February 26th, 2019

Cozy and Custom: Oregon wine country’s laid-back cellar season has all the right happenings

Novice or maven: The right-sized experience can make all of the difference when you’re planning a wine country escape. And cellar seasonthose slow, cozy months of quiet activity at the vineyardmight be the best time to visit McMinnville wine country.


  1. Access to winemakers. Try getting time with a winemaker during harvest or any of the big holiday weekends. If you see wine as a story of place, and want to know that story intimately, winter is where it’s at. The best way to ensure that happens is to book a private tasting at the vineyard of your choice.
  2. Menu marvels. Anyone can match summer food to wine. But winter food? That’s an Oregon wine thing. The annual Oregon Dungeness Crab Feed at R. Stuart pairs the silky sweetness of the West’s favorite crustacean with the light acidity of Pinot gris. Or maybe visit three vineyards of the McMinnville AVA in one swoop with a progressive brunch at J. Wrigley, Yamhill Valley Vineyards and Youngberg Hill.
  3. Great events. Some of the best wine country events happen in the slow months. It’s a time for conviviality without distractions. Go small at the weekly Thursday Lunch at Remy Wines (bring your small team!), or big at SIP!, the three-day McMinnville Wine and Food Classic happening at Evergreen Museum March 8-10.
  4. Perfect sizing. Like all the great arts, wine opens up new worlds whatever your sipping experience. Quick dip or deep dive? The choice is yours. If you’re new to wine, try the Brooks 101: See, Smell, Sip experience at Brooks Winery. For a big-picture look at what’s going on among a dozen producers of Oregon wine, the Cuvee Stroll at the Allison Inn & Spa makes for the best walkable date night.
  5. The height of hygge. If you don’t yet know the joy of the Danish art of coziness, you’ll find it during cellar season at tasting rooms warmed by the fire’s glow. If you want nothing else but to warm yourself while sipping, we like the inviting hearth of Soléna Estate, and the hand-crafted mantles at the Atticus Hotel (pop your own cork)
  6. Small crowds. If you’re in line with Sartre’s famous “hell is other people” when it comes to travel, then the intimacy and slower pace of the season should beckon you like none other. Some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path, family-run wineries include Coeur de Terre and Keeler Estate Vineyard.
  7. First sips. Novelty seekers will be well-rewarded with the first releases of 2018 wines. Winter’s Hill is hosting an exclusive, small, seated tasting of new Rose with its winemaker, Russell Gladhart, and has a release party on March 23, and Raptor Ridge has an oyster and Grüner Veltliner party planned for the 24. Check your favorite vineyard for other first release happenings as cellar season draws to a close.

Wherever you go, call ahead to ensure you get a reservation for popular events.

Emily Grosvenor is the Editor of Oregon Home magazine and the voice behind Visit McMinnville’s Tiny Travels.