Wine tasting may not be the first thing you think of during Thanksgiving, but local wineries offer a chance to get out of the house and away from the routine.
Over the past several years, local wineries have opened their tasting rooms over holiday weekends, including Thanksgiving, Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Fall is a great time to visit because it’s cooler, harvest is done for the year and many wineries debut new vintages.
They also offer a number of events — some free — to entice visitors.
With more than 100 wineries in the southern Willamette Valley, you’re sure to find something to your liking. Here are a few ideas in the Lane County area.
Iris Vineyards on Territorial Highway in Eugene does a chestnut roast on Thanksgiving weekend.
Pfeiffer Vineyards on Jaeg Road in Junction City offers a Burgers and Blues every Friday evening, culminating with Wine Country Weekend, where patrons can enjoy special tasting flights, live music, a build-your-own-burger bar, holiday discounts and wine, including large format (double magnum) bottles available for your holiday tables.
Benton-Lane Winery in Monroe provides a Christmas themed tasting room with holiday music, wine and a special menu of pulled pork sandwiches, chili, cornbread, or artisan meat-and-cheese plates.
“Thanksgiving weekend coincides with Black Friday and the first real weekend of Christmas shopping so some people want to go out and hit all the sales,” says Lisa Fisher, Benton-Lane’s office and tasting room manager. “It’s a lot of fun to go to the wineries, taste new releases, have a good time and pick up wine for the holidays.”
For most of us, Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the winter holiday season, and it helps to visit a cozy, beautifully decorated room. Benton-Lane moves its tasting tables from the tasting room and sets them up in the larger barrel room, which is decorated with garlands and Christmas trees. “It’s a real fun time,” Fisher says. “Everybody’s in a real holiday mood having a lot of fun.”
If you “shop ‘til you drop” on Black Friday, or your out-of-town visitors are getting a little stir crazy, take an opportunity to show off Oregon’s gorgeous scenery on the way to a local winery.
Pfeiffer’s Fall Sip-n-Shop on Nov. 11 offers a variety of vendors, lunch and wines for your holiday table.
For several years, Iris Vineyards has been roasting chestnuts harvested from its own orchard over Thanksgiving weekend, 1 to 4 p.m. daily.
“Richard (Boyles, owner) often roasts the chestnuts himself along with vineyard crew and staff,” says Angie Bloomfield, Iris Vineyards’s tasting room manager. “Roasting chestnuts reminds the owners of when they lived in Europe prior to moving back to their hometown, Eugene, to plant pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay grapes in the early 1990s.”
The winery first started the tradition in 2014 and hasn’t stopped since. Take in stunning views of the Lorane Valley and enjoy the freshly-roasted chestnuts along with an award-winning Iris wine paired to go along with the chestnuts.
Last year, Iris offered bundles of chestnuts, recipes and wine specials all weekend.
Fifth Street Public Market in Eugene is an easy-to-get-to spot for holiday shopping and wine at Sweet Cheeks Winery’s in-town tasting room.
Sweet Cheeks’s other location is in Lorane west of Eugene. The Fifth Street location offers easy access to shopping and food in the market as well as a boutique hotel right next door for those guests who want their own space.
On Nov. 24, Fifth Street Public Market hosts “Night of 1,000 Stars” in which guests can enjoy a visit from Santa (bring the grandkids), snowfall, beautiful lights and decorations. Santa makes an appearance at 5 p.m. daily, through Dec. 23, and it “snows” from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Whether visiting wineries is an old tradition or a new one to start, take an opportunity to visit a local tasting room and get into the holiday spirit.
Taking a leisurely drive to a winery or two is a great way to see some fall color and sample the fruits of the vineyards that thrive here.
To get even more out of your visits, pick up the Travel Lane County visitors association’s Pinot Bingo game — a game card that you get stamped whenever you visit a participating winery. The more stamps you get the more freebies you are entitled to, including souvenir glasses and a commemorative award. (The Eugene Ale Trail is a similar passport to breweries — get stamps for a free souvenir glass.)
The visitor center also has wine country maps and can help you and your guests plan an itinerary or find alternative transportation and lodging if you decide to stay in wine country overnight rather than drive home.