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A Guide to Wine Tasting in Oregon

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

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The state has nearly a thousand wineries, and choosing the one that represents the best wine tasting in Oregon is overwhelming.

You can start by dividing the state by winegrowing regions, called micro-climates and the plentiful Jory soil. Each area grows a variety of grape that fits the terroir.

To taste the fine wines of Oregon, you can start within Portland proper and continue with Mount Hood territory, Umpqua Valley, and the Upper Rogue.

Oregon grapes vary from region to region, but the flagship grape is Pinot Noir, representing 59 percent of Oregon planted acres. The rest include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and many more.

Some say there are at least 100 varieties of grapes grown in Oregon, like Pino Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Tempranillo, and sparkling wines.

Where to go For Wine Tasting in Oregon

1. Winter’s Hill

rows grape wines

You’ll find family-owned Winter’s Hill estate-grown wine tucked away in the Dundee Hills. Make an appointment for exclusive tastings under the covered patio with stunning Oregon Coast Mountain Range views.

Established in 1961, the Gladharts owned and farmed their estate for three generations. Along with their employees, they manage the vineyards, forests, and fields for the long-term benefit of the family and community.

Dress warmly for your visit to the Tasting Room and farm. Seating is outside, and it gets chilly, especially when the wind blows. Some days are warm, so consider bringing a picnic, dogs, and children.

Each wine flight is $30.00 but waived with a $100 purchase of wine or joining the Cellar Door Club.

The Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Reserve are delightful wines that pair well with salmon, BBQ ribs, and chicken parmesan.

Try the 2021 Rose of Pinot Noir made with 100 percent Pinot Noir from the estate. While pouring, you’ll smell strawberries, watermelon, and cotton candy. The taste brings gentle tannins and a refreshing finish.

The 2020 Chardonnay seems muted on the nose but will open up in time. The aromas fill the glass with yellow apple, stone fruit, and candied pineapple.

2. Domaine Divio

vivid purple wine grapes

Burgundy native winemaker and owner Bruno Corneaux came to Willamette Valley to lay down the tracks for making Burgundy-style wine in the area. Here, the spirit of Oregon and French tradition drive the dream of Domaine Divio winery, with Divio meaning “sacred fountain.”

Corneaux produces refined, silky, old-world character wines in a new world environment. He operates with the philosophy of making minimal interventions in the process while respecting the land through biodynamic and sustainable farming practices.

Top wine publications have recognized the winery, with the wines and tasting receiving favorable reviews.

The Tasting Room at Ribbon Ridge AVA in Newberg requires reservations in advance, open daily for indoor and outdoor tastings based on weather. Private tasting for intimate seating includes food pairing and requires booking in advance.

Let your palate try the 2020 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, a deep red with uplifting aromas of cola, cranberries, plums, violets, and roses. The wine shares a juicy cherry character as you sip, including a delicious mid-palate of rich boysenberry and red fruits.

Other notable wines to try are Chardonnay, Pinot Beurot, and Passetoutgrain. Passetoutgrain is an ancestral Burgundy blend of two-thirds Gamay and one-third Pinot Noir.

Enjoy the dark ruby color that offers a complex nose of earth and fruit. The palate presents juicy cherries, raspberries, spiced plums, and strawberries. It has a smooth finish of savory notes, dark chocolate, and orange zest.

3. Bells Up Winery

This little gem, Bells Up Winery, specializes in small-batch wines because of a state where the climate, soil, and elevation are ideal for growing most wines.

Settled n the side of the Chehalem Mountains, stop by this micro-boutique winery. Owners Dave and Sara Pearson Specter produce only 500 cases a year.

The 9-acre vineyard grows five different grapes: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Seyval Blanc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery only offers private tastings by appointment.

Dave and Sara feel this is the best way to get to know everyone who visits their winery. Tastings are personal, not double-booked, and you’ll build a lasting relationship.

Their Pinot Noir wines will please your taste buds. For example, the 2019 Candide has a surprising nose, including blackberry, other black fruit, molasses, birch bark, forest floor, fresh earth, and salinity. It’s a balanced and complete red wine with a long finish with tapering acidity.

The Titan, a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, is elegant and gentle, delivering cinnamon, star anise, and caramel nose. You’ll enjoy the medium-long finish with similar tannins and balanced acids. Its palate offers notes of cherry, homemade cranberry sauce, bay leaf, and orange zest.

4. Lemelson Vineyards

bottle sparkling wine

Owner and environmentalist Eric Lemelson established his gravity-flow winery to please wine lovers and attain the long-life beauty and pristine surroundings. Lemelson Vineyards produces award-winning estate wines that are certified organic.

