The accolades accorded several of LaVelle Vineyards' wines in the pages of Wine Enthusiast magazine serves as evidence of the diligent work of founder Doug LaVelle and his son, Matthew, who tends the vines today. After taking over the winery—then one of the oldest in Southern Willamette Valley—in 1994, Doug took it upon himself to make a number of improvements to its antiquated technology and distribution network. He started the wine club in 1995, and just recently opened a brand new wine bar and tap room off of International Way in Springfield called the LaVelle Tap Room. The tap room serves as an in-town location for wine club members, but also to provide a new wine-bar-meets-tap-room experience with more than 30 wines to choose from and several local beers on tap.
Doug's investments paid off. Today, with Matthew as lead winemaker, the winery ferments grapes both from its original Willamette Valley location and another site in the Columbia Valley in eastern Washington. At the rustic Elmira winery, visitors can recline on the sunny deck, tour the winemaking facilities, or outsmart tipsy minotaurs in the garden's labyrinth.
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.
Oakshire Brewing's master libation-smiths brew small batches of high-quality malts and hops in a 15-barrel, 4,000-square-foot brewhouse. Guests can visit the main brewing facility's tasting room to admire the malt magic created by the diligent staff. Weekday visitors wet their whistles on 4-ounce samplers of three year-round and seasonal selections, and Friday swillers can enjoy plentiful pints of their favorite brews. Gargle the crisp, dry hops of a Northwest–style Watershed IPA and the dark, silky suds of the Overcast Espresso stout. Or dabble in seasonal selections, such as the malty Ill Tempered Gnome Winter ale, a distant cousin of the nonalcoholic beverage sipped by Snow White's Grumpy. The brewery peddles bottles ($4–$5) and cases ($48–$60) of its regular and seasonal beer for those wishing to partake in imbibing in the comfort of their own home, and it equips swig sessions with growlers ($5) and pint glasses ($3). Guests can also advertise ale adherence with a brewery T-shirt ($18) or hat ($12) or by shouting panegyrics about beer in a crowded mall.
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.
The Lane County Fair, first run in 1859, fills the August air with live music, enticing aromas, and the twinkling lights of carnival rides. Gain inspiration for future shower concertos with performances by Tommy Tutone, Nashville's Eric Church, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited, formed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rhythm section of Creedence Clearwater Revival, all of whom headline the lengthy list of mainstage performers. Biwheeled vehicles reach new heights in the Boost Mobile Freestyle Motocross Tour, and the eight All-Alaskan Racing Pigs trot merrily around their sawdust-covered track as bystanders watch. The fair's many carnival rides, including the new ground-dwarfing Vertigo, a brightly-colored adrenaline enhancer that cradles heights seekers in swings and whisks them up 100 feet high for a towering view of the lights below, attract revelers and seatbelt fanatics alike ($0.50/ticket, rides take multiple tickets). Local farmers and craftspeople await the bestowment of ribbons as they display their skill and handiwork in numerous exhibitions.
Chef Mario Tucci cooks up a menu of South American and Italian fare prepped with fresh, locally grown ingredients. Italian-style frittatas inspire fillings such as potatoes and garlic, mushrooms and onions, or zucchini into rich, eggy unification (all $6.95), while vegetarian-friendly burritos embrace beans, cheese, rice, eggs, and more in a tight tortilla hug (from $4.95). Delectable sauces cling to the fresh-made pastas like koalas cling to anyone who offers them a granola bar (from $6.25). Diners can also nestle into the rustic, marketplace-like eatery, festooned with earthy artwork and live local music, to partake in ciabatta-bound sandwiches (from $5.95), entree-ready salads (from $5.65), and elegant glasses of wine ($4.95).