Wine Tasting on Your I-5 Drive

Traveling on I-5 through Oregon soon? Here are a few places that are easy to access from the Interstate. Pop in and visit one of these great wineries on your next trip.

North Willamette Valley
Sineann Winery
Located across from Champoeg State Park, this small, family-owned winery is a short six miles off I-5. You can sample small-lot, high quality Pinot Noir and other varietals from inside the wine production area. They are almost always available for visitors. Give them a buzz before you stop by.

Sineann Winery

Sineann Winery in St. Paul, OR | Photo credit: “Finally, Sineann” by eyeliam is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Central Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner (Near Salem)

Sitting atop the hillside along the Interstate near Salem, you’ll find Willamette Valley Vineyards. It has great views, a nice selection of wines and even daily tours at 2 p.m. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Fridays until 8 p.m. Food pairings are available as well if you need a bite to eat before hitting the road.

Photo by: Travel Salem on Flickr

Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, OR | Photo credit: “Willamette Valley Vineyards” by Travel Salem is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

South Willamette Valley
Saginaw Vineyard, Saginaw (Near Cottage Grove)

This rustic farm house built in 1905 is a cute, quaint retreat from the hustle of I-5. Get off the Interstate at exit 176 and unwind with complimentary tastings in the country. Open daily 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Fridays.


Saginaw Vineyard in Saginaw, OR | Photo Credit: “110 year old barn now turned tasting room” by Saginaw Vineyard used with permission

Umpqua Valley
Spangler Vineyards, Roseburg

This stop off the Interstate would be great place to stretch your legs, take in a lovely view and enjoy a taste of big, bold reds. Take exit 119 and then the second left. Located only ½ mile off I-5. Open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Spangler Vineyard, Roseburg, OR

Spangler Vineyard, Roseburg, OR | Photo credit: “Lovely afternoon while pressing Sangiovese at the winery” by Spangler Vineyards is used with permission

Rogue Valley
Del Rio Vineyards, Gold Hill

Visit one of the largest vineyards in Southern Oregon housed in a historic hotel built in 1864. The winery has ample space for a family picnic, so pack some food and relax with a lovely view of the vineyard. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Del Rio Vineyard

Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill, OR | Photo credit: “Del Rio Vineyard, Gold Hill, Oregon” by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4 Movies About Wine to Watch While You Drink

Some nights you just want to settle in with a glass of wine and good movie. So sit back, relax, and pop some popcorn to watch these four great movies about wine. By the time your bottle is gone and the credits are rolling, you’ll even have learned a little more about the world of wine.

Movies by Robert Couse-Baker

Bottle Shock

The oldest wines I’ve ever tried were all featured in this amazing coming of age movie about California’s wine industry in the 1970s. Based loosely on the 1976 wine competition, the “Judgment of Paris,” when California wine defeated French wine in a blind taste test, Bottle Shock stars Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, and Bill Pullman and a lovable cast of supporting actors. I had the opportunity to taste the winning vintage from Stag’s Leap and the subsequent vintage from Chateau Montelena at a media event in Napa. Read more about it here.


A classic wine film that put Pinot Noir in the spotlight and shadowed Merlot, Sideways follows two men in their forties, who take a week-long road trip to Santa Barbara wine country. An adaption from Rex Pickett’s novel, Sideways, the comedy features Paul Giamatti as a divorced, depressed, and unsuccessful writer and wine aficionado, and his soon-to-be married friend, played by Thomas Church, as they prowl California’s wine region for one last sexual encounter and an elusive bottle of Pinot Noir. Wine salivating banter abounds.


A documentary following the lives for four students as they work toward their Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. From watching the students sniff and even lick just about everything in the grocery market to learn about wine aromas to studying every wine region in the world and blind tasting galore, the movie shows the stress and challenge it takes to be one of a very best in the wine world.

