With more than 300 wineries, Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become a draw for oenophiles from all over the world. On the same latitude as Burgundy, France, the area is best known for pinot noir wines that are produced with an eye to value and accessibility, and, in pure Oregon fashion, a decidedly down-to-earth vibe.
Scott Ota, general manager and beverage director for San Antonio’s High Street Wine, recently brought a group to the area for touring and tasting. He notes, “It’s an amazing place with loads of potential. Oregon is perfectly situated to grow cooler-climate grape varieties. The influence of the Pacific and access to water, along with its northern latitude, gives it a leg up on California. And with more reasonably priced land, Oregon offers better value for the dollar.”
Many of the region’s wineries have responded to the influx of visitors by creating event spaces and hiring dedicated events coordinators to attract and support meeting planners’ business. Looking for a more traditional venue for your event? Willamette Valley has plenty of those as well. Consider the sustainably gorgeous and award-winning Salem Convention Center, for example, which offers 30,000 square feet of eco-friendly event space (for more on Salem, see page 16). Here’s a quick look at some of the area’s other top picks for events.
The Greek word for “joy” is “chara,” which is how this vineyard got its name. “Our view is that having a glass of wine is a joy,” says owner Ted Karr, who established the vineyard in 2017. Located in Sherwood, Oregon, the vineyard sits at the gateway to the Willamette wine region, Karr says. “We’re an easy access point to the Portland area.” The event space, which can serve groups up to 80, includes an outdoor grill and a full indoor kitchen. The 1,500 square feet of patio space is partially covered and includes two gas fire pits for cozy evening events.
Eola Hills Wine Cellars
As one of Oregon’s largest wineries, Eola Hills Wine Cellars produces more than 80,000 cases of wine each year on 325 acres of locally owned and operated land in the Eola-Amity Hills American Viticultural Region (AVA). The winery manages two event venues: Legacy Estate Vineyard in Salem, with a 500-person capacity and the Winery Barrel Room in Rickreall, with capacity for 200. “At Eola Hills, we love nothing more than sharing excellent wine with good friends in a beautiful setting, paired with a delicious menu,” says special events manager Cat Keller.
Hayworth Estate Winery
Seven miles north of Eugene, owner Russ Hayworth’s winery has an ideal outdoor setting for events: a 1-acre lawn in the center of the vineyard operation. “We can tent the outdoor space and seat 500 or accommodate 100 seated in our event barn,” he says. “We do tastings, events, meetings, team-building and client-focused hospitality here.” While the facility can hold quite a few participants, the winery also hosts more intimate events for just five to 10 guests. This fall, the winery is opening a wine bar in the nearby town of Coburg.
Lumos Wine Co.
A fascinating past and wine-abundant future—that’s the story of this venue. Lumos was a dude ranch in the ’40s and ’50s and now offers private, seated tasting room events for up to 50, with seating for another 30 on its deck. “The barn was built in the late ’30s, and it was the dance hall for the camp,” says owner PK McCoy. “Now we’ve added a modern tasting room to that space, so it combines old and new beautifully.” The views from the expansive deck are tremendous, she says. “The view of Marys Peak, the tallest mountain in the Coast Range, is unrivaled in the valley.” A couple of the original dude ranch guest cabins are even available for rental. “This place is pretty magical,” McCoy says.
Saffron Fields Vineyard
“We’re a crossroads of great wine, art, architecture and a beautiful landscape,” says manager Andrea Feero. Featuring a Japanese-themed garden, a modern tasting room and art from the owners’ private collection, it’s an ideal setting for intimate events and meetings. The winery can accommodate 20 people in the tasting room or 40 at round tables for after-hours events. “We recently had a team from Nike here, and they held a brainstorming session and then did yoga on our patio,” she says. If you’re visiting in season, you can nibble from seven different varieties of blueberries planted among the grapevines. Heartier fare is available with cheese and charcuterie plates from the winery’s full kitchen or from off-site catering.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Founded by Jim Bernau in 1983, Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner is focused on stewardship of the land. Among its sustainable practices are the use of biodiesel in delivery trucks and tractors, wine corks certified through the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council standards, and biodynamic farming practices. The winery also installed mason bee boxes to support healthy pollinator populations and nesting boxing to encourage a balanced ecosystem by introducing owls and kestrels to the land to control pests. The winery has five indoor and outdoor spaces. The intimate Pinot Room, Orville Roth Barrel Cellar and Mezzanine can accommodate 40, 30 or 75 guests respectively. For larger groups, the expansive Klaffke Barrel Room & Courtyard and the Lawns can accommodate up to 200. Hospitality Manager Julia Rentz notes that the winery has hosted everything from birthday and graduation parties to business meetings and political events—thanks to its proximity to Salem.
Yamhill Valley Vineyards
Located on a 150-acre estate in the rolling foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains, Yamhill Valley Vineyards is an event venue with a beautiful deck that seats up to 50 for private events. “It’s absolutely gorgeous to be sitting on the deck and looking at the beautiful oak trees. It’s stunning in every direction,” says Tasting Room Manager and Events Coordinator Linda Arnold. The tasting room itself is right in the middle of the 105 acres of vines. “It’s very peaceful and quiet here, and we encourage participants to take some quiet time for a walk through the vineyards or to feed the koi in our pond,” she says.
Owner Kari Ramey says that ambiance is the big selling factor at her 135-acre vineyard and event venue. “This 15,000-square-foot space was purpose-built for events, and we do about 90 events a year right now,” she says. The event venue was created with input from meeting planners and caterers that Ramey brought in during the design phase. The ballroom seats 320, and the covered veranda is an ideal pre-function space for up to 90. “We also have a half-acre event lawn,” Ramey says. “We tent it every May and accommodate 500 for our annual wine auction.” With plenty of contiguous space on site, she says event planners can plan activities, such as breakout sessions on the lawn, early-morning grape harvests, horseback riding and more.
If you’re looking to meet outside of the vineyards, you’re in luck. Willamette Valley has plenty of options. The luxury Atticus Hotel in McMinnville offers 36 rooms, and no two are alike. The property also has space for a board meeting of 10 or private dining for 14, or you can make use of the neighboring The Bindery Event Space for groups of up to 100.
The 90-room, artsy McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove is only 30 minutes to downtown Portland and has 15 event spaces to choose from indoors or out, as well as a full-service spa. For larger groups, consider The Allison Inn & Spa with 25,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the outdoor Chef’s Garden tent and fire pit gathering area. The resort features 77 rooms and eight suites, as well as a restaurant, bar and full-service spa. And the Inn at the 5th in Eugene can accommodate up to 80 for events with guest rooms for 69. It also features an on-site tasting room, fine dining restaurant, fitness center and day spa.
The campus of Oregon State University has a variety of spaces including the Hilton Garden Inn with meeting space for up to 75 guests. Or if you’re more of a Ducks fan, the brand-new Graduate Eugene on the campus of the University of Oregon can accommodate groups of up to 1,400.
Are you looking for something a little more out-of-the-ordinary as a venue? Check out the Falls Event Center on the campus of the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville. Your guests can gather under the wings of historic aircraft, network in a log-style lodge, or connect among space and flight artifacts. The venue can accommodate 12-250 people. Another clever option is the Historic Carousel & Museum in Albany, which can be rented out in its entirety for more than 355 people. Imagine your guests’ faces as they mingle among the playful, vintage carousel animals.