During Bite of Benton, dozens of local restaurants, wineries, breweries, and food producers fill the nearly 4 acres of Corvallis Central Park with gourmet bites and complex sips. As guests wine and dine, the sounds of music drifts across the grounds as bands tickle the rafters of the park's famed gazebo. Previous musical guests have included Oregon-based classic-rock cover band Big Boy and the Toys, providing a soundtrack for snacks such as gelato, tacos, hot dogs, and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Wise oenophiles stock WineStyles' shelves with top-quality nectars and preside over tastings of reds and whites three days each week. Customers can skip over exhaustive grape stomping and lengthy fermentation processes and indulge in finished products by exploring samples ($5–$10) at Thursday-evening tastings and at Saturday events. A different theme characterizes each of the Thursday and Saturday tastings, which are often hosted by representatives from local wineries and heavily attended by satyrs. On Fridays, customers embark on featured flights ($10) before swilling an entire goblet of their favorite of the samples. Accommodating staff members stand by to assist customers who wish to purchase bottles of selections that titillated their palate's fermented fancies.
In the mild climes of the Willamette Valley, gentle slopes and low elevation nurture the 35 acres of wine grapes that produce Ankeny Vineyard's collection of pinot noir, pinot gris, and other signature wines. Vineyard owner Joe Olexa planted his first grapes in 1982, and with the help of winemaker Andy Thomas, the varietals have stood the test of time to become perennial award-winners at the Oregon State Fair and beyond. Visitors converse on the winery's patio over glasses of pinot noir and mélange blanc, surveying the scenic Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge and its droves of migratory waterfowl. An onsite outdoor, wood-burning pizza oven allows for wines to balance with the flavors of melted cheese on weekends during the summer months, which will have to suffice until cheese agrees to be bottled.
Renowned for its artisan wines and pinot noir varietals, Willamette Valley Vineyards whips taste buds into flavorful frenzies with elegant quaffs that highlight the pure grapes of the region. Like the cycles of the moon and broken sundials, reserve tastings rotate monthly, featuring a different lineup of five distinct libations. Tasters can count on three Single Vineyard Designate pinot noirs in the sippable quintet, one of which is the 2008 Estate pinot noir. Blossoming sommeliers step up to their glasses and test their scent-sensors under the guidance of Willamette Valley's professional drink detectives, aiding their efforts to detect the notes of cherry, dark chocolate, and spice laced throughout their beverage. Following their consumption and discussion of their glasses, participants receive two "It's Willamette, Dammit" t-shirts, and are welcome to keep their Riedel logo stemware, ideal for future tastings or trapping fancy tarantulas.