Red Obsession

A collection of interviews and narratives with winemakers and wine lovers around the world, this documentary discusses the rise and popularity of rare, expensive wines in China and their growth as a powerful status symbol. Narrated by Russell Crowe, the film takes the audience on a journey from the deep-rooted vineyards of Bordeaux to the streets of Beijing to examine the shift in wine demand and culture across the globe.

Looking for that perfect pairing with your movie? Try this amazing combo: Pinot Noir & Popcorn!

Photo by: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

Fox Farm Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir

As a tour guide, I spend a lot of time on the road. Long days, active itineraries, and constant interaction quickly take a toll on my energy and nerves. But after two successful summers, I’ve learned to pack a bottle of wine along to relax with and enjoy in my hotel room in the evening before bed. On my most recent multi-day trip on the road, guiding from Portland to San Francisco, I tucked a bottle of Fox Farm Vineyards‘ 2011 Pinot Noir in my rainbow print suit case.

Fox Farm 2011 Pinot Noir

Featuring notes of black cherry, plum and touch of cocoa, the Pinot Noir sipped smoothly after having several years in the bottle to mature. The 2011 vintage for Oregon was a cold one, so these wines are just starting to come into their own now. Since I first sampled this wine last year, it has rounded out nicely and now finishes with classy earth and dust tones.

Sipping the last drops from the patio of my hotel in Sausalito overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, I savored this trip saver.


Red, White & Blue: Three Wines for Your 4th of July

Red, White, Blue

Quady North Cabernet Franc

Even though it’s been a hot start to the summer, a rich red wine is still the best pairing with meats hot off the grill. Pop this bottle of Quady North open with sizzling steak. Featuring notes of red and black pepper, cocoa, roasted nuts, and black raspberries, the wine pops with unapologetic flavor and then seduces you with a cool, long finish.

Evolution White by Sokol Blosser

This wine could be great start to your picnic. With tropical sweet aromas of pineapple and citrus, along with lush flavors of nectarine and citrus, this wine may even please friends who aren’t wine lovers. The Evolution White finishes long and clean with a crisp acidity. Not too sweet, not too tart. It will be a refreshing drink in the heat of the day.

La Marca Prosecco

Light, fresh and just a little bit bubbly, this wine will be a crowd pleaser for any summer celebration. Featuring aromas of citrus and wildflowers, the off-dry wine sparkles with notes of green apple, grapefruit, lemon peel and a crisp mineral finish. To make this wine even more festive, top each glass with a few slices of strawberry.

Whatever you choose to serve, have a wonderful and festive Fourth!

Charles & Charles 2014 Rosé in glass

Kick off Your Fourth of July with a Festive, Patriotic Wine: A Review of Charles & Charles 2014 Rose

To start off this festive week, I snagged a fun, patriotic wine to enjoy: Charles & Charles 2014 Rosé. The bright pink color and tribute to the American flag caught my eye on the store shelf.

It’s been blazing hot outside here in Eugene, and our house doesn’t have central air conditioning (yet!). To manage the heat, I love sitting on my patio, sipping a glass of wine as the sun goes down on the wetlands behind our home.

The sweet smell of rosé, the sun setting and the temperature dropping was so welcomed.

On the nose are lively, invigorating scents of sweet, ripe watermelon with wild cherry, reminiscent of Jolly Rancher candies from my middle school days. Taking a sip, there are fruit-forward flavors of raspberry and slight strawberry accompanied by the Charles & Charles 2014 Rosé tartness of grapefruit. This acidic, crisp wine was a refreshing finish to my day. I would have sat outside long into the evening had the automatic sprinklers not chased me inside.

This wine would be a great crowd pleaser to bring to your Fourth of July party!

Tips for Bringing the Kids Along for Wine Tasting

In my last post, I told you about my latest adventure in wine country as a family. On sunny Sunday afternoons wine country seems to call my name; however, it’s not always easy traveling with the kiddos. Here are a couple of things to think about before taking the kids along wine tasting. (I also suggest calling ahead to your planned tasting room to confirm if children are allowed. Most locations in South Willamette Valley allow children.)

