From harvest stops through the Valley to the South Willamette Wine scene along the Territorial Wine Trail, don’t miss fall colors popping in the Willamette Valley! Here are a few of our favorite recommendations for the season:
Take a Fall Hike:
Known as one of the easier loops to make, Sweet Creek Falls is a fantastic hike to hit during the Fall season. The Vine Maples that line the route to the coast from Eugene really stick out on this scenic tour and lead visitors through to a series of cascading waterfalls in the Siuslaw National Forest. Don’t miss other popular spots like Spencer Butte Trail, Delta Old Growth Nature Trail and more.
Find Culinary Delights this Season:
From autumn festivities at the Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm to the consistently creative Saturday Market, discover the Oregon Bounty with Fall flavors in the Willamette Valley. Local food thrives in communities like Eugene, so be sure to explore areas like the Whiteaker District where you’ll find culinary delicacies that fit any palate and diet.
Taste Willamette Valley Pinot:
Check out some of the region’s finest in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and more in the South Willamette Valley. Need help getting started? Play Pinot Bingo! This fun tour highlights wineries, popular pairing spots, and offers fun prizes for stamps along the way. Also check out the Eugene Ale Trail for Oktoberfest beers and more seasonal flavors.
It is hard to find a place as beautiful as Oregon’s Willamette Valley during grape harvest. Our warm summer contributed to a moderate growing season followed by another early harvest. While we love our rain it can be tricky when it comes during harvest; knowing when to pick the grapes for their optimal ripeness in that vintage is essential.
Grapes that are picked early can be more acidic and have less ripe fruit flavors. (Think of Granny Smith apples compared to ripe raspberries). Most winegrowers look for that perfect balance of acid to sugar ratios. When grapes are allowed to ripen fully they taste more luscious. Rain can interrupt this process.
In Oregon the weather can also vary dramatically from year to year between warm and cool vintages. Warm years tend to have more luscious fruit characteristics while cooler years have more structure and complexity of flavors and tend to age longer.
2016 is shaping up to be a good year for both quantity and quality of grapes in our region. Harvest began early for many wineries in August and will be likely wrapping up in late September or October. While a little rain won’t ruin the grapes, it can make it difficult for them to ripen properly and if there is too much rain then you run the risk of developing mold which can damage the grapes.
Most winegrowers and winemakers would agree that the best wines are made in the vineyards. The longer the grapes can ripen on the vine the better the quality of the wine. Many winemakers prefer to let the grapes express their natural fruit and terroir characteristics without too much manipulation of flavors during the winemaking process.
Depending on how hot it is during harvest some winemakers choose to pick grapes while it is still cool, often before daylight to preserve the flavors in the fruit. Once the grapes are picked, either by machine or by hand, they are brought to the production facility where they are sorted and pressed into wine. The skin stays in contact with the juice to impart flavor and color to the wine. Depending on how robust or delicate the finished wine will be, the skin contact time varies.
A load of Pinot Gris grapes for processing at Duck Pond Cellars
After separating the skins from the juice, the wine is placed in tanks or barrels to continue the aging process. Wine can be aged in stainless steel or other neutral (flavor) tanks or barrels. Oak barrels are used to impart flavors to the wine and are used in combination to achieve the perfect flavor balance.
Winemaking is part science, part art and a bit of magic. When you drink Oregon wine we hope you will experience the magic of our beautiful wine country.
Fall has arrived, and luckily it is one of the best times of year to visit Corvallis, OR. Corvallis’ beauty makes for a stunning backdrop as Oregon State University students rush off to new classes. And several festivals, shows and events for all ages keep locals and visitors busy throughout the fall season.
Don’t miss the 44thAnnual Corvallis Fall Festival on September 24-25 at beautiful Central Park, just off OSU’s campus. Find treasures at over 160 artisan and craft booths, while listening to live music and enjoying local food. Come be prepared to dance – Saturday evening features “Belly Full of Bob” a Bob Marley tribute band.
The last weekend in September and the first weekend in October Corvallis’ Majestic Theater will present “The Full Monty” the Broadway musical on Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees.
Not a planner? Trek out on a scenic drive and take in all the spectacular fall colors on your way to a local wineries for wine tasting. or one of our six local breweries, cideries or distilleries. Sip on fall inspired beverages while enjoying a wonderful hearty lunch or dinner. Corvallis Beer week, Sept 6-11th, features fantastic craft beer events and a huge variety of tastings and promotions including paired dinners, live music events, tap takeovers, and so much more.
