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.
A refurbished relic of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland's first and only "World's Fair," the Aurora State Bank building has gone on a hundred year journey to become the landmark it is today. Transported from Portland to Aurora in 1905, its vaults have played host to robberies, Hollywood productions, and dental cleanings. Though the bank's two original vaults remain, they now house racks that Pheasant Run Winery fills with their small-batch, locally sourced wines. Winemakers harvest their grapes from local and sustainable vineyard estates in Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, and Horse Heaven Hills and ferment them into New World-style wines. They cold-soak grapes in small bins to extract more color and flavor for their signature pinot noir and blend merlot, syrah, and cabernet grapes to create a rich red with notes of blackcurrant and plum and the power to unite feuding grape vines.
This grey brick building is also home to their tasting lounge. Guests walk through the original doors and across the original lobby tiles to savor glasses at tasting tables surrounded by dark wood-trimmed windows. Visitors can also find a rotating collection of prints, paintings, ceramics, and jewelry from local artists. The winery owners also connect to the community through their donations to local charities and non-profits.
Born into a winemaking family in Hungary, Josef immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s to pursue baking. After more than a decade, however, he cooked up a new idea. Together with his wife Lilli, he purchased a scenic plot of land in the Willamette Valley and planted his first grape vines in 1978—making St. Josef's one of the earliest wineries in Oregon. Even as his ambition grew, Josef never forgot his roots; his first varietals—namely, riesling, gewürztraminer, and pinot gris—harkened back to his youth in central Europe amid the Adriatic's glistening waves of chablis.
Today, the 40-acre winery—now by a third generation of Josef's family—produces bottles of crisp whites and earthy reds, filling at least 90 percent of each batch with grapes grown on the St. Josef's vineyard. Even as Oregon's wine industry has grown over the years, Portland Monthly praises the well-aged coziness of St. Josef's, saying they've “yet to find a better sipping spot” in all of Willamette Valley.
In Aurora, visitors can find antiques that are as old as the town itself. Founded back in 1856, Aurora has been lauded as one of the best destinations in the U.S. for antiquing, and many of the historic buildings are now occupied by locally-owned businesses including Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage, Time After Time, White Rabbit Bakery, and Aurora Antiques. In addition to antiques, the town is home to a number of artisanal wineries, candy shops, and galleries where artists showcase their hand-made wares.