Thanksgiving weekend is a special time of year for winemakers and wine enthusiasts in Oregon — when more than 140 wineries in the Willamette Valley and many, many more across the state throw open their doors to visitors for a giant party. This year Wine Country Thanksgiving (Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2019) is no different, with special tastings, new releases, food pairings, live music, holiday discounts and more.
The holiday open house tradition dates back to the early 1980s, as the first generation of Oregon winemakers rooted in the nutrient-rich soil, perfect for pinot noir and other varietals. Wine lovers of all stripes now flock to the valley to sip their way through their favorite spots and panoramic vistas and explore new ones. For some smaller operations, it’s just one of a few weekends a year when they are open to the public. Here’s a roundup of several Thanksgiving weekend events in the Willamette Valley to explore (check the full listings for more):
Forest Grove — If you’re looking for the perfect gift for that wine lover (or yourself), magnums (that’s the extra-large bottle) are 20% off at Apolloni Vineyards. Visitors also love their artisan market, library wine tastings and tours of their barrel cave.
McMinnville — Raise a glass to Coeur de Terre Vineyard’s 20th anniversary, where they will be sharing their older library vintages. A pre-Thanksgiving artisan holiday market sets the stage for the festivities.
Newberg — Open to the public just four weekends each year, Styring Vineyards is celebrating its just-released 2015 Wit Reserve estate pinot noir in their new family-friendly space, with food pairings and dessert.
Dundee — Two words: pinot brownies. Bella Vida Vineyard is serving them up, along with cheeses and artisan breads, to complement their Thanksgiving celebration flight that will feature wines crafted by four winemakers in one place.
Carlton — The speakeasy-vibe tasting room at K&M Alchemy Vineyard sets the scene for relaxing as visitors sip new releases of their estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay from 36-year-old vines. Live music and food keep the festive atmosphere going.
Turner — Founded in 1983 by Oregon wine pioneer Jim Bernau, Willamette Valley Vineyards offers an intimate seated wine tasting in their cellar each day during Wine Country Thanksgiving, featuring limited releases and stories from the recent harvest. Live music and a fall-inspired menu round out the magic.
Philomath — Spindrift Cellars Winery focuses on producing sustainable pinot noir, pinot blanc and syrah, and will be one of many area tasting rooms showcasing their latest at an open house, with old and new wines and holiday gifts.
Eugene — Silvan Ridge Winery is one of the many South Willamette Wine Trail tasting rooms that will feature live music, gifts, library wines and more in a family-friendly space. Download the trail app to win prizes along the way.
If You Go:
There’s no lack of options for lodging, dining and transportation around the Willamette Valley.
Lodging: Wine-country retreats range from cozy B&Bs to rustic glamping to luxury vineyard rental homes. Make yourself a comfy base camp at the The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg; McMenamins Hotel Oregon in McMinnville; The Vintages Trailer Resort in Dayton; or Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard in Dundee, a European villa-inspired bed and breakfast high on the hillside with panoramic views of the valley below. In Eugene, Inn at the 5th is a gorgeous downtown boutique hotel with discounts for local wine-country hot spots. Find more unique Willamette Valley lodging options here.
Dining: Farm-fresh and seasonal options in wine country are abundant. Don’t miss the walnut bread pudding French toast for Sunday brunch at Ruddick/Wood in Newberg, and for some of the best barbecue in the region, head to Storrs Smokehouse in Newberg for melt-in-your-mouth brisket and all the fixins. The wine-forward Marche Restaurant in downtown Eugene offers award-winning Pacific Northwest-French fusion fare with beautiful wine pairings. See Willamette Valley’s food listings for more options.
Transportation: If you want to skip the driving and organizing and pamper yourself with a little VIP service, schedule a wine-country tour for part of the weekend. Two dozen operators now offer such tours, from luxury limo and town car rides to guided backcountry adventures, many offering custom itineraries and appetizers or picnic fare. McMinnville-based Insiders Wine Tour specializes in small boutique wineries. Evergreen Escapes, meanwhile, offers a Willamette Valley Wine & Waterfalls tour that takes small groups on a personable deep dive of top spots in the region.
Sipping beyond the Willamette Valley
If you’re looking to explore beyond the Willamette Valley (and you should), venture a bit farther south or east for world-class vinos, scenic views and passionate vintners ready to share their stories with you. In the Columbia River Gorge, you can taste flights of more than 50 grape varietals grown across a 40-mile stretch. Sign up for a free Mt. Hood Territory Wine Trail mobile passport and sip your way through the 16 wineries to win a prize. Many of the wineries have their own events, so call ahead to see what’s happening. In Southern Oregon, experience the world-class wines along four trails: the Applegate Valley Wine Trail around Ashland; the Upper Rogue Wine Trail around Medford; the Bear Creek Wine Trail around Ashland, Medford and Jacksonville; and the Umpqua Valley Wine Trail around Roseburg. Each trail includes maps, passport info and tips for visiting this acclaimed wine-growing region. Call ahead for special Thanksgiving deals and events. In Portland, the hottest destinations for urban wine are the Southeast Wine Collective and its adjoining Oui! Wine Bar and Restaurant, as well as Coopers Hall Winery and Taproom. Feel free to stock up on your favorite bottles to enjoy at home: Alaska Airlines’ Wines Fly Free program lets you check up to a case of wine for no charge for mileage plan members flying within the United States from Medford, Portland, Redmond or Walla Walla, Wash.