Though I'm a native Oregonian, I'd never ventured to the wineries in the southern part of the state—until researching this 12-page story for the October issue of Portland Monthly. But those full-bodied tempranillos and cabernet francs were some of my absolute favorites during the month-long research trip I conducted in July.
Those and the pinots from Belle Pente, Bethel Heights, Cristom, De Ponte Cellars, Evesham Wood, Eyrie, Lemelson, Lenné, and... Let's just say that Oregonians are spoiled.
I also got to interview maverick winemaker John Paul Cameron about dry farming and the Deep Roots Coalition (a group of Oregon winemakers committed to not irrigating their vines); talk to chef Christopher Czarnecki about where he sources wild mushrooms for the Joel Palmer House in Dayton; and research the latest kerfuffle on closures. (Short version: a handful of Oregon winemakers believe red wines age just as well—if not better—with screw caps as they would with cork closures.)
In addition to the five weekend itineraries in the feature, I suggest a few excursions that make perfect day trips from Portland (which got pushed to the web due to lack of space in the magazine). So if you just have one day to experience wine country, my recommendations are Hawks view Cellars, Big Table Farm, the adorable town of Carlton, or a bike trip with Pedal Bike Tours.
Personally, I'm excited about the afternoon cheesemaking classes at Kookoolan Farms, which in October include Mozzarella 101, Washed Curds, and Italian Hard Cheeses (all taught by Willamette Valley cheesemakers). Owner Chrissie Zaerpoor told me that the $50 class fee includes generous tastings of topically relevant cheese as well as homemade kombucha. (She and her husband Koorosh also sell everything you need to make cheese at home at their farm store: rennet, curd cutting knives, thermometers, molds, enzymes, and even acid-testing kits.)