Here, you can take in the sunshine, charm, and rustic tables on the patio or stroll through the mighty evergreens, finding a perfect picnic spot.

Wine tastings are daily, from 11 AM to 4 PM. They encourage reservations, though walk-ins are acceptable.

The vineyard offers club-exclusive wine and other wines for the public. The 2019 Meyer Vineyard Black Label Pinot Noir is an exclusive wine that stands out.

Your palate will appreciate the fruity expression and intense aromas of dark chocolate, cedar, mocha, sandalwood, and graham cracker from a single vineyard. But doubt drink it right away. Thanks to being a powerhouse, it improves with age over the next ten years.

Another Pinot Noir to consider is 2019 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir, a house cuvee from all seven of their organic estate vineyards.

The nose comprises blueberry, blackberry, spice notes of black tea, and licorice, including cinnamon and graham cracker. The finish is robust and long, with chocolate lingering on your palate.

5. Daisy Creek Vineyards

wine yard south salem oregon

In climate-friendly Jacksonville, Daisy Creek Vineyards is an ideal escape to relax and sit back, sipping their award-winning wines. Enjoy the charming, rustic-barn winery, where you can breathe the fresh, country air on their patio.

Eight different grape varieties grow on the 23-acre vineyard. Similar in latitude to the Rhone Valley of Southeastern France, the estate exhibits a median number of days where the temperatures fall within optimum growing conditions for Syrah and Viognier grapes.

The Tasting Room opens from May through October, Thursdays through Sundays. Hours are from 1 PM to 5 PM on Thursdays and 1 PM to 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, with Sundays from 12 PM to 5 PM.

The vineyard hosts events from BBQs on Fridays to Food Carts on Saturdays to Pizza on Sundays, including live music. They also offer space for weddings and other private events.

Ask about 2019 Bone Fete Rouge, Margaret’s limited edition, as a unique red blend. Or try the 2018 Petit Verdot, a smooth and pure balance as a deep red and silver medal winner.

Another silver medal winner is the 2018 Viognier, with aromas of honeysuckle, peach, and a hint of ginger – sounds refreshing.

6. Hanson Vineyards

Hanson Vineyards is a perfect place to visit when moving along the Cascade Foothills wine trail. The small, family-owned winery makes all their wines from the grapes they grow, eleven different grapes.

They adhere to sustainable and low-input farming principles. Bring a picnic and enjoy the patio when the weather is warm and sunny.

Chat with the family in the Tasting Room with Clark or Jason behind the bar. Open Noon to 5 PM on weekends, including Mondays on Federal Holidays. Weekdays are by appointment only as is January through February.

You’ll enjoy the artisan wines since the winery pours two cuvees of Pinot Noir. According to Jason, the winemaker, these wines change dramatically yearly.

Consider trying the 2014 Gamay a full-bodied red, refreshing with juicy fruits, or the 2018 Black Grange which has the darkest purple you’ll ever see with a light and springy palate.

Interestingly, Hanson’s winemaking practice means not adding a bunch of “stuff” to their wine. Just a direct, simple, unadulterated expression of their soil and weather that mother nature provides.

7. Benza Vineyards

bunches pinot noir wine grapes

Come by and stay a while, enjoying the 15-acre patch of paradise, 35 minutes from Portland. In Willamette Valley, Benza Vineyards focuses on cultivating and producing the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

Sit and sip wine on the pristine and spacious patio while relishing the rolling green hills. You will marvel at the flawlessly planted vineyard surrounded by the mighty evergreens.

Indoor seating is in their Stables Tasting Room, heated and out of the elements, three areas spaced well apart. Outdoor seating on cooler days is relaxing with heaters and weather curtains. Ask for a blanket if you need extra warmth.

Hours are 11 AM to 3:30 PM Thursday through Sunday, with appointments strongly suggested.

Savor the 2017 Estate Pinot Noir, a blend of four Pinot Noir clones aged in new and neutral French oak, coaxing each grape’s contribution. It’s a bold color with spicy flavors, something your palate will appreciate.

A summer favorite is Brut Rose, a sparkler that delights your senses. Two Pinot Noir clones, Dijon 115 and Wadenswil, made this refreshing bubbly with a finish of strawberries and cream. It goes well with summer foods.

Settled in Chehalem Mountains at the valley’s upper end, the winery practices organic farming, keeping the surrounding environmental beauty in balance. That way, you can experience life’s pleasures with wine, nature, and happy moments.

Further Reading

About The Author

Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca has been a blogger for over 5 years, before that enjoying a number of jobs to fund her passion for travel. She's taught English as a foreign language, a part-time Barista, a waitress, and a tour guide.

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