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Visiting wineries in the autumn can often be the most exciting time. The Willamette Valley experiences harvest between September and October, so you may catch a glimpse of tractors pulling large bins of grapes to the crush pad. Before you ask – no, we don’t physically get into buckets and crush the grapes with our feet.
Make reservations at the wineries you would like to visit to avoid showing up and being turned away. Some wineries might temporarily shut down for harvest. Many wineries operate within a small space or with small harvest crews and aren’t able to faciliate guest visits. I recommend looking on TOCK or winery websites to book reservations.
It’s also nice to book reservations in advance so you know what to expect. Because some wineries may have limited space, the experience could be different than a visit in the spring or summer. Perhaps you will be tasting indoors, or by a fireplace!
What if I’m a wine club member? Wineries want to give you the best experience possible, so I still recommend booking a reservation in advance or calling and asking if a reservation is necessary.
Most wineries charge a tasting fee. The purpose of tasting wines is to find wines that you enjoy and want to take home to enjoy with a meal or share with friends and family. Or you want to keep the bottle to yourself – no judgement here! You can expect the tasting fees in the Willamette Valley to be between $10 – $45 depending on the winery. If you are on a budget, I recommend you look up or inquire about the tasting fees prior to your visit so you aren’t caught off guard.
In many situations, your tasting fee will be reimbursed with a minimum bottle purchase. It’s appropriate to also inquire about the reimbursement process prior to your visit.
Often wineries have special flights and wine sales on Thanksgiving Weekend or host special events. If you are looking for a more traditional wine tasting weekend, you may consider visiting on a different weekend. However, if you are looking for a deal on wines – Thanksgiving Weekend might be your ideal time!
While booking your reservations, or mapping out your visits, keep distance in mind. Map out the time it will take between each winery because you want to make sure you don’t feel rushed. Remember, autumn is harvest time so don’t be surprised if you get stuck driving behind a tractor or large truck hauling grape bins!
Some wineries may let you know in advance how long the experience can last, and if they don’t – expect to spend around 2 hours maximum.
It’s best to keep your group small in the autumn months because you will be more likely to book a reservation. Many wineries begin pairing down the number of tables or locations of tastings. If you are planning an outting with a larger group, look for wineries who can accommodate a group of that size and absolutely book a reservation or call in advance.
The weather in the Willamette Valley is very comfortable in the autumn months. Dress in layers so you will be comfortable in all atmospheres. Thinking of bringing your dog? There are many wineries who welcome dogs, but make sure you check prior to your visit in case the autumn tasting location cannot accommodate dogs.
Before you depart on your wine country adventure, it’s best to eat a meal and hydrate. I also recommend packing a few snacks and water. Many wineries offer a small snack, such as a cheese plate or pre-packaged wine friendly snacks. However, it’s still wise to have backup snacks and water in your car. I don’t recommend packing a large cooler of food because it can be distracting from the main component of your day – the wine! If you are looking for lunch to enjoy during your day, look at local restaurant stops or wineries that have a restaurant on-site.
Understand the harvested fruit attracts some unwanted visitors – yellow jackets and fruit flies. The wineries do everything possible to combat these pests, but it comes with the territory. Trust me, the winery staff are just as annoyed with them as you are.
Think about the type of experiences you are looking to enjoy and plan ahead.
Consider booking a night at a beautiful wine country hotel or b&b.
If you have the budget, think about hiring transportation. Keep in mind that most of the time Lyft or Uber won’t pick you up from winery locations.
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