowing regions, or for a limited time enter to win the Oregon Wine Month sweepstakes featuring airfare, lodging and curated wine experiences in the Willamette Valley or Rogue Valley.
For a do-it-yourself sip trip, consider a tour of an Oregon wine region that’s off the beaten path. Sip the cool-climate wines of Elkton, a little community along the Umpqua River Scenic Byway, a stone’s throw from the Umpqua River. An ideal stop for road-trippers to the Oregon Coast or Southern Oregon, you can explore Elkton’s cluster of friendly, uncrowded tasting rooms within 2 miles of each other. While in the Umpqua Valley, you can pay homage to Oregon’s oldest estate winery and the birthplace of pinot noir. HillCrest Vineyard in Roseburg, founded by Richard Sommer in 1961, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021. Sommer planted the state’s first malbec vines here, along with riesling and pinot noir. Nearby Abacela is known as Oregon’s tempranillo pioneer, planting the state’s first commercial tempranillo grapes in 1995 on its picturesque vineyard outside Roseburg. Just south, you can also go wine tasting around the Rogue Valley, another region prized for its extraordinarily less-crowded outdoor activities — everything from hiking, biking and golfing to rafting, paddling and fishing.
The Dalles is another less-explored region for wine tasting, with innovative tasting rooms like Tierra De Lobos, run by owner and winemaker Adolfo Ocheata Mollinedo. Come for the riverfront views, welcoming vibe and ample heated, outdoor space. As you travel along the Columbia River Gorge, you’ll retrace the path of the Missoula Floods and see how the dramatic geological event shaped the distinct terroirs of this region.
Wine Tasting Close to the City
Perhaps you want to skip the drive and enjoy the experience of wine tasting close to the city, where you can easily walk, bike, scooter or call a ride share to get around. Plot your own course among the PDX Urban Wineries, from Boedecker Cellars in Northwest to Hip Chicks Do Wine in Southeast; most ask you to make a reservation in advance. Don’t miss newish spots like The Crick, Abbey Creek Vineyard’s downtown location. Just south and west of Portland, get inspired to explore Tualatin Valley wineries, as well as Oregon’s two newest winegrowing regions, the Chehalem Mountains and the Laurelwood District. If you’re hankering for a getaway to sunny Bend, oenophiles will have lots of new experiences there, too. The city is now home to a number of new tasting rooms including Bledsoe Family Winery, Stoller Wine Bar, Evoke Winery (formerly Naked) and Domaine Serene (coming in fall 2021).
If You Go:
- Before you go, know what to expect at Oregon wineries during COVID-19. Face coverings and social distancing are still required, and you may need to make a reservation in advance.
- Map out your Oregon wine tasting trip with the official Oregon Wine Touring Guide — best of all, it’s free. For a limited time you can enter to win the Oregon Wine Month sweepstakes featuring airfare, lodging and curated wine experiences in the Willamette Valley or Rogue Valley.
- When you’re ready to take a bottle of Oregon wine country home with you, remember that Oregon wines fly free on Alaska Airlines.
- Extend your trip with a vineyard stay in wine country, and find plenty of options for noshing and hands-on farm experiences to round out your experience along Oregon’s food trails.