The warm summer weather makes you want to get outside with a picnic and play in the great Oregon wine country. We are fortunate to have a lot of wine regions in the Portland area including the Willamette Valley, Chehalem mountains, and even in downtown Portland.
The urban wineries around Portland, Oregon source their grapes from around Oregon and Washington.
Oregon Wine Varietals
As there are over 100 wine varieties in the Oregon wine country, I won’t mention all of them. Let’s focus on the ones where you can visit a tasting room and enjoy the atmosphere. We’ll focus on the wine regions of Portland, Columbia Gorge and Willamette Valley. Although, let’s be honest, it is fun to say Walla Walla Valley. We’ll save that for another time. As I mentioned, many wineries will source their grapes from other regions, but the wine is fermented and bottled at the winery. Both bring that special flavor and essence called terroir.
The Willamette Valley has ten appellations including Chehalem Mountains, Tualatin Hills and Lower Long Tom. The valley is 150 miles long and is 60 miles wide. The long and gentle growing season is perfect for producing grapes that make amazing wines. At the more than 700 wineries, you will see single varietals and blends from the Pinot noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc and the classic Chardonnay. You will also get some of the sweeter wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer as well as the full-bodied reds Syrah and Gamay.
To the East, we have the Columbia Gorge region. The weather is more extreme and produces bolder wines. The grapes stay cooler due to the persistent winds. This leads to a higher acidity and structure in the wines. You will find Pinot noirs here as well. It can be fun to compare two similar bottles with friends and see how they compare.
Best Way to Pack A Picnic
When getting ready to pack your lunch, keep in mind that you will need to bring plates and utensils, water bottles and wipes, cutting boards and knives, and just about everything else you think you might need. You may need a corkscrew if you’re going to picnic away from a winery. But if you’re at a winery, they’ll be happy to open up the bottle you just purchased and provide glasses.
Of course, you can just bring along some good sandwiches. But don’t forget the napkins. You will need to think about bringing a cooler if you have items that need to be chilled. An example is potato salad. You don’t want that mayonnaise to be sitting around for too long.
Often people bring cheese and hard sausages along with some crusty bread or neutral crackers. It can be fun to nibble while you sip. Don’t forget to bring along some olives and nuts. Often people like to add in a sweet note like jams, berries, apples or pears.
If kids are coming along, make sure you have extra snacks to help stave off boredom. And bring water and a bowl if you bring your pup.
Many tasting rooms do have water available, but it’s best not to bring what you know you will need. And please remember to clean up after and pack out your garbage unless they have a garbage can available.
Planning a Wine Tasting
Some tasting rooms are connected to restaurants or offer appetizers. You will want to do some research as to what is available.
If you’re bringing your adventure pup, some wineries have outdoor seating where they’ll be welcome. You will also want to research if minors are allowed to come along. Usually, your spouse or partner is allowed to come along even if they’re not of legal drinking age yet.
Some wineries are situated so you can have a hike and then do your tasting and finish up with a picnic lunch with a favorite bottle of wine.
Most wineries with a tasting room will have good parking and accessible walkways.
If you’re bringing along kids and dogs, you will want to be sure you have things to keep them entertained while you’re tasting.
Tasting Room Manners
Many of these things may be obvious. It’s always good to review and ensure everyone in your party is on board.
First, if you choose a winery where you’ll have your lunch, please drink their wine. Don’t open up a bottle from another winery. When you buy the bottle, they’ll lend you some wine glasses. And if you chose a bottle of white wine, let them know you wish it to be chilled.
Try not to wear too much fragrance. It can affect the people around you preventing them from being able to truly experience the bouquet of the wine.
Be open-minded about trying the wines. You don’t have to finish the wine that was poured. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to taste and pour out so you don’t get too tipsy. Swallow what you want, especially if it’s one you really like. But if you’re visiting a bunch of wineries, pace yourself.
Cleanse your palate between wines. It’s as simple as drinking a little water and eating a cracker if they’re around.
It’s ok to ask whether there are any library or reserve wines above the advertised flight. Just don’t ask for “the good stuff.” Along with that, be open to listening even if you think you know everything about the wine. And do ask questions. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the background, the grapes, and the methods. It shows you’re interested.
Tipping is still in question. Some wineries feel that you’re already paying for the tasting flight, and they are a tasting room, not a bar. But if you feel you’ve had a great experience, it’s nice to let the server know. Or you could just buy a lot of wine. It’s up to you.
Have you gone wine tasting and discovered an amazing wine?