Sweet Cheeks Winery, composed of a 65-acre estate vineyard and 140 acres of sloping hills, churns out pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, and riesling. The Executive Wine Tasting gives guests the chance to fill their face pouches with up to 14 flights of Sweet Cheeks' full lineup, including all exclusive bottles not released to the general public. Like a blazing barrel of apples, the 2009 Reserve Pinot Gris smells of fruit and has a hint of smoke, while the 2009 Vintage Riesling gives off subtle undertones of honeysuckle paired with the sweet flavors of apricot and peach. The 2009 Rosy Cheeks is a cuvee of tempranillo, pinot noir, and pinot gris, all blended and fermented together until they sprout a beautiful bouquet of strawberries and tickle the tongue with flavory tingles. A cheese board of Oregon artisan cheeses, maple-herb roasted nuts, and crackers is provided to complement Sweet Cheeks' wine; guests may also bring their own picnic basket of goodies and iPods to complete the experience. Sample fine wines from the 7,000 sq. ft. patio that overlooks the vineyard and the gentle, sloping hillside leading down into Briggs Hill Valley.
Valley Vintner & Brewer supplies budding and experienced home brewers all the equipment and recipes needed to concoct tasty batches of beer and wine from the comfort of their kitchens. Each home brewery basic starter kit contains fermenting necessities along with The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, an instructional tome chronicling beer’s mighty rise to prominence as America’s go-to shower beverage of choice. Your experienced vintner instructor will guide guests through a three-hour home-brewing class, answering all grain-related queries from, "How are hops grown?" to "Can I still drink my beer if it develops human emotions?" With gear and guidance from Valley Vintner's expert ale aficionados, beginner beverage barons can raise their glass-fulls from bottle-dependent infancy to full-flavored adulthood.
Nestled in verdant rolling hills, Silvan Ridge Winery complements its grapey varietals with a menu of easily chewable eats. Gourmet cheese plates tickle tongues with a variety of aromatic curds from Spring Valley Dairy in nearby Keizer—including dill havarti, smoked gouda, and brie ($7)—and 8-inch wood-fired pizzas ($6.50–$7.50) and crispy caesar side salads ($4.50) carry hunger away as swiftly as hungry warriors plundering an empty pantry. An outdoor patio and surrounding grassy slopes afford picnickers eyefuls of grapevine-laced hills; inside, the fireside room gives couples an excuse to cozy up next to a wood-burning blaze and share a creamy wedge of cheesecake for two ($4). Complimentary wine tastings greet all visitors of legal age.
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.
Drawing on grapes from nearly 900 acres of Northwestern vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette and Umpqua Valleys and Washington’s Wahluke Slope, Duck Pond Cellars staff have created a variety of award winning varietals. That list includes its silky and smooth Syrah, which won a silver medal from last year’s San Francisco International Wine Competition. Overseen by father-son duo Doug and Greg Fries, the team painstakingly crafts wines that visitors can sip on at the winery’s tasting room. Purchase a bottle for yourself, a friend, or for your imaginary alter-ego at the gift shop.