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.
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.
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.
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.
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.