When Honeywood Winery first began in 1933, it wasn't a winery at all, but rather a distillery that produced fruit cordials and brandies. Today, it's one of Oregon’s oldest operating wineries, producing a wide variety of fruit wines and a handful of reds and whites. In all, 50 different housemade wines are available, enough to float a battleship or a houseboat owned by a Rockefeller. And the winery's location in Salem isn't random—its proximity to Willamette Valley grants it easy access to many stalwart vineyards of the area. Visitors can peruse the marketplace for bottles, edibles, and gifts, or head to the tasting room for a complimentary sampling of wines.
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.
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.
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.
As a native Norwegian, Dag Johan Sundby traces his roots back to the Vikings, who sailed the North Atlantic as conquerors more than a 1,000 years ago. But, as a pursuer of the perfect Oregonian Pinot Noir, he looks back to times even more ancient, when the formation of sedimentary rock resulted in soil full of nutrients. This geological bounty gives rise to Johan Vineyards' yearly harvests of Burgundian grapes, bolstered by the ocean breeze, cool climes, and bedtime stories about a raisin who got his mojo back. The pressings of these fruits go into French Oak casks, aging for at least a year and a half before going into their final bottle. Inside the winery's tasting room, guests are surrounded by these casks as they sip on freshly uncorked vintages.
Myron Redford blazed his own trails while learning to create world-class wines from Willamette Valley-grown grapes. After purchasing a vineyard in 1974, he spent the next two decades adopting innovative methods and pioneering new varietals. In addition to exploring low-sulfite wines and organically grown grapes before many of his peers, Myron also replaced all of his chardonnay vines with pinot blanc and forging wines with gamay noir, a little-used grape among American winemakers. This combination of intuition and experimentation established the winery's reputation for forging distinctive, Old World-style wines with a deft balance of crisp acidity, fine tannins, and rich fruit flavors.
Every year, 15 acres of estate-grown pinot noir, riesling, and pinot blanc ripen on Amity Vineyards' vines, and the head winemaker, Darcy Pendergrass, secures the rest of the grapes from vineyards throughout the northern Willamette Valley. After the tiny fairy on staff juices each individual berry with magic, the staff then allows the concoction to ferment and mature before siphoning the wine into bottles. Visitors can then sample these bottles from the comfort of a tasting room that overlooks the Oregon Coast Range.