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Oregon wine tours offer high-brow alternative

Looking for something fun to do during spring break? Instead of packing up and traveling far from home, stick around and see what the Willamette River Valley has to offer. Portland is right on the cusp of Pinot Noir wine country. The Willamette Valley is the place to be in Oregon for a little taste of some good old vino.

Although most college students often settle for the Boone’s Farm caliber wine, there are other options out there. Instead of spending $2 on a bottle of cheap, sugary hooch, treat yourself right during vacation and take a tour of one of our local wineries.

The Willamette Valley is considered a cool, marginal, wine-growing area. The Valley’s climate is compatible to the early-ripening Pinot Noir grape for which it is identified, according to Wines Northwest. Wines Northwest is a great Web site that can help a blossoming wine connoisseur get started. The address for this site is and it contains a comprehensive guide to Oregon wine country.

When it comes to wine tours there are many options. One is to grab a map of the vineyards in the outlying area and take a drive. Most wineries have listings of days and times when the public can come and tour their facilities. The region is split up into two sections, the North Willamette Valley, which includes the Portland and Salem areas, and South Willamette Valley, which is in and around the Eugene area. The best way to get started is to locate a few vineyards in the same general proximity on the map and go for a day.

If you aren’t in the mood for the do-it-yourself trip and are willing to spend a little more money, there are a number of tours available. They are offered year round, but the best times are during the spring from April through May and at harvest time from September through October.

In one tour offered by Ecotours of Oregon you can visit at least four wineries in one all-inclusive day trip. The tour includes tasting fees and an educational tour of the winemaking process. The full day tour costs about $49.50, but the gourmet picnic lunch can be included for an additional $10. This particular Winery Tour is normally scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Half-day wine tasting tours are also available for groups of six or more. The itinerary can be changed as the day progresses if it is necessary, according to the Web site. All of this information can be found by logging on to

Most of these services offer a van and driver to pick up groups for the day trip. The route is usually west through Yamhill or Washington County. The guide gives commentary on the history of Oregon wines and explains what to expect if it is the first time in the tasting rooms for anyone. There are many other tour options available, such as three to four day excursions that include accommodations at area Bed and Breakfasts.

The guided tours sound nice but it is hard not to be reminded of those senior citizen day trip buses that travel around Oregon in the spring and summer. It may not be in a student’s best interest to be trapped on a bus with the “Matlock” crowd. To save money and precious sanity the best choice may be the self-guided day trip that will allow a considerable amount of freedom to the tourists.