Sipping at Sweet Cheeks Harvest time at Sweet Cheeks Winery
A tour through Southern Willamette Valley Oregon
Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley may not be as famous as California’s Napa Valley but it has been quietly producing some of the finest wines in the world for four decades. A climate similar to that in France and the volcanic soils of Oregon contribute a delicacy that uniquely enhances Southern Willamette Valley wine flavors.
As of 2011, wine enthusiasts traveling through the region have over 200 wineries to choose from — up from just five in 1970. Located near Eugene, the southern part of the valley is home to some of the state’s most well-known vineyards and wineries. Weekend Road Trip to Sweet Cheeks Winery I took a road trip from Portland to check out a winery that stood out on the winery route map due to its curious name, Sweet Cheeks Winery.
I had also heard about their newly refurbished farmhouse that was now available for overnight stays while exploring the neighboring wineries, so a weekend of decadence awaited us. Nestled in the heart of Southern Willamette Valley wine country is Sweet Cheeks Winery with breathtaking views and old world charm. The Winery bottled its first vintage in 2003 and the tasting room opened in 2005.
However, it has been an established vineyard since 1978, it was just lacking a tasting room for wine aficionados to visit. The superb wines produced here come from winemakers existing on passion and tradition.
To experience the wine, you must make a visit to the tasting room. The wineries curious name derived from two rounded hills on the estate which were separated by a road. Workers joked that this particular area resembled a certain body part – snicker snicker. The nickname “Sweet Cheeks” stuck and has caught the public’s attention ever since. Not only is the name memorable, so is the label donning a very Poe-esque crow as the winery mascot which makes perfect sense since the winery resides in the quaint town of Crow.
Kings Estate Winery Patio. photos by Amy Perez.Great wine
This may bring a smirk to peoples’ face but contained behind the Sweet Cheeks wine label is the bottled truth of great wine. Behind the scenes at Sweet Cheeks Winery Owner Dan Smith and Manager Kacy Minnis strive to make the Sweet Cheeks wine and experience exceptional. Head winemaker, Leo Gabica, has also brought his expertise to the winemaking process. All wine is bottled on site, allowing the varietal characteristics to gently mature throughout the vintification process. Production is small and is mostly sold locally but their market is growing annually as is the Sweet Cheeks “buzz” in the Northwest.
The charming old world tasting room is open daily noon – 6:00 pm for sampling of varietals including: Pinot Noir, Rosy Cheeks, Pinot Fusion, Chardonnay and award winning Pinot Gris and Riesling. Smaller vintages of Tempranillo and Syrah also make seasonal appearances on the wine list.
Wines are paired with lovely local artisan cheeses and the wine is surprisingly reasonable, bottles range from $14 – $22. Friday Night Twilight Tastings On Friday evenings the patio turns into a grand feasting area for the weekly Twilight Tastings (6-9pm).
Guests bring packed gourmet meals and snacks to accompany their Sweet Cheeks wine purchases. The resonating sound in the air is of amorous eating and drinking. With as many as 150 guests attending, the unfailingly friendly and informed staff does not miss a beat. Wine connoisseur or novice – you will leave well informed about the wines produced on the estate and what makes the distinctly Sweet Cheeks wine what it is. After an afternoon or evening of fine wine and food, a quick drive down the vineyard lined roads will put you at Sweet Cheeks’ newly renovated 1900 farmhouse.
Just minutes from the winery, this charming four-bedroom three-bath farmhouse and studio loft has a romantic and relaxing vineyard setting offering all the luxuries and country charm a visitor could want. The multiple seating areas provide spectacular views from every vantage point, a perfect spot to savor the wine and specially made truffles and flavored nuts left as a courtesy for all farmhouse guests. Whether you are visiting Sweet Cheeks or numerous wineries in the area this is a convenient and magical overnight stay.
Doing the Southern Willamette Valley Loop After waking up refreshed from a deep slumber in your four poster bed and a leisurely breakfast on the veranda, now is the perfect time to explore any one of the 35 neighboring Southern Willamette Valley rural wineries that grace the lush rolling hills.
The bounties of the South Willamette Valley terroir are beautifully expressed through these handcrafted, award winning wines and wineries. Popular options are King’s Estates, Chateau Loraine and Noble Estate Vineyard for their outstanding wine, tasting room, restaurants and stunning grounds. The 25 mile scenic drive from Portland to the Southern Willamette Valley wine country takes you to a region whose viticulture is relatively unexplored.
It is a prized escape and delightful adventure. The scenery is inspiring and the experience at Sweet Cheeks Winery and Farmhouse worth repeating. Who needs Tuscany when we’ve got Southern Willamette Valley in our own back yard? If you go: For additional information about the Sweet Cheeks Winery, Wine Club Membership and the Farmhouse Vacation Rental please call Toll free: 877-309-wine (9463) or local 541-349-wine (9463);
Find more at www.sweetcheekswinery.com. Sweet Cheeks Winery is located at 27007 Briggs Hill Road, Eugene OR 97405.The easiest way to find Sweet Cheeks Winery is to take the Beltline Freeway to its western end, then continue on West 11th (Oregon 126) for 10 miles to Veneta. Turn south at the traffic light and drive nine miles to Briggs Hill Road. Turn left and look for the winery entrance in one mile.
Read more about Oregon and wineries on GONOMAD
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