Look into how the wine is served at the tasting room.

For me and my husband, it is easier to have the kids along when the wine is served at a wine bar. We are free get our next tasting when we are ready. (In between bathroom breaks and visiting the tractors outside.) One time, we visited a winery that served waiter style at individual tables. We left before even getting seated at a table because the boys weren’t in the mood for sitting indoors.

Choose a winery with expansive outdoor space.

I suggest looking at the photos on their website and Facebook page or call ahead to ask about their outdoor space. We have found that wineries with grass lawns or garden areas are better suited for our family. Paved patios are nice too, but natural areas are even better. (Bonus points if they have chickens, tractors or dogs on site!)

Bring toys.

The outdoors are fun, but the kids can get bored or start to explore too far. We like to bring a small assortment of trucks and balls, so that the kids can play in the area. But don’t go crazy. One time we brought too many toys and they were scattered everywhere. We want to be gracious guests.

Choose a winery that allows outside food and drink.

The kids aren’t wine tasting (obviously!). They want to eat and drink just like mom and dad. I suggest packing a picnic and sharing it family style. Call ahead or look on the winery’s website to see if outside food is encouraged or discouraged.

Pick one winery and stick around for a while.

We like to only visit one winery at a time. The kids don’t want to get in and out of the car all afternoon. So, my hubby and I like to taste all the wines and then share a bottle outside in the grass or on the patio.

Go out and have fun together!

What do you think? Do you have other tips to add? We’d love to hear about your adventures in wine country with kiddos!

Attempted Family Photo at Iris Vineyards

Shelly Williams and family out at Iris Vineyards near Eugene

Picnic at Brigidoon Winery

A Family Picnic at Brigadoon Winery

My husband and I don’t get out to wine country as often as we’d like, now that we have two young boys. Bringing the kids along for an afternoon of wine tasting isn’t at the top of our weekend list.

However, one gorgeous, warm day in April, we chose to venture out to wine country with the kids. We had been to Brigadoon Wine Company once before and remembered it being a good spot for families.

So we packed a picnic and hit the road.

After a short 30-minute drive through the country, we pulled up to a quiet, lovely craftsman-style winery nestled into the hills of the south Willamette valley.

A sweet, golden retriever, Gracie, greeted us. My three-year-old son quickly befriended her and we followed Gracie in.

It didn’t take long before the boys found the toy box, tucked nicely under a side table in the tasting room. Matt, the winemaker, was there to pour and warmly received our family, squirrelly kids and all. My hubby, Jason, and I purchased a bottle of Lylee Pinot Noir to share.

Alongside the tasting room building is a terraced lawn and landscaped garden area with picnic tables and adirondack chairs that overlook a secluded, peaceful canyon.

The kids were free to play in the grass, pet the dog and play with toys. We nibbled on fresh strawberries, pretzels, hummus and corn salad. (And of course PB&J for the kids). The Lylee was light-bodied, fruit-forward and just lovely for a warm spring day.

This laid-back, quiet spot nestled in the valley was an ideal spot to spend a Sunday afternoon with my family. And of course, the drive home was just as peaceful with two sleeping boys in the back seat.

Shelly's boys sleeping after afternoon in wine country

About Brigadoon Wine Company

Located just northwest of Junction City on a 66-acre farm with 15 of those planted in vineyards, Brigadoon Wine Company is an easy drive from Eugene. Started in 2008, Brigadoon produces two wine varietals in a father and son affair. From rich and fruity Pinot Noirs to its lovely Pinot Blanc, the winery serves high quality wines that won’t break the bank.