The fertile soil of the Willamette Valley is world-renowned for its wine-growing capabilities. Those same many other wonderful products too, including a dazzling selection of flowers at the annual Dahlia Festival in Canby.
Swan Island Dahlias is the largest dahlia grower in the United States. The business has been producing beautiful flowers for more than 90 years, with the Gitts family owning it since 1963. In that time they’ve cultivated numerous new breeds of all colors, shapes and sizes.
The 40 acres are opened to the public each blooming season starting August 1, culminating in the annual Dahlia Festival which is the largest display put on by one grower anywhere in the country. This year’s festival is set for Aug. 27-29 and Sept. 3-5.
The festival features more than 400 floral arrangements of dahlias, another 15,000 cut blooms on display plus the 40 acres of colorful blooms all vying for your attention. Walk up and down the rows to take in the seemingly endless varieties and just try to choose a favorite – every time you think you’ve found it, another one will take its place.
As if the beautiful blooms weren’t enough, there’s plenty of activity going on as well. In addition to various demonstrations taking place each day, there’s wine tasting from St. Josef’s Winery, amazing BBQ from Canby staple Ebner’s Custom Meats plus other food and drink vendors. Come on an empty stomach, it’s worth it to sample all the deliciousness you’ll find here.
The festival also features live music from noon until 4 p.m. each day of the event. Always family friendly, the Dahlia Festival also has some fun kids’ activities like a balloon artist and face painting. Parking and festival admission are free, all you need to do is bring a camera and a love for beautiful flowers for a fun afternoon.
For the first time in more than 30 years, a total solar eclipse will move diagonally across the United States on August 21, 2017 — starting on the Oregon Coast and traveling directly through the Willamette Valley. Mid-Willamette Valley towns including McMinnville, Salem, Albany and Corvallis are located directly in the “path of totality,” and will go nearly or completely dark for almost two minutes, starting at 10:17 a.m. Salem and surrounding communities are gearing up by planning viewing parties and events that will make this rare celestial event even more memorable. Start making plans now to be in the Willamette Valley for the Great American Solar Eclipse 2017!
You don’t want to miss it — the next U.S. solar eclipse isn’t until 2024!
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
Total solar eclipses occur when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow (the umbra) on Earth. “If you’re in the path (of totality), you will see one of the most phenomenal sights that human eyes can convey to the brain,” notes Dan McGlune, a veteran of 12 solar eclipses.
“People travel to remote deserts, jungles and islands just to be in the path of a total eclipse. So walk, run, fly, drive, or cycle to into the path on eclipse day. You will not regret it!” adds McGlune.
Eclipse Events & Viewing Parties Arcane Cellars, located on the banks of the Willamette River in Salem, is offering a special eclipse package that includes camping, live music, food, wine and a talk led by an astronomy expert. Wine lovers can also view totality among the vines during a special event being held at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner.
OMSI (The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) invites guests for a viewing party to be held at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, while The Oregon Garden will be one of the key sites in historic Silverton to host a viewing within its 80-acre botanical garden. Visitors can even experience the eclipse from the very top of the Oregon State Capitol building during an exclusive tower tour.
More eclipse-related events are expected to be added in the coming months. Check Travel Salem’s eclipse page for updates.
Visitors are encouraged to make lodging arrangements soon as space is expected to fill quickly. Whether you’re interested in a hotel, campground, RV park or Bed and Breakfast, there are a number of options in the Mid-Willamette Valley. Book your hotel room now or check out RV parks and campgrounds in or near Salem.
For more information about eclipse-related events or lodging in the Salem area, go to www.TravelSalem.com.
When the summer sun offers longer and warmer days, it’s time to explore all that Oregon’s Wine Country has to offer. Venture through Willamette Valley’s world-class wine region this summer, and you’ll find outdoor gems and agricultural bounty wherever you travel. Try two new wine and garden tours in the Salem area, or venture south and you’re bound to run into one of the valley’s famous summer festivals. Read on and find all the ways you can enjoy Oregon’s Wine Country all summer long.
Experience Salem’s world-class wine region, outdoor gems and agricultural bounty via two new tours. Starting this summer, visitors can hop aboard one of Grayline’s park coaches and head off for an unforgettable experience in Mid-Willamette Valley wine country!
The Wineries of the Valley Tour includes a visit and tasting flight at three wineries in Salem area. During the 5-hour tour a guide will provide narration and a no-host lunch stop at Willamette Valley Vineyards. Learn More.
