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Don Ryan/AP
Willamette Valley, Dundee, Oregon.

Wine Getaway: Oregon Wine Country

June 17, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
A trip to Oregon Wine Country in the Willamette Valley is a worthwhile excursion for any traveler. The area’s winding roads take you through culturally rich small towns where you’ll find covered bridges, farmer’s markets and vineyards galore.

The Willamette Valley

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Once the warm weather arrives, the Willamette Valley brims with signs of growth: fresh produce at roadside stands, cyclists enjoying the “flat terrain and temperate climate,” and residents taking in the culture and energy of college towns like Corvallis and Eugene, according to Travel Oregon. The Willamette Valley is officially known as Oregon Wine Country, boasting more than 200 wineries that produce “a medley of vintages—Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Riesling,” among others.

Mapping Your Journey

If you’re new to Oregon varieties of wine, have a look at the wine reviews on OregonWines.com. Each review covers the basics, such as type of grape and alcohol content, as well as taste, aroma and pairing suggestions.

Once you’re familiar with the wines, head to The Oregon Wine Explorer for a map of the state’s wineries. Using the search function on the left, select a location, wine variety and winery features (“tasting room” or “picnic area,” for example) to discover which vineyards to add to your itinerary. Stick to the Willamette Valley, or veer off into other areas of the state.

Beyond Wine

Fortunately, the Willamette Valley has all the comforts of home. Learn which cozy bed and breakfast inn has the best views of wine country, and which winery also has an on-site gallery in Sunset Magazine’s feature article on the region. The article also touches on Cana’s Feast Winery, which has a restaurant serving dishes made with ingredients from the winery’s own garden.

Driving Tour

Travel Oregon suggests a 37-mile, three-day Wineries Driving Tour of the Southern Willamette Valley. Although the “Best Time to Drive” is in the fall, particularly during Oregon Bounty events in October and November, the summertime has its own special charms and may be less crowded with visitors seeking discounts. The tour includes 16 wineries in the Southern Willamette Valley surrounding the bike-loving college town of Eugene.

If you’d also like to tackle the North Willamette Valley, head to the site of the North Willamette Vintners. The members section is helpful, offering links to wineries with contact information and hours of operation, as well as a small map that provides a basic understanding of the layout of the trail. Unfortunately the site’s trip planner tool isn’t working yet.

Biking Through Oregon Wine Country

There are two ways to peddle the region: on your own, or with a tour company, which can be expensive but perhaps worthwhile if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain.

Wild Heart Cycling leads tours of the Willamette Valley that travel “through some of the Valley’s most beautiful farming country while experiencing the region’s artisan wines and fine food.” Tours last for four days and cover nearly 150 miles.

If you’re thinking of going it alone, read The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler’s account of his exploits cycling in Oregon Wine Country.
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