Chapter 4: Visiting Oregon Wineries

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Are tastings formal events, and are they open to the general public?

It depends upon the occasion. If you are visiting a tasting during the winery’s normal business hours, come as you are – no special preparations or dress are required.

Wineries sometimes hold a special tasting event, such as during a hosted dinner at the winery, which may be a more formal event, and require advance reservations and tickets. During one of these events, you may have the opportunity to sample up to eight or more wines, learn how to pair each with cheeses and foods, learn the history and development behind each wine, and so forth. If a formal tasting event interests you, consider calling a few wineries and inquiring whether they will be hosting such an event in the near future.

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What should I do when visiting a winery’s tasting room?

It’s quite simple: walk into the tasting room, and you should be greeted by a member of the tasting room’s staff. They will introduce you to the winery, the different wines, the suggested order of tastings, and so forth.

The tasting room staff may hand you a sheet of paper noting the wines available for tasting. The sheet may show the wines’ vintage, varietal, appellation, alcohol strength, price, and tasting notes indicating the flavors and aromas to look for when sampling the wine.

You do not have to sample any wine. You can choose to sample only one wine, or you could try all of them. It’s your decision.

When tasting wines, you are not required to drink the entire sample. The winery will have a small bucket, in case you want to pour out the rest of the sample. In addition, tasters are encouraged to spit out the wine into the bucket. This prevents them from imbibing too much alcohol (those ounces add up fast!). Spitting allows tasters to sample wines throughout the day, without having their senses overpowered by the alcohol.

Wine drinkers are often nervous about their first visit to a winery. However, once they arrive, and notice other visitors around them, and are greeted by the tasting room staff, their fears are overcome with excitement about the fun ahead!

Remember to be mindful and respectful of the winery’s property and tasting room. If you have the chance to view some of the barrels, resist the temptation to touch them. Do, however, pick up the bottles, read their labels, and wander about the tasting room a bit. There are usually pictures, paintings, photographs, books, wine accessories, and other things to examine during your visit.

When you are at a tasting room, don’t be concerned about demonstrating your knowledge of the winery, its wines, or anything else. You, as with the other visitors present, are there to enjoy yourself, and learn about the wines in front of you. Oregon wineries are truly a fun place to visit. Give them a chance, and you’ll see for yourself why they are so special.

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Can I speak with the winemakers about their wines?

It depends upon a number of things: the size of the winery, the time of year, how busy is the tasting room, whether the winemaker is present or not.

For some of the smaller Oregon wineries, the winemakers both produce the wine, and run the tasting room. If you are at a tasting room, and would like to speak with the winemaker, it couldn’t hurt to ask. The winemaker may be on site. If the winemaker is not available for comment, however, just remember they are extremely busy all year round, producing the great wine you are tasting!

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What kinds of questions should I ask the winemaker or tasting room staff when talking with them about their wines?

Here are a few of the many questions you might consider asking when you arrive at a winery:

  • What kinds of varietals are grown at this winery?
  • What have been the best vintages?
  • What is the winery’s average yield of harvest grapes per acre?
  • Which wines are aged in barrels? How long are the wines aged before being bottled?
  • What is the winery’s volume of production?

After reading through this Web site, you should be able to come up with some of your own questions to ask. Approaching a winery’s staff with these kinds of questions is one way of demonstrating interest in the winery’s business, and not simply its wine.

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Are Oregon wineries open year-round?

It depends. Most of Oregon’s larger wineries are open year-round. Some of the medium-sized wineries close for certain days throughout the year. Many of the smaller wineries may be closed during December through January, for anywhere from a week to a month at a time.

If you are planning on visiting Oregon wineries, call ahead and make sure the winery will be open, and ready for your visit. There is nothing worse than taking a beautiful drive through Oregon’s countryside, only to arrive at a winery with no lights on.

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When I visit a winery, is it okay to purchase a single bottle? Can I purchase a “mixed case” of wines?

Most every winery allows you to purchase their wines in any quantity you desire. Most offer a discount if you purchase a half or full case of wine, and even allow that case to consist of any combination of their wine (called a “mixed case”).

For example, you could purchase a mixed case consisting of four bottles of Cabernet Merlot, two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, three bottles of Pinot Noir, and three bottles of Pinot Gris.

While you should not feel compelled to purchase any wine, doing so is a way of showing your thanks for the winery welcoming you in.

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What is a tasting room?

A tasting room is just what it sounds like. It is designed to host visitors, display the various wines for sale, and most importantly, allow visitors to sample some of the wines.

Depending on the size of the winery, the tasting room may be simply a room, or a small building. Depending on the winery’s location, the tasting room may be located on the winery’s property, or in a nearby city.

Tasting rooms typically feature a winery’s different wines, and may also have additional products, cheeses and foods, and other accessories.

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Do all Oregon wineries have tasting rooms?

No. While most Oregon wineries do have some sort of tasting room facility, others may be located off site, in part of a grocery store, in a separate town, or even across the state.

Some of Oregon’s smaller wineries have no tasting facilities, as their wines are direct distributed to local vendors. However, most of these wineries do have some form of tasting room representation, as in a wine bar, or may offer a special tasting during events throughout the year.

If you’re not sure whether an Oregon winery has a tasting room, view our Winery Directory. It will quickly show you which wineries have tasting facilities:

View the Oregon Wineries Directory

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