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.
Like many of the best things in life, winemaking began as a hobby for Bob and Flossie Heymann. The operation quickly grew to be much more than they could drink themselves, and when they shared the fruits of their labor with friends, they were repeatedly encouraged to turn the hobby into a business venture. Thus, Heymann Whinery was born. Initially, they focused on fruit wines, but have since expanded to include chardonnay, cabernet, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon. True to their roots, they also stock a variety of home winemaking equipment and accessories.
The Ingram family has tended the same picturesque plot of land since 1942, when Marvin Ingram first settled on the 35-acre parcel in the Willamette Valley. Before the family started making wine in 2003, it ran as a purebred black Angus farm. Today, second, third, and fourth generation of Ingrams take care of the rolling hills lined with rows of wine grapes, applying environmentally friendly practices just like Grandpa Marvin did when he started. The winemakers transform their harvest into mature and sophisticated wines. Visitors can sip samples of those wines inside a tasting room, which also showcases items created by local artists, or they can enjoy a private tasting led by a knowledgable guide as opposed to an old instructional film starring a talking cork.