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Oct 5, 2010 07:56 PM

Oregon Wine touring

Heading to Portland for 4 days in a couple of weeks. Plan to spend (at least) one of them touring some vineyards.

I have toured in Napa and Sonoma and loved making reservations at the smaller family run wineries, I found they were so much more interested in sharing their knowledge and experience, rather than getting my 10$ for a tasting (plus a lot of them did not charge). Only problem was I felt a little like I really needed to purchase something from them (which we did, coming home with 2 cases of vino). Unfortunately this time, I am driving, not flying and crossing the border into BC with a huge amount of wine will end up costing me a fortune. So I will really only be buying a couple bottles total (of which I don't want to spend an arm and a leg for) and probably a couple more for consuming there, okay, maybe more like 4...

Is this the way it is done in Oregon? If we only go one day, we will hit probably 5 at the most through the day. I have a car, but would rather not drive to far in between and from Portland.

I love Pinot Noirs, and have to admit, I don't really know what else comes out of Oregon. Open to suggestions & adventure!!

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  1. A great place to start is the Carlton Wine Makers Studio. You can taste several small producers in one place.

    Yes, I would say appointments are needed more so than in Napa. Not many have built tasting rooms but will happily welcome you with a phone call.

    That said, a few of the folk here on this list have open hours:

    11 Replies
    1. re: VineyardTravel

      What is the etiquette if you make appointments? do you have to buy?

      1. re: cleopatra999

        Maybe this will soften things when making the appointment "Living in Canada, I can't cross the border with the wine. Who are your importers in my area so I can find it when I get home?"

      2. re: VineyardTravel

        Carlton Winemaker's Studio is very nice. We tasted Ayoub, Retour and Brittan there... and others as well but those were the stand outs.
        In Carlton there's also Alexana and Scott Paul - we enjoyed both.

        Domaine Serene, Bergstrom and Penner Ash are all (relatively) close to each other and near Beaux Freres as well.

        I'm not sure if you need an appointment at Domaine Serene - but I know we didn't at any of the others.

        1. re: Cookiefiend

          No appointment needed at Domaine Serene.
          When you go up the road from the valley, the driveway for Domaine Serene is at your left and the driveway for Domaine Drouhin is at your right. Drouhin is an established Burgundy estate. In fact, they sell Drouhin wines from Burgundy there in the Oregon tasting room.
          The OP said she was interested in learning about the wines. The person pouring at Carlton Winemaker's Studio when I was there knew nothing about the wines. I mean zero. If you're going there you might want to make sure whoever is there knows something about the wines.

          1. re: SteveTimko

            "The OP said she was interested in learning about the wines. The person pouring at Carlston Winemaker's Studio when I was there knew nothing about the wines. I mean zero."

            Good point of course.
            When we were there,the guy pouring was the brother of one of the wine makers - I can't remember for the life of me which one... she was mentioned in a recent WS. We felt he was pretty knowledgeable, certainly more so than we were regarding the wines.

            1. re: SteveTimko

              Hi from Portland.

              Also by Domaine Drouhin is Stoller, which I recommend. Plan carefully and focus on a particular area such as Dundee-Carlton, as wine country is sprawling. No need to drive all over the Willamette Valley.

              Eat at Nick's Italian, Tina's, Joel Palmer House, Farm to Fork.

              For small production where you meet the winemaker, I suggest Beran. By appointment. Nice guy (Bill Beran), good wine, and a sweet dog too!

              Other notable wines are pinot blanc and pinot gris (quel surprise!).

              I prefer places with a tasting fee, as if I don't like the wine then I feel no obligation to buy any.

              1. re: Leonardo

                Oh yes. Nick's Italian was awesome.

                1. re: Leonardo

                  I will just ditto this whole post. +1.

                2. re: SteveTimko

                  In addition to Domaine Serene and Domaine Drouhin, I would
                  recommend Archery Summit, which is located near by. All three charge hefty
                  tasting fees, and tend to be snobbish around the edges, but their
                  wines are excellent. It is somewhat amusing that Archery Summit is owned by
                  a conglomerate called Leucadia National, which also owns timber,
                  insurance, oil exploration companies, etc... They also own Pine Ridge
                  in Napa. For a more casual tasting atmosphere, I would recommend
                  Argyle, but their pinots do not quite measure up to Drouhin and Archery
                  Summit, IMO.

                  1. re: bclevy

                    A little-known source for some of Archery Summit's best pinot noir grapes is Aramenta Winery, a converted farm up the hill run by a very nice couple. Even if they weren't very forthcoming and personable, I would still have been elated at obtaining essentially the same wine at $30 less per bottle. We found this out while staying at the Youngberg Hill Inn; the B&B manager there is their daughter-in-law. Have served Aramenta proudly at my table and our visit there was one of our happier stops.

