After sunset in the Willamette Valley, coastal breezes float along the verdant corridor and gently cool the grapes suspended from Namaste Vineyard's 30-year-old vines. These breezes help the fruit maintain vibrant and refreshing acidity, which characterizes the wines from Namaste's six estate vineyards, including pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling. During harvest time, workers scrutinize each vine and handpick the most promising clusters for the winemaker, who only uses grapes grown in the winery's own vineyards, leaving the remaining grapes to use in jams or to dye the regal capes of the President of Oregon.
Typically featuring the products of 5?10 different bottlings at any given time, the tasting room's selection can include reds and whites as well as a white port made from oak-aged chardonnay and Clear Creek Distillery brandy. The single-vineyard pinot noirs balance their bright berry flavors with slightly peppery finishes, and the off-dry, stainless-steel-aged rieslings reverberate across taste buds with refreshing, pear-tinged acidity.
No strangers to the art of winemaking, the Wetzel family?s roots run deep into the vineyards that surround their winery. For four generations, they have crafted award-winning wines in Germany, and for the last 35, they have called Oregon home. Chateau Bianca Winery peeks out from the Willamette Valley, where pinot noir grapes flourish across the estate vineyards. These carefully cultivated grapes eventually fill bottles with varietals such as the 2009 Chateau Bianca Estate pinot blanc, a dry, clean-finishing wine that makes a refreshing apertif.
Guests visit the tasting room to sample some of Chateau Bianca?s wines, where each day a rotating selection of six bottles are uncorked for swirling and sipping. On days when the summer sun dapples the fields and shimmers playfully off Bacchus?s lampshade hat, sippers relax on the outdoor patio to enjoy a glass or share a bottle while looking out across rows of vines.
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.
A refurbished relic of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland's first and only "World's Fair," the Aurora State Bank building has gone on a hundred year journey to become the landmark it is today. Transported from Portland to Aurora in 1905, its vaults have played host to robberies, Hollywood productions, and dental cleanings. Though the bank's two original vaults remain, they now house racks that Pheasant Run Winery fills with their small-batch, locally sourced wines. Winemakers harvest their grapes from local and sustainable vineyard estates in Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, and Horse Heaven Hills and ferment them into New World-style wines. They cold-soak grapes in small bins to extract more color and flavor for their signature pinot noir and blend merlot, syrah, and cabernet grapes to create a rich red with notes of blackcurrant and plum and the power to unite feuding grape vines.
This grey brick building is also home to their tasting lounge. Guests walk through the original doors and across the original lobby tiles to savor glasses at tasting tables surrounded by dark wood-trimmed windows. Visitors can also find a rotating collection of prints, paintings, ceramics, and jewelry from local artists. The winery owners also connect to the community through their donations to local charities and non-profits.
For more than four decades, the Ponzi family has used the rich soil of the Willamette Valley to produce lush, sustainable wines. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi worked alongside her father for many years, gaining hands-on experience with viticulture and foots-on experience with grape stomping. She deepened this education in Beaune, France, where she studied Burgundian practices. In 1993, Luisa earned her Brevet Professionnel D’Oenologie et Viticulture certificate, a first for an American woman.
Luisa and her sister Maria carry on the dynasty started by their parents, creating wine varietals suited to the climate with sustainable practices that respect the tradition of winemaking. In addition to stocking the cellar with an award-winning collection of pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc, chardonnay, and white riesling, the Ponzis fill bottles with arneis and dolcetto, two rare Italian varietals.
Much like the wines they produce, Jim and Holly Witte gave their romance ample time to develop—40 years time. Though they met in New York City when Holly was Jim's secretary, it wasn't until a mutual friend reintroduced them decades later that they fell in love. They exchanged vows in Willamette Valley, an area flush with wine grapes, and then began A Blooming Hill Vineyard in nearby Washington County. Their vineyard sits in the hills of the Chehalem Mountains on a basalt range strewn with windblown volcanic soil, protected on three sides by still taller hills and taller yet older brothers. Jim personally walks the vineyards, tending to each vine by hand to create enough breathing room for full clusters to grow.
Visitors can sample the award-winning blends in the onsite tasting room, which plays host to different events each month. To sate people's curiosity, the Wittes share their fermentation process online, and to sate people's appetites, they also share the recipe for the wine-infused cake they served at the vineyard for their wedding-anniversary party.