10 Al Fresco Attractions At Willamette Valley Wineries
May is Oregon Wine Month, and this year it marks a tentative return to some semblance of pre-Covid hospitality for many wineries throughout the Willamette Valley.
As weather warms up, many wineries are emphasizing outdoor settings this year to ensure the health and safety of staff and guests alike. We’ve rounded up some wineries with extra special al fresco attractions, from games to fire pits to amazing views. These spots offer a combination of flights and bottle service.
Wineries “needed to muster an incredible amount of resiliency in creating outdoor spaces that were really creative,” says Sally Murdoch, communications director for the Oregon Wine Board, who shares a few favorites below. Use our list to plan your season of wine tasting in the beautiful Willamette Valley. (Chevonne Ball of Dirty Radish Travel Company chimed in with suggestions, as well. The sommelier and wine tour guide was among 2020’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers according to Wine Enthusiast.)
Wineries With Captivating Tours
Evening Land Vineyards at Seven Springs Vineyard
“They’ve redone the converted garage with a fireplace, and on nicer days we can sit under these big fir trees around a fire pit, overlooking the vineyard,” says Ball about Evening Land Vineyards at Seven Springs Vineyard. “They’re adding chickens to the farm. It feels great to be there, it’s a real experience.” Book a walking tour, and the tasting room manager will take your private group on a guided walk around the property followed by a seven-wine flight accompanied by cheese and charcuterie.
Authentique Wine Cellars
Sign up for The Vineyard Experience, and partake in a guided tour of the biodynamic vines hosted by winemaker Nicholas Keeler at Authentique Wine Cellars. It culminates on the observation deck, where you taste five current-release wines surrounded by soaring forest and vineyard views.
The Garden and Vineyard Walking Tour covers Brooks Wine’s biodynamic winery, vineyard, garden, and insectaries. Explore different blocks of grapes, learn lore and lifecycles of the vines, and hear expert insights on the current vintage. A tasting flight of five wines is accompanied by an individual serving of charcuterie, cheese, jam, nuts, and bread.
Wineries With Fun Games
Utopia Vineyard and Winery
Reserve a tasting spot on the patio or picnic area, both surrounded by grapevines and scenic vistas, at Utopia Vineyard and Winery. Linger around a fire pit in Adirondack chairs made of wine barrels, and challenge your friends to a game of bocce or cornhole. Committed players can book a game court or inquire about the summer bocce league. Guests may bring their own food, and a private tour and tasting with owner/winemaker Daniel Warnshuis can be arranged.
Ribbon Ridge Vineyard
Ribbon Ridge Vineyard has an outdoor tasting pavilion and casual distanced seating flanked by a pétanque court (a French game similar to bocce). Open weekends by appointment (Memorial Day through Labor Day), they serve wood-fired pizza handcrafted by the owners and baked in a big brick oven.
Wineries With Outstanding Views
At Fairsing Vineyard, Ball recommends “the most amazing view in the valley. They sit on top of the hill, with a 360-degree view.” Gaze at Mount Jefferson and Ribbon Ridge from an expansive lawn surrounding a meditative labyrinth. Visitors can book covered patio seating or bottle service at a reserved outside spot. Club members can reserve covered picnic tables, bring their own culinary provisions, and order wine by the bottle.
Ridgecrest Vineyards and Ribbon Ridge Winery
“If you are looking for that rustic, outdoor Oregon wine experience you’ve found the right place” proclaims the Ridgecrest Vineyards and Ribbon Ridge Winery website. A single yurt is available to individual parties by reservation, with space for six customers. Located among the winery’s oldest vines, visitors can admire dramatic vistas up the spine of the vineyard from the deck, or warm up by the wood-burning stove inside.
Other wineries with attractive outdoor seating and captivating views of the vines and valley include Alloro Vineyard, Stoller Family Estate, and ÉLEVÉE Winegrowers (where a Bernese mountain dog named Four is the official greeter).
Wineries with Private Seating
Curtained cabanas create an intimate atmosphere, “inspired by one of the tasting room staff who was from Miami,” says Murdoch about Adelsheim Vineyard. “It provides a nice social distance feeling, and you have the coverage for wind and rain.” A Market Box of favorite local bites accompanies your flights.
Durant Vineyard and Olive Mill
Book a secluded vineyard cabana for parties of four or fewer at Durant Vineyard and Olive Mill. Included: a bottle of rosé, light dining fare, and an ATV ride to your private spot. Other Durant attractions include outside tasting in the Tent Pavilion, lofty landscapes unfolding below, lovely gardens, an olive grove, and ATV/tractor tours. Allow plenty of time to peruse the specialty plant nursery and gift shop, overflowing with culinary items, cookbooks, local art, and Durant’s private label olive oil body care. Enjoy complimentary tastings of Durant Olive Mill’s award-winning extra virgin olive oils.
A Co-op That Delivers a Fun Experience
The Carlton Winemakers Studio
About 16 vintners share space at the Carlton Winemakers Studio. Taste wine under open-air canopies on the garden patio, no reservations required. Admire the green building features that make artful use of recycled material. Flights change throughout the day. On Saturdays, there’s a good chance a winemaker will be pouring behind the counter. Indulge in gourmet snacks via a vending machine by Vend Charcuterie, or bring outside food to complement your wine.
If You Go to Willamette Valley Wineries This Summer
Keep the following in mind when visiting Willamette Valley wineries this summer:
- All information is subject to change.
- Reservations are increasingly required, and maximum party size may be limited.
- Verify whether you’ll have access to flights, bottle service, or both.
- Many wineries are requiring that all visitors be of legal drinking age, and some are restricting pets.
- Some wineries may not accept cash and may only accept credit or debit cards and other forms of contactless payment (such as Google Pay or Apple Pay via mobile devices).
- All tasting rooms are complying with current state and county Covid restrictions.
- Chevonne Ball offers these tips to be a good guest: Make a reservation; keep your group small; and wear a mask when not eating or drinking. Limit your visit to about 90 minutes and/or comply with the times of your reservation, so wineries can host enough groups to be sustainable. Dress prepared for rain and cold weather, and wear shoes for uneven terrain.