              2. re: VineyardTravel

                does anyone know the pricing of the wine tasting at the Winemakers Studio? could not find that info on their website....

              3. I agree with you about the smaller, family run wineries. There are many of them in Oregon. Very few large production wineries there compared with Napa.

                I don't know anything about the border-crossing laws with wine, but I would surely recommend you visit Brick House winery in Willamette. I was just there in April, and thought their biodynamic wines were stunning. They are not cheap, but imho well worth the price. Also fell in love with Penner-Ash's Viognier. And you can never go wrong with wines from Eyrie. We also love Chehalem.

                As for purchasing etiquette, there really isn't a requirement, per se, for buying, but my experience is that you will WANT to. Just limit yourself to one bottle (or two at the most) and you'll do fine.

                1. Some places charge small fees, so you are not pressured into buying.
                  Beaux Freres is run by the brother in law of critic Robert Parker and its wines are rare. Tasting is $20, so it ain't cheap, but the wines are nice. You need an appointment.
                  You can also pay fees and taste at Stoller, Domaine Drouhin and Domaine Serene, who all make wines I like.
                  The Dark Horse Wine Bar in Newberg serves as the retail place for Sineann, which makes some really nice whites, and Medici, the owner of the Medici vineyard that supplies grapes to several winemakers. The interesting philosophy of Medici is that they hold the bottles for about four years before releasing them for sale. They're also modestly priced.
                  If you're looking for a nice place to eat, I recommend Tina's in Dundee. Make reservations, even for lunch.
                  The winemaking operations in Oregon generally tend to be family run as opposed to corporate run in Napa and Sonoma.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    FYI, wine critic Jancis Robinson did a blind tasting of non-French pinot noir and the wine she liked best was a 2007 Domaine Drouhin from Willamette Valley.


                    1. re: SteveTimko

                      I really respect Jancis Robinson, BUT... she is likely comparing the Oregon Pinots with Bourgogne. and most of them, even the great ones, really don't. They speak of their own place, which is not France, and not Burgundy.

                      Drouhin makes wonderful wines in both places, but imho, not my "favorite" Oregon Pinot.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        what IS your "favorite" Oregon Pinot? And can we visit that winery?

                        1. re: avazora

                          what about some reasonably priced (25$ and under) wines at vineyards where appointments are necessary but NO tasting fee.

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            If you're not going to be able to buy much I'm reluctant to send you to smaller vineyards just for tastings. I want the winemakers to stay in business and that doesn't make economic sense.
                            The Dark Horse tasting room in Newburg has a modest fee and the Medici and Sineann wines are in that price range.

                            1. re: SteveTimko

                              When we traveled all over Sonoma for tastings we bought at some, not at others (if I don't like their wine, I am not buying it!) AND almost none of the places we went to had tasting fees. Being from Canada, I am limited to the amount that I can bring home. This does not mean that I will not speak highly of a wine that I liked, and speak with my local wine stores/wine importers about bringing it in. I think this attitude of 'if you ain't buying, we ain't pouring' OR $20 for a taste is limiting the people who will come to you...However I understand that things vary by wine region, and if this is the way that Oregon does it, then we will choose perhaps 2 or 3 to visit, share our flight between the 2 of us, and buy only what we LOVE. The one oregon wine site stated that fees are around $20, seems steep to me.

                              By the way, the reason I want to go to wineries where you make an appointment, is not because the tastings are 'free', it is because of the learning experience that you get with these vineyards, it is much different tasting with the winemaker, touring with him, barrel tasting, learning, this makes me a much more interested wine drinker. You can feel the passion in the wineries that take the time to do this, rather than just stand you up at a tasting bar, with someone behind the bar who may or may not know anything about what they are pouring.

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                Then take the time to build a relationship with a winery.
                                Good will doesn't pay the electric bill or the vineyard workers.
                                The $20 is for Beaux Freres, which as I said is an exclusive wine. The Dark Horse Wine Bar charges $10, which is waived if you buy two bottles of wine. $10 is not too much. When I was there the wines were poured by the maker of a third wine.

                                Dark Horse Wine Bar
                                1505 Portland Rd Ste 230, Newberg, OR 97132

                                1. re: SteveTimko

                                  10$ is reasonable, thank you. do you have other places that are in that price range?

                                  1. re: cleopatra999

                                    Stoller is $10 and they waive if you buy two bottles of wine. Domaine Drouhin is $10. Domaine Serene is $15.
                                    The people who poured wines at Stoller and Drouhin knew quite a bit about winemaking when I tasted there. Domaine Serene's pourer, not so much.