The Silver Falls & The Oregon Garden Tour makes stops at E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, The Oregon Garden, and Silver Falls State Park. This five-hour tour also includes a no-host lunch stop at historic Silver Falls Lodge. Learn More.
Mount Hood’s Magical Soils Give Life to Dazzling Dahlias
The fertile soil of the Willamette Valley is world-renowned for its wine-growing capabilities, but it’s also home to many other wonderful products too, including a dazzling dahlias.
Forty-acres of dalhias are open to the public each blooming season starting August 1, 2016. And you won’t want to miss the largest display put on by one grower anywhere in the country, the Annual Dahlia Festival on Aug. 27-29 and Sept. 3-5, 2016.
Need a fresh take on tasting this summer? Grab a passport and play Pinot Bingo at Eugene area wineries and explore the flavors of the Southern Willamette Valley.
Check out all the urban wineries that offer a unique twist on the delicious Pinot the Willamette Valley is known for. And when you’re ready to see the countryside, head to the Territorial Wine Trail that 17 Southern Willamette wineries call home.
Learn more about Pinot Bingo, including where to score your passport and prizes.
Summertime at The Thyme Garden
If you haven’t already, take a day this summer to visit The Thyme Garden, an 80-acre family-owned farm, specializing in collecting new and unusual varieties of herbs and displaying them for all to see and enjoy.
Luncheons are available and include a walking tour of the property and a visit to the onsite stream restoration project that aims to help threatened Coho Salmon.
Come on a weekend and enjoy a picnic lunch in the garden followed by an afternoon spent on the walking the paths and taking in the 92-bed display garden.
Celebration Lavender and Art at the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival
Newberg, OR will be filled with scents of lavender July 9 – 10, 2016 when growers from all over Oregon come together to celebrate the sweet-smelling plant and all its benefits.
Join in as local businesses offer lavender-themed products ranging from soaps to accessories. Try lavender beer or wine as you enjoy the live music by an exciting lineup of artists. Plus, plan a visit to a local lavender farm to see their process up close and personal.
When the sun offers longer (and warmer) days, it’s time to explore the South Willamette Valley. Sip a little different this summer with Pinot Bingo. Modeled after the successful Eugene Ale Trail passport, Pinot Bingo offers an opportunity to explore the flavors of the valley with fun prizes around every corner. Grab a passport and let’s get started!
Only have an hour to spare? Check out Urban Wineries like Noble Estate Vineyard, J. Scott Cellars, Oregon Wine Lab and Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company. With locations dotted across Eugene’s downtown area out to the Westside Warehouse District, each Urban Winery offers a unique twist on the delicious Pinot the Willamette Valley is known for, and many will surprise with delicious varietals one might not expect to find in the South Willamette Valley.
Getting hungry? Don’t miss out on stops along the way that earn “pairings” stamps at participating restaurants, brew pubs and other tasty locations.
When you’re ready to see the countryside head to the Territorial Wine Trail that 17 Southern Willamette wineries call home. From the gorgeous Chateau Lorane that anchors the south end of the trail, to the beautifully wide open Benton-Lane Winery to the north, you’ll find delicate Pinot Noir, crisp Rose and everything in between while gathering stamps for Pinot Bingo prizes.
When you score a BINGO bring your passport to the Adventure Center in Springfield to claim your prize. The adventure specialists are always ready to help plan your next excursion.
Newberg, OR will be filled with the lovely scent of lavender July 9 – 10, 2016 when growers from all over Oregon come together to celebrate the sweet-smelling plant and all its benefits.
Hosted at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg OR, families and community members will enjoy free admission to the festival as they wander through several vendor and sponsor booths. Local businesses will offer lavender-themed products ranging from soaps to accessories for your perusal, and visitors can also enjoy the Plein Air Art Show. Local artists will showcase their talents in a number of mediums for juried art booths. Participation is welcomed too! Visitors will also be able to try their hand at lavender-infused crafts projects while enjoying food and drink from local lavender farms.
Be sure to try the lavender beer or wine as you enjoy the live music, which will be provided by an exciting lineup of artists. You can even set up a visit to a local lavender farm to see their process up close and personal.
The Willamette Valley Lavender festival is generously sponsored by Art Elements and Coldwell Banker. Art Elements has several galleries showing local artists in and around the Willamette Valley and Coldwell Banker has been serving the local community for the past thirty years. Because of these sponsors and the hard work of volunteers, proceeds for the festival will benefit several charitable organizations.
