More than 140 Willamette valley wineries, cellars and tasting rooms open with special events and tastings in Oregon’s wine country on Thanksgiving weekend (November 29—December 1, 2019). This much-anticipated event occurs throughout the Willamette Valley, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Portland… and a world away in terms of country views and the wine country lifestyle.
Fall season in the Willamette Valley brings a quality of light and shadow that seems to make the gold color of the vinifera vines glow from within. It’s a time of great culinary excitement in the valley when mushrooms and Oregon truffles arise from their sleep at the feet of tall firs, and the 2019 wine grape juice is slowly fermenting in the tanks. It’s a season of change, of bundling up and preparing for winter.
But there is still time to explore Willamette Valley wine country with an educational wine experience at one of the oldest wineries in the region, arrange a night or two in a restored vintage trailer, and feast on a multi-course dinner featuring local mushrooms and truffles, or make the trip to enjoy this special Thanksgiving weekend. Visit here for open wineries and events.
The Wine Country
The Willamette Valley produces world-class Pinot Noir. It’s not as developed as California wine destinations, but has many wineries of varying production output that are still family-owned. The vibe is relaxed with a number of award-winning wines. Small country towns like Newberg, McMinnville, Dayton and Dundee still possess an unmistakable element of charm with a genuine level of hospitality.
On the same latitude as the Burgundy region of France, the entire valley is well known for their exquisite Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In terms of this large American Viticultural Area (AVA) of Willamette Valley, there are now seven specific AVAs contained in the northern part of the valley. The Pinot grown and produced in these varying geographic areas with different soil types, each have a distinctly unique character.
One standout is the elegant Pinot from the Chehalem Mountain AVA. This northern area, southwest of Portland is approximately 5 miles wide and 20 miles long, running northwest to southeast and includes several mountains and ridges, most notably the Ribbon Ridge. There are 70 thousand acres, and over 2,600 acres of vineyards in the area of Willamette Valley, and a visit is certainly worth your time to appreciate the fine wine produced here by over 53 wineries.
Adelsheim Vineyard and Winery
A great place to start is Adelsheim Vineyard and Winery, a LIVE certified sustainable winery, and one of the pioneers of planting and producing Pinot Noir in Oregon. In 1971, David and Ginny Adelsheim bought 19 acres of land near Newberg, Oregon. The area was dotted with small family farms planted with acres of hazelnuts, peaches, prunes, cherry and walnut trees, and farm fields surrounded by old growth fir trees. This acreage would become the first Chehalem Mountain winery in 1972, called simply, Adelsheim.
Many believed these vineyard pioneers were crazy to plant wine grapes in Oregon at that time. But they persisted. Establishing a new wine region was a daunting undertaking but the Oregon winemaker culture was a largely cooperative one, especially in the early days when tractors broke, machinery needed parts and some just needed a little help to get through. In many ways it remains the same today as the wine culture here is largely focused on cooperation, not competition.
Now celebrating 50 years, Adelsheim is one of the success stories. Today they focus on education to enhance the overall wine experience for their guests. Seasonal vineyard hikes, Wine 101 classes and guided pairings, or winery tastings each offer a chance for novice or experienced wine lovers to appreciate the vintages even more. Adelsheim is hosting a Thanksgiving Weekend Open House event with their exclusive sparkling wine, local provisions and live music. Visit their website to learn more and buy tickets…
Stay Local in a Retro Trailer Park
Speaking of vintages, The Vintages Trailer Resort, a retro trailer park with modern amenities offers 35 beautifully restored trailers in different styles and manufactures dating from 1947 to 1999. And it is simply a really fun place to stay. All trailers have heat and AC, refrigerators, WiFi and televisions; and they are suitable for one or two adults. Some are even pet friendly… and all are wine friendly. Located in Dayton, along Hwy 18, you will have all the comforts of home with a cute general store, cheerful management staff, laundry facility, pool, showers, doggie station, fireside area for s’mores and more.
The Short List of What to Do
Visit the Adelsheim Winery in Chehalem and take part in one of their wine education workshops; dine out at one of the area’s renowned restaurants; or take a bike ride or a leaf-peeping walk in the park. Explore the towns on foot. Cruise the backcountry roads. Do get lost. Savor the local bounty of mushrooms with dinner at Joel Palmer House in Dayton at one of their seasonal and decadent “Mushroom Madness” tasting menus. In the evening sit around the fire pit with a glass of wine paired with a freshly made pizza from Red Hills Market in Dundee while you watch the stars come out.
How to Get There
Fly into Portland, Oregon (PDX). Rent a car at the airport and take I-205 South to I-5 South. Travel down I-5 and exit at Donald. Drive the country road until you come to 219, and then turn right. This will take you to the Newburg-Dundee Bypass or Newberg-Chehalem area, where you can easily continue on to Dundee, Dayton and McMinnville. Travel time is anywhere from just over an hour to an hour and a half.