                                    Domaine Serene
                                    6555 NE Hilltop Ln, Dayton, OR

                  2. Yes, it is kind of expected that if you make a reservation to taste at a winery that does not have an open tasting room that you will buy wine. There are a lot of great places to taste that you don't need an appointment for, and while many of them charge for the tasting, some will wave fees if you do buy wine...if you don't, well, then the fees are fair (and usually under $20), are they not?

                    I like the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, lots of nice wines from great producers. Not all of them have tasting rooms, but I went to their big event and did a report that can be found here: Lots of notes and ideas to follow up on. Anne Amie is a great place to have a picnic lunch with a bottle of their Pinot or Prisme (a still blanc de noir made from Pinot Noir grapes - delicious!) - lovely property.

                    I LOVE tasting in Carlton at Scott Paul's tasting room. Scott Paul not only makes delicious Pinot Noirs in the old world style, they are the sole importer for some righteous Burgundies, many premier cru (like the Aleth Girardin...omg so good). And you can taste them together...which is interesting, and is a nice change from the mostly very fruit-forward wines made here (which I also like, but I adore Scott Paul's wines).

                    Another interesting tasting room is Panther Creek in McMinnville. They do a lot of single vineyard Pinots - it is really interesting to taste the vineyard/terroir when the winemaker is the same. Very interesting tastings and some nice wines.

                    If you make it to McMinnville, I would also go to The Eyrie. Nice wines, and now a second generation winemaker at the helm.

                    If you are really interested in some of the best small producers, peruse my report from the Indie Wine Festival in May...most of these are by appt. only and do not have tasting rooms. All the winemakers at this event make less than 2500 cases (total, of ALL their wines) and it is juried, so there really is no bad stuff:

                    I also like Adelsheim's wines, nice stuff. Especially the single vineyard stuff they save for their wine club (which I used to be a member of).

                    I did a wine tour for back in '06. We went to: Adelsheim, Bergstrom, Penner-Ash, Cuneo, Carlton WS, and Scott Paul (Adelsheim, Bergstrom and Penner-Ash are very close together, as are Cuneo (which is now called Canas Feast, since Mr. Cuneo who was pushed out, finally won the legal right to use his own name to make wine again...yeah, I only wish I was kidding about that.), Carlton Winemakers Studio, and Scott Paul. I am not a fan of the Carlton Winemakers Studio (it's a co-op where folks all use the space and equipment but make wines with their own grapes under their own labels) overall, but I love Andrew Rich's dessert Gewurztraminer (delicious, complex, and not at all cloying), and Andrew Rich makes his wines there.

                    We have 6 recognized AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in the Willamette Valley wine appellation region: Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton District, Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Eola-AMity Hills District. Here's a place for some info and a map to help:

                    Other helpful websites for planning tours:


                    And, if you search, some of the AVAs have their own websites.

                    It is a lot of fun to taste here. Folks are not pretentious, and they always remember that great wine starts with growing great grapes...never a large jump from farm to wine, and it keeps folks humble. And it is a YOUNG wine country, so the wines, which are pretty great now, will only get better. We are so freaking lucky here, and I know it.

                    I would schedule 6 places - especially if you don't plan to drink everything they pour. I often skip whites and I toss what doesn't thrill me, so I can still easily drive after tasting at 6 places.

                    And I have had some very nice meals at the Painted Lady in Newberg:

                    Happy tasting and let us know where you go and what you taste!

                    If you can't get enough tasting in, and you don't have more time to spend in wine country, Oregon Wines on Broadway, in downtown Portland, is a great place to taste (they charge by the taste, glass and you can buy bottles to drink there or take away) and you can sit in one place!

                    But the prices are much better at Vinopolis if you want to buy bottles:

                    Painted Lady
                    201 S College St, Newberg, OR 97132

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: JillO

                      thank you JillO, this is helpful...

                      1. re: cleopatra999

                        And you should know that over Thanksgiving weekend in November (you just celebrated yours, so Happy Thanksgiving to ya, eh?! ;o) almost ALL the wineries around here (small, large, and in between) do open house events, even the ones without tasting rooms.

                        It's a zoo, but it is the way to get to all of those smaller places without having to make reservations.

                        Harvest is going on right now, Scott Paul posted on Facebook the other day that they're harvesting their Ribbon Ridge vines.

                        1. re: JillO

                          We will be there next weekend, that is so cool that it is harvest time, would love to see a bit of that happening!! Do smaller places prefer not to have visitors during this time?

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            Smaller and bigger places are not happy to have visitors during this time. Another reason to stick to an established tasting room.

                            1. re: SteveTimko

                              darn....are there any established tasting rooms that would offer tours during this time?

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                Honestly, pick where you want to go, then call and ask them if they might be able to give you a tour. Why visit a 'less than' winery just to see the harvest/crush? Some of them will agree to a tour, I am sure...just call and ask. Folks are friendly out here.