Find the festival on July 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on July 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.
Starting this summer, visitors can hop aboard one of Grayline’s park coaches – comfortable buses fashioned after the “white jammers” that operated in national parks in the 1930s – and head off for an unforgettable experience in Mid-Willamette Valley wine country!
Wineries of the Valley Tour
The “Wineries of the Valley Tour” includes a visit and tasting flight at three wineries in Salem area. The tour begins with a stop at Cubanisimo Vineyards, Salem’s award-winning, Cuban-inspired winery and vineyards. Next, it’s off to Left Coast Cellars – a 300-acre vineyard featuring entirely estate-grown wines. The final stop is Willamette Valley Vineyards, whose recently redesigned tasting room received a “People’s Choice” award from the Oregon Chapter of the International Interior Design Association. A trained driver guide will provide narration en route to each winery. The tour will last approximately five hours and includes a no-host lunch stop at Willamette Valley Vineyards. Tours will run every Saturday from June 11 through October 15, 2016.
Silver Falls & The Oregon Garden Tour
The “Silver Falls & The Oregon Garden Tour,” which kicks off on Sunday, June 12, begins with a visit to E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, where visitors can enjoy freshly made baked goods, hard cider and more while they enjoy exploring the farm store. The next stop is The Oregon Garden, which features 80 acres of plantings and 20 specialty gardens. From The Oregon Garden, visitors will enjoy a drive through historic Silverton and a stop at Silver Falls State Park – considered the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system with its 10 cascading waterfalls. This approximately five-hour tour includes a no-host lunch stop at historic Silver Falls Lodge and is offered every Sunday through October 16, 2016.
This spot is part of our Places to Sip Between the Wonders Road Trip. To view the full itinerary, click here.
Jason Lett had what you might call an early start in the winemaking business. Growing up on The Eyrie Vineyards in Dundee as the son of David Lett — one of Oregon’s wine pioneers — Lett started helping out at age three. “It is my earliest memory of feeling useful. I don’t know how helpful I actually was, but I felt useful,” he said with a laugh.
That early training stuck. Though his path took him to college, a career and other adventures — like starting his own winery —Lett eventually returned to The Eyrie, where he carries on a family legacy of pushing boundaries in winemaking.
David and Diana Lett planted the Willamette Valley’s first Pinot noir vines in 1965, convinced that Oregon had the right climate for excellent winemaking. Their hunch paid off in 1979 and 1980 when The Eyrie wines competed against French burgundies in Paris and Beaune — and won. “That was a watershed moment,” Lett said.
The Eyrie’s accomplishment signaled the world that Oregon was ripe for wine production. Soon, French wine makers were exploring the region and moving to the state to start their own ventures. “We have gotten some very good neighbors in the process,” Lett said.
Lett said the winery, like many family businesses, was akin to having another sibling. Though he enjoyed working with this dad, the long hot days made college seem like a good idea. He pursued a degree in botany and started a career. In 1997, he returned to The Eyrie to help with the harvest. “And I realized, ‘Oh my god, this is botany!’” However, The Eyrie was too small a kitchen for two cooks. He started his own winery—BlackCap — in 2002. In 2005, his father offered him his present job as winemaker and vineyard manager. “Dad stayed on as spiritual heart and technical consultant,” Lett said. David Lett passed away in 2008.
Today The Eyrie Vineyards comprise 118 acres, 60 of which are planted with grapes and 12 with hazelnut trees. The rest is pasture and forest. The company produces about 9,000 cases of wine annually. That’s more than half a million glasses, which sounds like a lot, but is roughly half of the output for an average Willamette Valley winery. Staying small is intentional, Lett said. “It is important to us that there is a single guiding philosophy behind the wine, and that is easier to achieve when there is one person overseeing the details.”
With vineyards in Dundee and a winery in McMinnville, The Eyrie’s production is now half Pinot gris (it produced America’s first) and half a mix of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and more obscure varieties like Pinot blanc, Muscat, Ottenel and Pinot meunier. Lett recently planted a new variety for Oregon — Trousseau, a red wine from the Jura region of France. “It is very refreshing and spicy,” he said.
Those with a taste for history (and Pinot) will be interested to know that The Eyrie is re-releasing library wines, including some of the 1975 South Block Reserve that first captured the world’s attention in France.
As for how Lett carries on The Eyrie legacy, Lett said, “I don’t think there is any one way to encapsulate that. The best way to experience it is by tasting our wines.”
See Oregon Wine Country through Jason Lett’s eyes: