Which Winery Will Wine Down Your Memorial Weekend?



Benton-Lane Winery

Memorial Day Weekend Winery Open Houses
May 28th, 29th, & 30th

Blue skies and warm days are on their way, and local wineries will be swinging their doors open for one of the South Willamette Valley’s highly anticipated and most celebrated 3 day wine events: Memorial Day Weekend Winery Open Houses. It’s the official kick-off to the summer season at the wineries; featuring, special releases, barrel tastings, live music, artisan treats and an endless flow of their locally, hand crafted wine- from Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah to Huxelrebe and Sweet Rosé. Each winery entices us to head their way for a number of reasons, so here’s a list of what they’ll be indulging us with this 2011 Memorial Day Weekend:

Benton-Lane Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11a-5p. $10 admission includes logo glass and gourmet tapas. Live music with Jerome Monaco Saturday and Sunday- 12:30-4:30p. Gourmet Pizza Tapas on Monday. Also hosting the new Ebony Wines-grown in Oregon’s rockiest vineyards!

Brigadoon Wine Company: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-4p. Enjoy a Pinot-Picnic in the Park. Bring a lunch, chairs or a blanket & sample the Shown families 3 delicious Pinot’s while relaxing in a beautiful park-like setting at the Brigadoon Wine Co. property. FREE admission

Chateau Lorane's Lake Louise

Chateau Lorane: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11:30a-5:30p. $10 admission includes logo glass (free under 21). Taste over 20 different wines, live music, art festival, delicious food available for purchase provided by Flavors Catering. All this on the shores of the beautiful Lake Louise! Rain or Shine.

Domaine Meriwether: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-4p. $10 fee for 4 tastes of wine and a plate of food. Live music

Capitello Wines will be featured at Domaine Meriwether!

Iris Vineyards: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 11a-5p. Free wine tasting all 3 days! 25% discount on case purchases, including mixed cases.

King Estate: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday. New releases & restaurant open daily for lunch and dinner.

The deck at LaVelle Vineyards

LaVelle Vineyards: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, enjoy live performances by the 5 piece band-‘Concrete Loveseat’ on Sunday and Monday. Delectable food will be catered by Field to Table.

Noble Estate Vineyard & Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-5p, live acoustic music Saturday & Sunday. $5 tasting fee which includes 6 wines- fee waived with a bottle purchase.

Pfeiffer Winery: Open Wednesday – Monday 11a-5p, offering Italian Chocolates & appetizer’s with wine tasting. Private Pinot Clinics will be held in the Grotto every 90 minutes. Owners Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer will be your guides with barrel tasting of their 2010 Pinot Noir Futures and official release of the highly anticipated 2008 Blue Dot Pinot Noir Reserve. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy their water garden falls and streams.

RainSong Vineyard: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-5p. Featuring new releases, 20% case discounts, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and barrel tasting! Admission is FREE.

The tasting room red barn at Saginaw Vineyard

Saginaw Vineyard: Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-5p, but open late Friday for live music with Timothy Patrick 6p-9p

Silvan Ridge Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-6p wine tasting, live music, sales on wine; Sat. 2-5p “The Valley Boys” Live; Sun. 2-5p “Just Say Yes” Live; Mon. 2-5p “Apropos” Live. FREE admission

Sarver Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 12-8p, complimentary tastings paired with cheese and chocolate.

Sweet Cheeks Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday from 12-6p, Live Music by “Taste”, food available for purchase, wine specials, and an art festival. New vintages of Rosy Cheeks and Riesling will be available & admission is free

Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company: Friday 6-9p live music; Saturday 3-9p live music starts at 6p; Sunday 3-7p; $7 tasting fee for flight of 7 wines. Light snacks.

Opine Cellars wines will also be available to sample at Territorial.

We are truly blessed to be in the midst of these unparalleled wineries of the South Willamette Valley. Thanks to the efforts and hard work of all the people involved in meticulously planning these fun-filled Memorial Day Weekend events, there will be loads of fun to be had by all.

But, know this: Before I blow off the dust from my flip flops and sun-glasses, and unpack the boxes that have housed my favorite t-shirts and shorts for the last 8 months, I’ll take a moment to remember those who have fallen in battle fulfilling their obligation to the great country in which I live. The freedoms that I enjoy everyday are protected and ensured by men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect my country and what it stands for.  After a moment of silence and heartfelt gratitude so deserving of our military, I’ll be ready to swirl, sip, and savor all that our stellar local wineries have to offer, and I will raise a glass to our American heroes.

Cheers to my Dad, my hero: Lt. Col. Maurice H. Leiser, 1954 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Dedicated to God, his beloved family, and the United States Army–he is forever in my heart. 1931-2009.

Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene

Don’t Miss The Bus! 2011 Barrel Tour

Time capsules

We’re getting closer and closer to one of my favorite local wine events of the year: The 2011 Barrel Tour. This year’s line-up of fantastic wineries has got me thinking I may need to go on more than just one tour. Highly recommended and tons of fun, a Barrel Tour is an all-inclusive tour that gives wine lovers an inside look at the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country. Traveling on a luxury charter bus, meeting the winemakers, and tasting wine directly from a barrel are just of a few of the many reasons why I love these tours.

Entrance to Saginaw's 1905 red barn tasting room

Last year, a friend of mine and I chose a barrel tour that included Saginaw Vineyard, Iris Vineyards, King Estate Winery, and Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company.  We met mid-morning in the parking lot at Valley River Center, where 3 coaches were waiting to be filled with people that we quickly learned were not only from Oregon, but some of these wine lovers had come from as far as New Jersey and Florida-strictly for this particular barrel tour. After filling all three buses, our bus headed south towards Cottage Grove to Saginaw Vineyards while the other two buses headed to different wineries; therefore, our visits to the wineries would be limited to just one bus at a time. Limiting the amount of people at each stop allows for more time to be spent on sipping, mingling, and learning about the vineyards and wine-making process from the winemakers and owners.

View of the red barn at Saginaw Vineyards

Saginaw Vineyards tasting room is located inside a rustic yet beautiful turn-of-the-century red barn, and the owners paired each of their delicious wines with an appetizer made specifically for the wine being tasted. Just outside the barn, there was plenty of outdoor seating where everyone could enjoy their wine and take in the views of the serene countryside.

We sat with a Floridian couple and learned that they fly across the country each year to attend Oregon barrel tours. We all agreed that one of the nicest benefits of the South Willamette Valley Barrel Tours is that each of the wineries on the tour includes an educational component in addition to the sampling of their premium wines. The couple from Florida had gone on previous tours, and mentioned that Doug LaVelle of LaVelle Vineyards had actually taken them out into the vineyard to see and touch the vines and budding grapes.

Iris vineyards state-of-the-art winery

Our next stop was Iris Vineyards tasting room and winery located in Creswell. The general manager greeted each person as we stepped off the bus, and then lead us into their state of the art winery where we had samples of their future Pinot Noir, straight out of the barrel, and all of their delicious current and past releases.We learned that the new winery was designed for small lot, hands-on production of high quality wine, which was definitely showcased in the wines we were sampling. They had special barrel tour pricing, another reason why I love barrel tours, so we were able to stock up on some of their stellar Barrel-Free Chardonnay and cellar worthy Pinot Noir.

King Estate Winery sits hilltop above the vineyards

After Iris Vineyards, we headed for the largest winery in Oregon: King Estate. The wine enthusiasts on the bus ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as we approached the architecturally opulent buildings that house their winery, tasting room, and gourmet restaurant. Upon our arrival, King Estate’s gracious hosts poured wine into our glasses and then escorted us into their underground barrel room where the temperature is perfect for aging wine in oak barrels.

King Estate's underground barrel room

We were then led into the fermentation wings where large stainless steel tanks were lined meticulously along the walls, and finally into a large room to check out their cutting-edge crush pad. After the tour, we took some time on the patio to take in the unparalleled view of the vineyards that sprawl out along the hills and the valley floor. Each wine we tried was paired perfectly with a delectable treat prepared by King Estate’s executive chef, Michael Landsberg.

Loads of Lavendar in full bloom at King Estate Winery

The last stop on the tour was Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company, which is located in an urban setting within Eugene’s funky and thriving Whiteaker neighborhood. The sampling of their wines took place inside their 12,000 square foot modern and innovative winery. There was plenty of delicious food to pair with their outstanding wines, and outdoor seating provided a comfortable place to sit and relax with a glass of wine before traveling back to Valley River Center to end the tour. On the drive back, we gathered email addresses and phone numbers of some of the fellow wine lovers that had become our friends after meeting only hours before, and we’re really looking forward to seeing some of them again this year.

Territorial's Winery & Tasting room in the Whiteaker neighborhood

The three South Willamette Valley Barrel Tours offered for 2011 are:

  • June 4th– King Estate Winery, Saginaw Vineyard, Chateau Lorane, Iris Vineyard
  • June 18th– Benton-Lane Winery, Capitello Wines, Sweet Cheeks Winery, Shadow Mountain Vineyards
  • June 25th – Domaine Meriwether, Pfeiffer Vineyards, LaVelle Vineyards, High Pass Winery
Outdoor seating at Territorial Vineyards & Wine Co.

With such a great line-up for 2011, and such memorable experiences from 2010, I’ll be booking myself on more than just one tour. If you haven’t been out to our regions wineries before, the barrel tours are a great way to see the breathtaking countryside that surrounds us while sampling the bounties of food and wine that are grown and produced locally, in addition to making new friends. I’ve visited all the wineries of the South Willamette Valley, but these fun-filled barrel tours will continue to bring me back each year.

Tickets are currently on sale through the South Willamette Wineries Association’s website:

You may also call  541-221-8592 to reserve your spot.



Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene