November 6th, 2019

Thanksgiving & Wine: It’s an Oregon Tradition

There’s a tradition here in Oregon Wine Country. Once the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers are safely tucked away, thoughts turn to wine.

Red wine. White wine. Varietals. Blends. It doesn’t matter. And local winemakers know one thing. If they make it, people will come.

Wineries throughout the region open the doors during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend for a tradition nearly as old as the industry here. Special events are planned. Musicians perform. Food is on the table. And, everyone is invited to visit and discover what’s inside the bottle.

Roots, Chris & Hilary Berg, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This all started 37 years ago as a way to introduce a fledging Oregon wine industry.

“I was not around then, but people like the Ponzis, the Campbells of Elk Cove and others have mentioned the Thanksgiving tasting tradition starting way back when in order to expose people to even the idea of Oregon wine,” says Hilary Berg, a Yamhill winery owner and editor of the Oregon Wine Press.

Like more than 140 wineries in the greater Willamette Valley, Berg’s Roots Wine Company ( will be open during the holiday weekend. It’s a great way for small wineries such as Roots to showcase their creations.

“Thanksgiving weekend remains popular for wineries,” Hilary says. “It makes sense that this weekend continues to be successful. With families visiting from out of town, the tastings are the perfect way to get people out of the house, away from the TV and introduce them to local wine country.”

With so many small wineries in the area, foot traffic is important. Vineyard managers and winemakers such as Hilary’s husband Chris work hard to make quality wines but with smaller production levels, 5,000 cases each year at Roots, it’s difficult to build name recognition.

“As a winery owner, the weekend presents a great opportunity to sign up new wine club members and encourage customers to stock up for the holidays and beyond,” she says. “People also tend to purchase gifts, like T-shirts for their gift-giving lists, which is always good for our brand building.”

Wineries also use this weekend to introduce new releases, pour something special from the library and stimulate sales with case discounts, Hilary says. And while staffs are surrendering their own holiday weekends, she thinks the time is well spent.

“The rush of traffic has been very much worth it,” Hilary says. “It is a big weekend for us and most wineries. Besides, we enjoy seeing all the faces from previous years as well as club members and new customers, too.”

The weekend has become so popular that some wineries have expanded their schedules to include special dates for club members earlier in the month. Roots, for example, hosts a wine club pickup party the weekend before Thanksgiving. That gives their loyal customers the chance to have their wines before the holiday season begins.

“Some wineries believe that serious wine buyers don’t prefer the big crowds, so creating a similar tasting the weekend before Thanksgiving is a chance to get those people in the door,” Hilary says. “But most still make specials plans for the main weekend. It’s a great time.”

As for Hilary and Chris Berg, they’ll be behind the marble bar in their cozy tasting room out in the country near Yamhill.

“We will be open Saturday and Sunday, pouring some new wines, some old wines and treating guests to some delicious nibbles, too.”

For more information on planning your Thanksgiving Weekend in Wine Country visit, check out the Willamette Valley Wineries Association guide.

Dan Shryock writes each month about McMinnville and Yamhill County. He’s enjoyed a glass or two of Roots wine on the deck outside the winery’s tasting room.