                                The details missing: Wineries with tasting rooms with set hours staff them with folks dedicated to the tasting room. Smaller places that taste by reservation-only have to spare someone from other work to pour/tour for you...and this is their busiest time.

                                Besides, if you are only going to get to 4-6 places, make 'em count for the wine!

                                1. re: JillO

                                  to clarify, are you disagreeing with the above post? Are the vineyards without an established tasting room welcome to visitors even in this busy time?

                                  1. re: cleopatra999

                                    Vineyards without tasting rooms might welcome visitors, you will know if you call and try to make a reservation! ;o)

                                    It is their busy time and at the smaller places, it's an "all hands on deck" situation, so you might find that they won't give you a reservation to taste. You have to call anyway to make the reservations at these places, so they will tell you then. Every place is different. If they can't pour for you, they won't make the reservation...and if you want to make reservations, best to do so a week ahead, if you can.

                                    Anne Amie just posted about their harvest at Rainbow Ridge earlier - having problems with the robins! Their current motto: "Eat a robin, save a bottle of Pinot!"

                                    You can follow along with a lot of places on Facebook or through blogs on their websites these days, interesting to see what's going on out there...

                                    1. re: JillO

                                      Thanks for all the recommendations. We ended up at the following places:
                                      Raptor Ridge (they were having a grand opening, including food & tours)
                                      Pennor Ash,
                                      Aramenta (which was surprisingly our favorite, especially when you factor in price)

                                      I look forward to heading back to Oregon for another vacation and more tasting!

                                      1. re: cleopatra999

                                        Made me look at Aramenta - they planted their vines in 2000, built the winery in 2002...pretty new.

                                        What did you like about them, and how did you find the other places you went?

                                        Yeah, prices are definitely creeping up there around here. I am on a mission to find the best I can for under $20 these days, and it is not really easy at all. I have taken a break from pinot and have been adoring Abacela's Tempranillo (which I can find on sale for less than $20 locally, it retails at around $20 normally)...but that is from the Southern OR AVA, outside of Roseburg, not from the Willamette Valley. Delicious if you can find it!

                                        1. re: JillO

                                          first, have to qualify, I like new world Pinot compared to Burgundian. Also, I really did like most of the Penner Ash, however they were just too pricey. I would not say that Aramenta was the absolute best of what we tasted, just the best at our price range. Their $45 Pinot was not as good as the Penner at the same level. We bought the Pinot Gris at Adelsheim, nothing at Bergstrom, the Rubeo at Penner, and 3 different bottles at Aramenta, the Claret, the Tillie Pinot and the 2007 pinot. We drank the 2007 pinot with the fresh salmon we bought at the farmers market. Their pinots (IMO) were well balanced, not too acidic, with fairly high fruit flavours and smooth tannins. If you go, I would love to see what you think.

                                          1. re: cleopatra999

                                            I admit, I do like the finesse of the Burgundian style, but I also like new world Pinot - well-made Pinot is good Pinot, whatever the style.

                                            How was the Claret at Aramenta?

                                            Yeah, I have to get my butt out there and do some tasting...I always think that it would be fun to do some of the Thanksgiving open houses, but I don't think I can deal with the's a zoo!

                                            Penner-Ash makes good wines, and they are lovely people. I had the pleasure of attending one of their wine dinners, and sat at a table with Ron Penner-Ash - I remember that their 2004 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was my favorite. And I have also met Lynn and Ron out and about around town here and there, so nice. It was one of the first things I covered for PFG, but here it is:

                                            But I hear ya about the prices...sigh. It's one of the reasons I cover so many of those events...I would love to buy those wines I love all the time, but at least I can tell others about them and they can buy them and support the vineyards and winemakers. And I get to taste them! ;o)

                                            1. re: JillO

                                              Lucky you!

                                              I was not really a huge fan of the claret, but my friend was, she bought it. I love bordeaux, it was a decent example but lacking something.

                                              the woman who owns the place did the tasting, she was a bit of a sour puss at first, but the more questions we asked the more she warmed up.

                                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                                Yeah, once they get that you really like wine and want to talk about it, it always gets better.

                                                Outside of the WIlamette Valley, there are lots of other varietals (like that Tempranillo and other Spanish varietals in Southern OR), and some nice blends from talented winemakers.

                                                Another really good local (but not Willamette Valley) wine I tasted recently came from Syncline, across the Columbia River in Washington. They are making a Southern Rhone inspired blend of that is nice, called Cuvee Elena, for around $35 (a local great discounter ( has the 2008 for $27 on special now...hmmm...;o).

                                                The 2007 was: 70% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre, 9% Carignan, and 2% Cinsault and Syrah

                                                The 2008 was: 48% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre,13% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5% Cinsault

                                                Come on back and do some more tasting, cleo! ;o)