Post By: Molly Bohon and Wineries Included in this Article
Picture By: Lavelle Vineyards

We always love to celebrate our local wine, but this month, we especially want to give thanks to our local wine industry. There are many events and tastings to experience throughout the South Willamette Valley to help celebrate. The South Willamette Valley Barrel Tour is starting quite soon and to gear up for the big event we thought it would be fun to give you some background on some of our lovely wineries. The South Willamette Valley is home to approximately 25 wineries, who all have their unique technique in wine making.

King Estate Winery is one of the largest wineries in the state of Oregon and is quite the popular winery to visit. King Estate is a sustainably farmed 1,033 acre certified organic vineyard complex and state of the art winery situated atop the rolling oak and fir covered slopes in the Coast Range foothills, near the southern end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In addition to world class vineyards, it is home to organic orchards, vegetable gardens, olive trees, and a host of native wildlife. Organically farmed and managed as a fully integrated ecosystem, King Estate is home to an innovative and forward looking culinary program whose focus is the synergy of local, organically produced food and wine created just outside the kitchen door. King Estate’s critically acclaimed Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are available through fine restaurants and retailers around the world.

Although King Estate is one of the largest wineries in the South Willamette Valley, there are many vineyards that were around prior. One of the oldest vineyards is Silvan Ridge Winery. In the past, the grapes on the land were owned by Doyle Hinman and David Smith, who opened Hinman Vineyards in 1979. By 1988, the winery had become Oregon’s top selling winery. In 1993, Carolyn Chambers, a Eugene, Oregon businesswoman, acquired the winery. That same year, Hinman released their premium line of reserve wines under the Silvan Ridge label. Under the leadership of the Chambers family the winery has grown to 12 employees, modernized its production facility and visitor center, created a rapidly growing wine club, instituted a robust winery events calendar, and introduced a PR campaign to promote the Silvan brand nationally. Today, Silvan Ridge Winery produces approximately 18,000 cases of premium wines including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Early Muscat, Malbec, Viognier, Syrah, and Cabernet.

There are many wineries that have had their roots in the vineyards for quite some time. But there are also many new wineries in the South Willamette Valley. After almost 20 years of producing grapes and wine, Walnut Ridge is opening its vineyard gate to the public. The Walnut Ridge tasting room is modeled after a historic New Orleans building.  It features reclaimed, hand hewn barn timbers, aged concrete floors, hand textured plaster walls, a wood burning fireplace, gas lamps and indoor and outdoor seating.  The room sits on a knoll in the heart of the vineyard, affording 360 degree views of Walnut Ridge and the adjacent farms and vineyards in the foothills of Junction City.

The first grapes were planted at Walnut Ridge in the mid ‘90’s. Wendy Golish and Jim McGavin purchased the vineyard in 2000 and since then have expanded the planted acres to 30 acres.  Wendy and Jim became partners in Sass Winery in 2010. Sass has been producing wine since the mid ‘90’s and has been a customer of Walnut Ridge since 2004.  Since forming the winery partnership, the Sass focus is on producing estate wines such as, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay, and eventually Pinot Blanc and Riesling.

The newest route for Oregon’s South Willamette Valley area is Eugene’s Urban Wine Circuit. This area includes Eugene’s six city wineries and tasting rooms. Eugene Wine Cellars is one of the oldest urban wineries opening in 1999. Although, it wasn’t until 2008 that they opened their first wine bar in Eugene. One of newest wineries in the Eugene urban wine circuit is William Rose Wines.  Winemaker and owner, Mark Nicholl, has been working in the wine industry around the world for many years, but it wasn’t until recently, that he brought his wine making expertise to the South Willamette Valley!

It is impossible to be bored this month with all the festivities happening at South Willamette Valley wineries. There are plenty of fun activities to keep you busy! Check out the calendar on our website for some wonderful events coming your way like our 2015 Barrel Tour!