Plan Your Trip to Oregon Wine Country

Willamette Valley Wine Tasting

The Willamette Valley has wineries open all year long and every day of the week and they pour great wine, even when we have Oregon’s famous “liquid sunshine”. The Willamette Valley specializes in the finicky Pinot Noir, but we don’t stop there. Pinot Gris and Chardonnay (no, not California-style, Burgundian-style, so try it!) top our white wine production, but Riesling, mostly dry rather than sweet, is out there too. There’s a growing production of sparkling wine in the Valley, and enough dessert wine makers out there to keep Kristin and guests at our award winning Oregon B&B, very happy. Bigger reds like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot don’t typically grow well here because of our night-time cooling winds, but there are folks in the Valley making wine from grapes grown in Southern Oregon or Eastern Washington. With more than 400 wineries within an hour’s drive of the B&B, we don’t have a single favorite. We enjoy learning what each guest is looking for in their wine tasting experience, and then pairing them up with some great wineries.

Wine Tasting

We hope you are looking forward to your upcoming adventures to Chehalem Ridge B&B and Oregon Wine Country. If your visit includes going wine tasting, we’d like to let you know that things have changed a bit from past years. Instead of tasting at the wine bar, most wineries will have guests seated at tables and require reservations for tastings.  Making winery reservations can be a daunting task as there are more than 600 wineries in the Willamette Valley. We’ve included many of our favorite wineries below to help you decide where to visit, but if you’d like us to do the heavy lifting of scheduling, please see our Winery Itinerary Service

Row of Pinot Noir grapes prior to harvest in the Willamette valley of Oregon

The ABCs of wine tasting

Perhaps you are a seasoned wine taster, but maybe not. Here are some of our suggestions for having a great experience no matter if you are an old hat or a newbie. Here in Oregon, we’re not fussy about how you do things.

  • Leave the extra odors in the bottle. Your sense of smell is the most important sense for processing taste. We want you to smell and taste the wine, not the perfume, cologne or scented hand lotion.
  • The folks pouring wine love to help you learn whatever you want to learn, so feel free to ask lots of questions, or none at all.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to find the “right words” to describe what you are tasting. That’s ok. You describe it how you taste it, there’s no wrong way. I find it helpful, when I’m wrapping up at one tasting room, to say, “hey, of all your wines, I really preferred this one most, can you point me to another winery who is doing similar wines?” They are very helpful in referring you (like Netflix’s algorithms but with real people and wine!).
  • Generally, a winery has one tasting flight available. That’s 1 ounce pours of 4-6 wines. Sometimes the winery will have two choices of flights that you can choose from, say, if you like whites more than reds. Each winery has a different way of deciding what they are pouring. Sometimes they pour all one year, of different vineyards and vineyard blends; that is called a Horizontal.  Sometimes they pour different years from one area; that is called a Vertical. A lot of times, it’s some of each. You’ll have a variety of wines to try. The folks pouring for you love to teach you about how the wine was made and can certainly talk to you about what you might pair with it foodwise.
  • Ask for a dump bucket and use it.  Dump buckets are good for when a wine isn’t totally your thing or if you just want to make sure you stay sober.  As wineries have moved to seated tastings rather than at-the-bar tastings, the dump buckets are often not on the table, but a quick ask will get you one to use.
  • Stay sober. There is a thing called Palate Fatigue where you don’t notice the nuances in wine after a lot of tasting. Curiously, we notice a “Wallet Loosening Syndrome” that often accompanies Palate Fatigue. When you buy a case of wine, we want to make sure you actually love it so avoid both Palate Fatigue and Wallet Loosening Syndrome by staying sober.

Some tips to help you safely wine-taste:

  1. Make each tasting experience longer by setting up appointments where you have time and opportunity to really get to know the wine, the winery, the vineyards and maybe the winemaker.
  2. Spread out your tastings with lunch, a walk in a park. Some wineries allow picnic lunches on site and some allow walking through their property. Ask us for current opportunities for both. BTW, we know our breakfasts are generous and you may think you don’t need lunch but here’s our answer to that: Layer! You have to layer your wine with food, even a light lunch, to combat the effects of wine.
  3. Sip, Taste, Dump or Spit. Sharing a tasting is an option to reduce intake (and save a bit on tasting fees).  You are also welcome to take a small sip and dump the rest. Or, you can sip, swish, taste and spit the remainder into a cup. Wineries are accustomed to this and will provide you with a spit cup when asked. The professionals do this all the time, so don’t feel awkward!
  4. Hiring a wine tour guide is another good way to learn about our wine region, but also keeps you from driving while drinking. Touring companies are a fun, safe and educational way to experience the Willamette Valley. Contact us for our recommendations.

Chehalem Ridge Guests

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