There is always time for wine!
When someone mentions visiting a winery, I usually think of Europe. Having lived in Spain for four years, I have visited many bodegas and wineries; however, I did not know how extensive the growers in southern Oregon and Washington state have become. The first commercial planting of fine wine grapes in the Umpqua Valley was in 1961. Due to the convergence of three mountain ranges, the region offers a variety of sub-climates to produce a wide range of grape varieties. I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but am always willing to learn a new skill. So equipped with my new iPhone app Vivino, Curtis and I headed out to explore. The boys decided they were very happy to stay at the campsite to fish and explore the neighboring park.
Tip: The wineries are spread out over a large valley bisecting with multiple rivers. There is no direct route, so instead we just meandered. I suggest that you pick an area and plan your route. We found some of the wineries were not open.
Our first stop was Henry Estate Winery, which set the standard by which all others were measured. The tasting room and gift shop is surrounded by a beautiful garden that was in full bloom when we were there. We were immediately greeted by a family member. We explained that we were new to this experience and needed guidance. She explained the process of sampling different wines, where to pour out the ones we didn’t care for and how to pace ourselves. Curtis and I are fairly lightweights when it comes to alcohol consumption. All of the wine samples throughout the valley were free.
Our host was very delightful and shared family stories and educated us on the different types of wine. Curtis and I have very different taste in wines, so we decided to divide and conquer. I tried all of the white wines and Curtis tried the reds. Our host allowed me to take pictures of all of the wine bottles using my new app so I could review them as we sampled. I highly recommend the 2013 Veraison, Muller Thurgau and 2012 White Riesling. You can find Henry Estate wines in Costco and Safeway in the Northwest. Thank goodness, because I have already drunk the bottles I bought.
Tips: All of the wine samples were free and most places offered a small snack to accompany the wine.
Our next stop was Reustle Prayer Rock Winery by far the prettiest place to hang out and enjoy a glass of wine. The winery is set on top of a hill with a pond and amphitheater for concerts. Curtis and I spent 30 minutes walking the grounds before sitting down to enjoy the view and a glass of wine. Reustle Prayer Rock only had two types of wines for us to try, but served them with artisan pizza samples that were delicious. We decided to order a pizza while we planned the rest of our afternoon. Curtis bought a bottle of 2012 Tempranillo to remember our visit.
Our third stop was Becker Winery, a small winery founded by Charlie and Peggy Becker. We were greeted by the owner Peggy and her faithful dog Mueller, a Newfoundland/St. Barnard mix, and welcomed to sample a variety of wines. Charlie and Peggy have accomplished all of the work around the winery by themselves, including building the tasting room. We tried their Cabernet Sauvignon, Muller Thurgau and Pinot Noir. They were out of their Dog Drool wine, which sounded very interesting.
Tip: Pacing is the key to enjoying multiple wineries. I recommend only taking small sips and snacking along the way.
Glaser Winery and Distillery was our fourth stop of the day. Located on the river, Glaser Winery is the perfect place to bring a picnic and sit on the large back porch with a glass of wine. We met with Leon Glaser who shared his passion for creating unique blends of wines, liquors and liqueurs. The site is filled with wind chimes and yard art creating a charming and welcoming place to rest and relax. We tried a number of their wines, but settled on two bottles of Limoncello and Coffee Liqueur that won the Washington Cup in 2013.
Our fifth and final stop was TesoAria Winery. We were smart and planned our last stop close to the RV Park. TesoAria offered the biggest selection of wines to sample. When I said I would not be able to sample all 16 bottles, our hostess said that I needed to make it to Bull’s Blood so that I could hear the legend. Not one to pass up a good story, I persevered… at least until halfway through the line up to the bottle of Bull’s Blood. If you visit, stay for the story…the story is worth hearing!
Tip: At each winery have your map/wine passport stamped to earn a free gift after 5 wineries. Each winery offers a unique gift. At TesoAria we received a black and white photo perfect for framing.
Curtis and I returned to the RV Park relaxed with a few bottles of wine to remind us of our day out. In the 16 years since we had our first son we have rarely taken the day to spend together…just the two of us. As we get ready to send the first one off to university next year, I think we will plan on making time for just the two of us a priority.