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.
The foursome behind Ye Ol' Grog Distillery doesn't just make specialty liquors—they make the tools that make specialty liquors. Comprised of three engineers, the team built the microdistillery’s two stills, including a completely redesigned version of a traditional pot still. This machinery not only helps churn out an extremely smooth vodka, but two variations of Ye Ol’ Grog’s namesake, an alcohol beloved by sailors throughout history. Sweetened with blue agave, the distillery’s grog includes the butterscotch-flavored Good Morning Glory and the 100-proof Dutch Harbor Breeze, which is aged in charred oak. To add an extra touch of sweetness, Ye Ol’ Grog’s proprietors complement samples of their liquors with adult shaved ice's made in house.
Though its once purely utilitarian features have been repurposed as a modern industrial-chic wine bar, Sunshine Mill Winery is still a monument to turn-of-the-century agriculture. The gravity mill’s belt-drive system, for instance, is still wholly intact, and its massive gears hang above the heads of sommeliers pouring Quenett and Copa Di Vino wines in the lounge area. And atop the structure that still houses the mill’s Thomas Edison–designed electric generator, musicians regularly perform to the crowds on the alfresco dining area below.
Ever since Growl Movement opened, a rotating selection of craft beers, hard ciders, and kombucha teas have flowed freely through its taps. The various beverages are crafted at breweries around the Northwest, and most can't be found in a grocery store—normally, you'd have to journey to the breweries themselves to buy a supply for your home. The shop sells half-gallon growlers, quarter-gallon growlettes, pints, and taster portions. Growlers can be reused again and again with a quick wash between fills.
Inside a historical brick building, Howard Hinsdale Cellars' wine pros select from international and Oregon-based small producers to fill glasses with potables, which diners sip between bites of creative and health-focused bistro fare. Tenders at the stained wooden bar pour each palate-pleasing blend, and the kitchen crew uses local, seasonal items as well as imported meats and cheese to craft more small plates than are spun by a circus school's kindergarten class. Beginning at 7 p.m., music fills the lounge-style dining area with groovy tunes from jazz groups and singer-songwriters. Visitors can also sip wine on a wooden deck overhanging a scenic creek or plan their visit to correspond with events such as tastings and movie nights.
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.