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The Perfect Oregon Wine Country Tour

Updated on June 11, 2008

Swirl, sniff and savor.

To really experience the wine, put your nose in the glass and take in a big smell. Try to identify all the unique and individual components.
To really experience the wine, put your nose in the glass and take in a big smell. Try to identify all the unique and individual components.

Tour Oregon's Wine Country and Savor the Pinot

Oregon’s Willamette Valley features hundreds of wineries to visit so planning a wine country outing can be somewhat overwhelming. With my help, and a little thought, you can have the perfect Willamette Valley wine country tour. Take delight as you taste delicious wines, enjoy a slice of history with the pioneers at a founding Oregon winery and drink in the breathtaking mountain and valley views.

When I first moved to Portland, Oregon, I heard and read all about Willamette Valley Pinot noir. I waited for the rare combination of both a sunny day and money in my pocket while I planned my visit to savor the region’s finest. I knew about the majestic Mt. Hood and colorful valley views and in addition to the fabulous wine, I wanted that whole experience too. So, the sun came, and no money. Money came and no sun. And so I waited. And a year passed. And when the moon and sun were in perfect alignment, I made my visit, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

I started my Willamette Valley tour with a little taste of history at Adelsheim Vineyard located at the base of the scenic Chehalem Mountains in Newberg. Founded in 1971 by David and Ginny Adelsheim, Adelsheim Vineyards offers tastings and guided tours of their beautiful winery. The warm and inviting tasting room overlooks the Calkins Lane Vineyard and there is patio seating as weather permits, so buy a bottle and enjoy a leisurely afternoon.

If you’re interested in wine and want to learn more, stay for the in-depth winery tour. You'll be guided through the winemaking process and will sample a varied selection of wines. Plan on spending approximately two hours if you do the tour. Though I passed on the tour this time around, I enjoyed the wines, the patio and the valley and vineyard views.

For serious views though, nothing beats Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Newberg. This label was found just 10 years ago but has achieved impressive growth going from 125 cases to 8,000 cases. The Penner-Ash winery, completed in 2005, is nestled into a hillside overlooking the Chehalem Valley. The building seems to spring from the land itself, reflecting the wines often described as elegant and earthy, structured and thoughtful.

Embraced by 80 acres of land, the winery is stepped into the hillside on three levels, positioned to take full advantage of the breathtaking and expansive views of the Chehalem Mountains to the north and the Red Hills of Dundee to the south—on a clear day, both Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson can be seen.

The winery celebrates the Northwest and its Pacific Rim location with local, natural materials and clean, simple lines. The tasting room has a view of the winemaking space through the windows and to the outdoors. Everywhere, natural, diffused sunlight brings the outdoor beauty of Oregon inside.

The beauty of the location is matched only by the gorgeous wines, which are balanced, have purity of flavor and aroma, and are both distinctive and impressive. We brought a delicious picnic lunch and enjoyed the almost limitless mountain and valley views while sipping a beautiful Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir. Penner-Ash is a must-visit.

Though Adelsheim and Penner-Ash both had delicious wines I made my last stop at the Ponzi Wine Bar located in the heart of Oregon’s wine country in downtown Dundee in search of Oregon’s perfect Pinot. Also founded in 1998, the Ponzi Wine Bar features wines from over 70 top Oregon vintners, offering visitors an opportunity to taste many high profile wines in one stop. Rotating, specially selected flights of wine were available and we enjoyed wines from a guest winemaker (which apparently are featured every weekend throughout the summer). For a unique experience, we decided to sample Pinots from different producers served in Riedel's crystal Oregon Pinot Noir glass for a fun side-by-side comparison. All in all, a great end to a perfect wine country tour.

Heading out for an excursion into wine country is an incredible opportunity to see the countryside, taste amazing wines and feel like you’re getting away from it all, if only for the afternoon. To ensure maximum enjoyment though, I highly recommend doing a little planning. I decided to include a little of everything on my tour, but you could plan your tour to focus on three new wineries, or three wineries that produce grapes from the same vineyards (to really see the winemaker’s talent) or three wineries that recently achieved great reviews. With a little forethought, you too can plan the perfect wine country outing. Cheers!


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      Umpqua Wineau 8 years ago

      Nothing like a day in the vines! Next tour set your sights to the South and head down to Umpqua Valley! Just a 2 1/2 hour drive from Portland, you will be rewarded with a pristine countryside and 22 tasting rooms to enjoy.

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      Katherine Parsons 9 years ago

      I don't drink alcohol anymore, but after reading your article I sure wish I still drank wine! Thanks for the written tour.

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      Brian Luccio 9 years ago

      I always enjoy your writing and insight. Thank you for your contribution to the world of Oregon wine!