Every family has their Thanksgiving weekend traditions. For some, it is Black Friday shopping at the local mall, for others it might be a game of tag football or a hike with the family. For us, it is wine tasting. With few exceptions, the day after Thanksgiving finds us on a wine trail. Last year we headed south to the Roseburg area to sample wines at Glaser Estate, Becker, and Reustle. Other years we’ve traveled north to Dundee, Salem, or the Monroe area. Sometimes, we stay more local but the goal is always to get out, explore, and enjoy time together.
This year we chose to go to Elkton. We’ve gone wine tasting in Elkton before and always enjoy it. The atmosphere there is more relaxed than anything you’ll find in the Willamette Valley on Thanksgiving weekend, and the wine is different. It is so different, in fact, that Elkton Oregon has its own viticultural designation. What does that mean? It means that the climate in the Elkton region is so different than that of the surrounding Umpqua Valley region that the wine grapes grown there are noticeably different. Notably the cool, moist air coming up the Umpqua River from the Oregon Coast keeps Elkton cooler and moister than regions to the east. Cool climate grapes are grown here – like Pinot Noir – rather than the more warm-loving grapes of the Umpqua Valley – like Tempranillo.
We started our Elkton wine tour at the two small wineries located just south of Elkton on Highway 138. They are just far enough off the beaten path that we don’t get to them very often (unlike the two wineries in “downtown” Elkton which we visit roughly once a year or so). Bradley Vineyards was our first stop. We always appreciate a winery dog, and we were not disappointed with Bradley Vineyard’s dog Ruby who trotted down the driveway to greet us; nor were we disappointed with her namesake “Ruby Red” wine, a mix of Pinot Noir and Baco Noir.
Like other small wineries, owners John and Bonnie Bradley welcomed us into the warm little tasting room and talked about their wines and the history of their vineyard as we sipped and sampled. The view from the front deck was wonderful, and would be a great place to sit and enjoy for a while in warmer weather.
Just a little farther south, our next stop was Anindor Vineyards. Anindor’s new wine tasting room opened in June of this year and is in a yurt (constructed by Pacific Yurts here in Cottage Grove). I’ve never spent time in a yurt so it was a fun experience to learn about yurts as we were learning about Anindor wines. Like Bradley, this small winery produces dry whites (Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer) and a limited number of Pinot Noir and Baco Noir, all from grapes grown in their own vineyard. If you are familiar with Riesling and Gewürztraminer I encourage you to put your perceptions of them aside when you sample wine at Anindor and Bradley. Both wineries construct a dry wine which is very different from the sweet style I associate with these grapes.
River’s Edge Winery
A long-time favorite of ours is River’s Edge Winery, located on Highway 38 on the west side of town. Winery owners Michael and Vonnie Landt greeted us as we walked into the tasting room, and though we don’t get there that often, I was impressed that they recognized our faces. While River’s Edge does have some white wines available, they specialize in Pinor Noir and had a full sampling available, mostly from their own grapes grown at their Black Oak and Elkton vineyards. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about operating a small Oregon winery from Michael and Vonnie, who have always been welcoming and freely share their knowledge and experience with guests.
Also, different from most other wineries, the tasting room for River’s Edge is right inside the winery itself. This provides a very different atmosphere, and I think often shapes the conversations we have while tasting wine there.
One of the things I like about our wine-tasting trips is that we head out with few expectations and, usually, no defined itinerary. While in Elkton we learned that several local artists had opened their studios for the weekend so we took breaks from our wine tasting to view some amazing pottery at Ogawa Pottery Studio, and some beautiful silver jewelry and paintings at the combined studio of Cliff Scharf and Nancy Watterson. Along the route we saw flocks of wild turkeys, herds of deer, friendly horses, kids at play, and quirky rural businesses.
Misty Oaks Vineyard
Looking to do something different, as we left Elkton we headed south on Highway 138 and drove into Sutherlin. It has been a very long time since I’ve been on that road, and we enjoyed the views of the Umpqua River. On impulse we stopped at Misty Oaks Winery. It was getting late in the day, the fog was settling in, and Misty Oaks’ two boxer dogs led us up the last stretch of the drive. The wine at Misty Oaks was amazing, and it was a nice juxtaposition to taste it after the Elkton wineries as the difference in the viticulture regions became very obvious.
Owner Christy Simmons poured the wine for us, and we enjoyed the company of several other late-afternoon wine tasters as she took us through their wines, we were especially enamored with their dark reds – the Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and an Italian style blend complete with Barbera grapes locally sourced from the Oakland area.
I can’t end without mentioning Brandborg Winery, also in downtown Elkton. We taste wine there fairly frequently. We didn’t see them this weekend, but I encourage anyone not familiar with Elkton wines to make time for them as well.
In all, the drive from Cottage Grove out Highway 38 to Elkton, then down 138 to Sutherlin, and back home up I-5 was about 115 miles. We tasted wine at 4 different wineries and learned firsthand how the Elkton Oregon viticulutral area differs from the Umpqua Valley viticulural area which surrounds it. We enjoyed views of the Umpqua River, saw a bald eagle and numerous wild turkeys and deer, enjoyed the beautiful handiwork of three artisans, and experienced a lovely day driving through rural Oregon.