The holidays have come and gone, presents opened and all ready forgotten. Even though crowds and mass-consumerism make me queasy, I really do enjoy Christmas with all of the lights, festivities and parties. After surviving the hullabaloo building up to Christmas with many feasts and visiting relatives, the family was surprised with a gift of epic proportions: a catered and chauffeured wine tasting adventure! My sister and brother in-law planned a four-stop tour through Oregon wine country including transportation, driver, charcuterie snacks, and fun with family. I’m in!!  We are not a family of wine connoisseurs, rather our tastes and wallets hang around the $5-20 range, however, this does not mean we can’t appreciate a quality wine when we taste one, or long for a bigger wine budget. I knew this experience would give us the chance to dabble in the luxurious, one liquid ounce at a time.

Oregonians are blessed with the fertile Willamette Valley, a pristine grape growing region west of the Cascade Mountain Range, that boasts hundreds of micro-wineries coexisting along side some of the state’s major wine producers. We left Portland around 11 am, and 45 minutes later we were in the heart of rolling hills and bountiful vineyards. Our first stop found us at Archery Summit, a winery consisting of 6 distinct vineyards and underground caves ideal for storing aging wines.

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Click on photo to get the FULL Panoramic view at Archery Summit!

We meandered through the wine caves, wishing we had one of these under the house. AS barrel

We enjoyed the diverse tasting menu that highlighted several of the vineyards that make up Archery Summit. ASmenu

One last look at the impressive grounds as we left with a new appreciation for this winery and a lovely late morning wine buzz.

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Archery Summit

Our second stop was Domaine Serene, a must-visit for any Pinot Noir lover. Here we found quality wine in abundance, beautiful natural surroundings, and extremely friendly staff.

We were impressed with the staff’s ability to handle cleaning tables like a boss.

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How many glasses are there??

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Lots of shiny holiday distractions to enjoy.

This was my first time visiting Domaine Serene, and definitely not my last… we even learned some history and made a new friend.

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Wine-Searcher.com says it best, “visitors can’t help but notice a woolly mammoth sculpture, 14 feet tall and 27 feet long, made from 7200 pounds of weathered steel, plus bronze tusks […] tasting-room staffers inform curious visitors that “Wooly” was washed up by the Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic Ice Age events that formed the Columbia River Gorge and the Willamette Valley.”  So this is the winery’s tip of the hat to the region’s past that has contributed so greatly to current growing conditions.

After visiting the first two wineries, we were feeling pretty good and decided to bust out the fancy snacks before continuing on to the final two stops. Outside food was not allowed in the winery so we created our own little food cart inside the rented van. It was a blur of bread cutting, meat slicing, cheese nibbling, hummus dunking, and of course more wine drinking-opening a bottle we had just purchased. Snacks

At this point, it had started to drizzle, and half of the family was standing outside, laughing, chatting, drinking. It was beautiful.

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A refreshing tasting menu at Sokol Blosser.

Our third and most anticipated stop was Sokol Blosser. I had visited once several years ago, before the winery built their new tasting room and added a lot of extra special amenities to the property. The wine remains superb. We arrived with approximately 45 minutes until closing, which was no problem at all. We were seated in our own private tasting room (which I think was the test kitchen) so we had lots of space, privacy, and our own personal wine expert who also creates Sokol Blosser signature spreads and other goods. SBgrid

*At this point in the story, I think I should introduce ‘the family’ real quick: Beth & Garrett- my sister and brother-in-law, Jim & Pam- Garrett’s parents visiting from Orange County; Rick & Janine- my parents; Angela Wall- one of my oldest and dearest friends, who is like family!*

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Feelin’ wine fine at Sokol Blosser.

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Anne Amie inside and out.

The well known vineyard Anne Amie was our fourth and final stop of the day. At this point we were kind of wine drunk, a little loud, and someone needed to wear their sunglasses inside. But despite all that, here is where we tasted the absolute hands down, best wine. It was the 2009 Pinot Noir L’Iris, something everyone should put in their mouths at least once in their lives. Obnoxious as we were on that last stop at Anne Amie, we did buy plenty of wine to take with us and we gave our wine guide a standing ovation (and a nice tip.)

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Beautiful, brooding evening skies over Anne Amie Vineyards.

As our wine tasting adventure came to an end, we reflected on the bounty made available to us, and the enduring pioneer spirit all vineyard owners possess. We felt fortunate to have a safe ride home, so we opened another bottle to celebrate.

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Getting a little wild at the last stop.

Please remember friends, the best way to enjoy Oregon wine country is with a designated driver. Don’t have a friend that wants to stay sober? Rent your own personal bus at Shanghai Portland Party Bus and Tours, Dusty is the owner and a good friend of ours, with experience hosting wine tours and other fun trips around the Portland area!

FYI stuff: Most of the tasting menus consisted of five distinct wines, with flight tastings ranging from $10-20. The more obnoxious you are, the bigger the tip you leave. Buy at least one bottle to take home with you. Most tasting rooms require you to make reservations if your party size is over a certain number, so call and double check!

Next time on Graveyard Shift Travel: a short post about house sitting and kitty litter.

“Y NO ME DIGAS POBRE POR IR VIAJANDO ASI. NO VES QUE ESTOY CONTENTA? NO VES QUE VOY FELIZ?”

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