To celebrate another successful harvest, 165 Willamette Valley wineries are throwing open their doors for special events this Thanksgiving Weekend. If you’re looking for a fun adult activity to kick off the season, visit wine country November 28 – 30, and accomplish some holiday shopping at the same time. Not only do bottles of wine make nice gifts, but you’ll also find gourmet foods, fancy linens, cool wine gadgets, and hand-blown glassware. Each winery celebrates the festive weekend a little differently with special tastings, food pairings, live music, holiday discounts, and more. Plan your trip by first downloading this Guide to Wine Country Thanksgiving, which includes event listings and maps.
The Willamette Valley is known for its world class Pinot noir, but if you prefer something lighter or sweeter, you’ll find Pinot gris, chardonnay, dessert wines and many other varietals as well. Don’t be intimidated if wine tasting isn’t something you do very often. Tasters aren’t expected to be connoisseurs. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference between “smoky undertones” and “hints of oak and leather.” The reason you taste is to find what you like, regardless of the awards that particular wine might have won. It is perfectly acceptable not to like everything you taste, so just do what the professionals do— pour it in the dump buckets provided and move on to the next. It really is the proper thing to do and you will be able to taste more fantastic wines.
To get the most out of your visit to wine country, follow these tips:
· Avoid wearing any perfume, cologne or heavily scented lotions because it will interfere with your tasting experience as well as the experience of hose around you.
· Ask questions. Tasting room staff are down-to-earth and love to talk. This is your opportunity to educate your palate and learn more about the wine making process.
· Explore a new wine tasting region or try a new type of wine or varietal during your wine tasting. Don’t be afraid to try something new— you may find a new favorite!
· Visit both small wineries and larger wineries to enjoy a variety of wine tasting experiences. Smaller tasting rooms usually mean fewer people.
· Don’t miss out on special discounts and offers at wineries during tasting events. If you discover a winery you really love, consider joining their wine club. You’ll likely receive discounts, exclusive deals, access to special releases and free future tastings.
· Drink responsibly. Get a designated driver or purchase an inexpensive yet accurate personal breathalyzer that will tell you FOR SURE if you’re safe and legal to drive after drinking alcohol. Keep it handy in your car to use year-round. It also makes a thoughtful gift.
Visiting wine country over Thanksgiving Weekend also brings an opportunity to share the bounty of the season by donating to the Oregon Food Bank. Visit any of the 80 participating wineries through December 20, 2014 with your donation of non-perishable food items or cash. Many wineries are offering discounted tasting fees, raffle tickets and special pricing to donors. The goal is to collect 200,000 pounds of food.