Oregon Wine Country in All Seasons
When is the best time to visit Oregon Wine Country? Each season brings something new: the golden vines of fall slowly fade into cozy tasting rooms during Cellar Season, while spring wildflowers eventually turn to summer concerts and picnics. Here's our guide to each season on the South Willamette Wine Trail, where you'll find urban tasting rooms in the heart of Eugene and valley vineyards all close by. Year-round, you can expect to walk in and find a spot at a tasting bar or quiet table with a winemaker eager to pour you a taste of Oregon's famous Pinot Noir.
Harvest & Autumn Season
September - NovemberPhoto by Brittany Rossman
Visit the wineries in early fall while the sun still warms the grape rows and the grape leaves are just starting to turn. Before the rains and frosts sweep in, workers are out in the vineyards picking. Grapes are sorted, crushed and shoveled into fermentation tanks. As barrels are rolled into the cellars, fewer tasting room visitors cluster around the counters. Fall is a special time to visit to see a lot of action taking place and if you are luckily you can catch the winemaker taking a break. New wines are tried and there is a feel of experimentation in the air. As the season passes into post-harvest and wetter days, the wineries are charmingly cozy and inviting. They dress up for the holidays with twinkle lights and wreaths. Choose the wines to grace your holiday table - something very special from Oregon!
December - FebruaryPhoto by Melanie Griffin
Winter is surprisingly one of the best times to visit the wineries. While tasting hours are more limited, the winemakers and vineyard owners are more often the ones to pour your tastes. The intimacy of Cellar Season is part of the allure. Cozy up to a roaring fire to toast marshmallows while sipping Pinot Noir, duck into a candle-lit cave to learn about the fermentation process and select your favorite bottles for your personal wine collection. You'll probably meet up with more serious wine aficionados during the slow period because they know that's when they can get one-on-one time with the winemakers. In fact, Cellar Season is a great time to learn about wine and get the inside scoop on what's fermenting and how different vintages are shaping up. It might be damp and mucky outside, but inside, warmed by wine and great conversation it is cozy and comfortable. Call ahead to confirm hours before heading out.
March - MayBrigadoon Wine Company in the Spring by Thomas Moser
Touring the countryside in spring offers delights beyond the light green flush across the vineyards. Daffodils and wildflowers are blooming along the roadsides and farm stands and markets are cropping up. Follow the South Willamette Valley Food Trail and discover lush green pastures with white fences and classic red barns. This is a great time to take a country drive with the children to see lambs, calves, ducklings and chicks. Combine wine tasting with small town museums and community mural tours. You'll see more cyclists on the roads now, so drive carefully, and roll down the windows for the fresh spring air. It is still a good idea to call ahead to confirm tasting room hours.
Summer Concert Season
June - AugustKing Estate Winery in Summer by Joni Kabana
Oregon Wine Country's summer season is a bustling, festive time of year. Wineries expand their tasting room days and hours, adding special evening events. Enjoy live music as you picnic on grassy lawns with kids tumbling about. Or cuddle up with your sweetheart for an outdoor movie. Food trucks roll up to the tasting rooms, pizza ovens are fired up and everyone is in a good mood as they soak up summer. There are many theme events at the wineries and the weekend buzz gives the winery tasting rooms an urban happy hour feel but with stunning valley views. Cyclists and runners plan rides and races from winery to winery. Combine wine tasting with touring historic covered bridges or visiting the many harvest farm stands and markets that flourish as summer days transition into fall.
Take a self-guided tour of regional wineries or book a guided wine tour experience with transportation. Year-round, there is always something special happening at Eugene's wineries.Top photo: Sweet Cheeks Winery by Melanie Griffin