Should You Book a Kayaking Wine tour? Wine Not!
Just as surely as the Willamette river flows, thousands of acres of lush grapes grow. Tucked between the mountains in the vast soils below, it is here that blooms an unexpected wonder that once wasn’t thought to be. Low and behold, the richness that thrives throughout this land, the wine of Willamette Valley.
Wine Region of the Year – Willamette Valley
What better way to experience the internationally recognized 2016 Wine Region of the Year, than by taking an all-encompassing approach, on one of our kayaking wine tours. Learn about the land, cultivation, and culture within a select few of Oregon’s acclaimed vineyards while adventuring at the same time. Cascadia Expeditions offers all inclusive, kayaking winery tours that paddle down on the Willamette River, or one of its tributaries (depending on the season). Join an experienced and knowledgable guide for a scenic float, riverside lunch and a journey to one of the rotating local wineries, where we’ll sample the Willamette Valley’s finest wines.
This beautiful river is responsible for the fertile soils, mixed atop old volcanic and sedimentary seabed, that have allowed Oregon’s wine industry to grow uniquely and richly. We want to give you the chance to see it for yourself! Enjoy a new kind of wine tasting experience, that will leave you feeling fulfilled and fully immersed in the wonders of the Willamette Valley.
Why is the Willamette Valley so special in the world of wine?
The Willamette Valley has the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in Oregon! Designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA), the Willamette Valley is enveloped between the Oregon Coast Range to the west, the Cascade Mountains to the east, and the Calapooia Mountains further to the south. The verdant valley’s length stretches from the Columbia River in the north to just below Eugene in the south, with the Willamette River coursing through it’s entire 150 miles.
This region was originally thought to be too cold to be suited for viticulture (the cultivation of grapevines). Yet, the year round mild conditions composed of cool, wet winters, warm, dry summers, and rare temperature extremes actually make the Willamette Valley the ideal area for particular grapes, as well as sustainable practices of agriculture. Oregon’s land use laws protected rural hillsides from housing development sprawl, thus offering the perfect opportunity to preserve the rustic nature of the land and plant vineyards. Over the years, this land has only continued to thrive, as its industry respect and worldwide notoriety also continues to grow.
The top 5 varietals produced in Oregon are: Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah. Oregon is most recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir producing areas in the world, and the Willamette Valley contributes about 82% of the state’s total Pinot noir production. So, that’s where our trips earned their name, Paddling for Pinots. Although, with a wide array of other wines cultivated here that are arguably just as unique and enjoyable, we give you the chance to taste the variety!
What wineries can we visit?
In March and April, we paddle the scenic and rugged Mary’s River, which is a tributary off of the Willamette River. During the early season, we alternate our visits to Harris Bridge Vineyard and Cardwell Hill Cellars. This is a great kayaking tour for the intrepid explorers among you. With our inflatable kayaks, wetsuits and waterproof splash tops, we forge ahead in any weather, knowing there will be revelry and wine at the end of the line.
At Harris Bridge Vineyard, winemakers Nathan and Amanda make pinot gris and pinot noir vermouth, aperitifs, dessert wines, and brandy. The beautiful old covered Harris Bridge, which you will see on your visit, is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places! Their quaint, rustic, riverside tasting room is one that will surely make you feel at home.
Another one of our early spring stops is Cardwell Cellars which resides in the shadow of nearby Mary’s Peak. The land is of utmost importance to owners Dan and Nancy Chapel (and their award winning pinot noir) who act as stewards of the land and operate their vineyard with dry farming practices- only letting the naturally occurring rainfall water their crops. To learn more about their biodynamic system, cover crop utilization, and endangered species habitat there, you’ll just have to visit for yourself!
When To Go?
Airlie Winery, which is an all women’s owned and operated entity, offers a tasting room and overlooking deck with extensive views of the lush Dunn Forest and the coast range. In addition to the classic Pinotnoir, Airlie also offers a range of wines like a dry Pinot blanc, barrel fermented Chardonnay, Müller Thurgau and Maréchal Foch.
Ankeny Vineyard is located on the southern slopes of the Salem Hills, overlooking the Ankeny National Bird Refuge, home to thousands of migratory waterfowl. Rooted on land that has been farmed since 1846, the first wine grapes were planted there in 1982. Owned by Joe Olexa, Ankeny puts their crafting emphasis on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Maréchal Foch
Why take a kayaking wine tour with Cascadia Expeditions? These trips are more than just a trip to a tasting room. We don’t just want you to check off a box on your winery to-do list. We want to provide you with a memorable experience that will truly allow you to connect with this special place, and the amazing product that is grown and created here. The wine of the Willamette Valley is waiting for you. Come and explore it with us!