Toe to Toe with Left Coast Cellars’ 2011 Latitude 45 Pinot Noir

For a recent article I wrote for Take Root Magazine, I had the opportunity to sample a delicious line up of Left Coast Cellars‘ wines and share them with my family and friends. My sister sipped in the sun their Truffle Hill Chardonnay while we barbecued with their Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir and White Pinot Noir. But over all, the wine that stood out to me the most was their single vineyard bottling, Latitude 45 Pinot Noir. Well balanced and layered, the wine matched me toe to toe after a stressful day at work.

Left Coast Cellar's Pinot Noir

Initially speaking on the tongue with bright cherry and red-raspberry flavors, the wine curves from fruit to earth as it slinks across the palate turning to notes of dry earth, dusty spices, dried mushrooms, and a touch of anise on the finish. Soaking up these rich flavors from its soil, Chehulpum silt, the Pinot Noir vineyard is intersected by the 45th parallel, like many great vineyards of France, and planted in 100% Dijon clone.

After a few sips, I relaxed with a glass; lost in the flavors as the evening wore on.


A Delightful Balance of Old and New — 2012 Left Coast Truffle Hill Chardonnay

Having never been a fan of traditional, old world chardonnays, I usually avoid them completely. On a whim I snagged a bottle of unoaked chardonnay from the grocery shelf one evening and was pleasantly surprised. Later that evening, I even texted my sister and told her I must be turning in our mother…because only mom drinks chardonnay! Since then I’ve been on a unoaked chardonnay kick.

When my sister, Kelsey, gave me a bottle of Left Coast’s 2012 Truffle Hill Chardonnay to try I agreed but was wary that I still wouldn’t care for a more traditional chardonnay. Little did I know that this wine blends the best of both worlds; the wine is aged in a combination of oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, blending the old and new world style.Left Coast 2012 Truffle Hill Chardonnay

On the nose are aromas of green apples and a hint of nectarine — a crispness that was unexpected. Yet, the taste delivered a nice sweet, yellow apple with hints of lingering vanilla. This inviting lush chardonnay is well-balanced, medium-bodied and easy to drink. It was a perfect addition to my summer evening dinner. I continued sipping it even as my boys ran (and crawled) from the table to play in the evening sun.

About Left Coast

Left Coast Cellars is an all estate vineyard and winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, focusing on handcrafted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Located south of McMinnville near Rickreall, it’s just a quick hop off highway 99. Producing wine sustainably is a core value and the winery is entirely solar powered.

Phelps Creek Vineyards’ 2012 Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir

As many of you know, I drink a lot of Pinot Noir – especially from the Willamette Valley. So when I was given this bottle of wine I didn’t think much of it, just another bottle of Pinot to open sometime. It sat in my wine frig for several months and even made it through an apartment move before I found it again.Phelps Creek Cuvee Pinot Noir

From first sip, I knew I had tasted something special. Refreshing different, this wine plays on the palate with balanced fruit and earth to the tune of a rich, not-to-be-forgotten Pinot Noir.

Phelps Creek Vineyards’ 2012 Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir features an earthy aroma of sweet spices and root with a slight note of fig and blue fruit. The color is dark like black cherries while the mouth-feel stays light, smooth, lush. But truly, it’s all about the taste! Layers of earth, pitted-fruit, and dark concentrated fruit builds as the wine flows across your tongue. An even body and light to moderate acidity help to give the wine structure. These flavors give way and turn toward sweeter blue and black fruit as the finish lingers at the back of the palate. Sourced from the best barrels of Pinot Noir grown on Phelps Creek Estate Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA, the wine is crafted using strict Burgundian techniques and spontaneous, native yeast fermentation.

Phelps Creek, located just south of Hood River, is a family-owned boutique winery. Producing just 5,000 cases every-year, they focus their energy on vineyard care and sustainable farming practices to harvest beautiful fruit that showcases the winery’s unique vineyard sites.

Visit Phelps Creek along the fruit loop this spring & summer at their tasting room, opening 12-5pm, daily on the Hood River Golf Course.