[/caption] Oregon’s Willamette Valley is just one area in Oregon that offers some of the best places in America to taste some of North Americas wines. However, the Hood River Valley and Southern Oregon rivals even the best wines in the Willamette Valley. There are so many wineries near the larger cities in Oregon that it’s no more than a 15 minute drive for most people. Every time I visit the wineries I end up meeting people that have traveled from out of state just to visit the vineyards and taste the vino. Photographing the many vineyards that dot the rolling hills offers some really spectacular photo opportunities.
[/caption] The month of August is one of the best months to visit Oregon’s wine country. This is especially true in the Willamette Valley. The warm dry air mixed with the incredible rolling hills that blanket the area is proof enough that Oregon is truly wine country. I find that the wineries around Forest Grove, Dundee and McMinnville offer some of the best views of the vineyards as well as some of the Cascade mountains in the far distance. There are also more wineries within a short distance from one another which makes it easier to photograph the landscape. August doesn’t offer you the opportunities of photographing the grapes but the vines are a very lush green and make for spectacular photos. I chose this particular photo since it shows the vineyard perched along a rolling hill facing due south as well as the vastness of the vineyards. The oak tree with the tire swing as well as the clear blue sky and lush forest also adds to the beauty of the setting. To get this shot I made sure to stand in the shade since the sun was still pretty bright since there were no clouds in the sky and it was about 4:30pm. However, you can see the shadow from the oak tree in the foreground which helped create a lot of character in the shot. Since I was wondering all over the winery I wasn’t using a tripod so I made sure to keep a steady hand every time I took a shot. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter due to the harshness of the sun and the glare in the sky. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.7 which caused the aperture to be set at F-5 and the shutter speed at 1/125 second since I had the camera mode in Program/Normal. I set the focal length at 70mm since I was standing near the tasting room and the vineyard was rather far away. I wanted to maximize the telephoto so I could frame the vineyard along with the oak tree, forest and blue sky.
[/caption] My wife and I have now completed our second winery tasting tour and this time we visited several wineries within Yamhill County. Each of the wineries that we visited were also in the small town of Dundee, which is just a short drive from Portland. The weather the previous days were cold and wet but on this day the sun had come out in force and it ended up being a fantastic day to taste wines. Most of the wineries were gearing up for their first day of harvest. Dundee offers some of the most impressive rolling hills in the Willamette Valley and some great views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. The first winery that we visited was at Sokol Blosser winery. We were welcomed by a very charming and open tasting room. There are several seating areas outside near the vineyard as well as a patio that overlooks the vineyards. The wines were awesome and we were also able to walk around the grounds and had the opportunity to watch them weigh the grapes in 500 lb tubs and then slowly place them on a moving belt so they could be inspected before preparing to process them. The staff was pleasant and very knowledgeable. Our second stop was at Winderlea tasting room, which was on a slopping hill that overlooked several of the vineyards in Dundee. The building was very modern and had a very urban feel to it. Again, the staff was very polite and was dog friendly. They offer a spectacular view from their enormous deck and on a clear day you could see the Cascades in the distance. You were basically right over the top of the vineyards. We then decided to walk up the hill just yards from Winderlea and visit our third winery…. Barrel Fence Cellars. This winery also has a vineyard in New Zealand as well in Oregon. The tasting room sat near the top of the hill and also offered a great view of the vineyards surrounding the area. There is a also a very pleasant patio seating area outside. Our 4th winery was just 1/2 mile up the road and it was Maresh winery. You can see the top of the barn in the photo that I’ve posted highlighting this article. We were told that the tasting room was at one time a working barn several years ago. They also had used the old Tigard high school basketball court as their flooring inside the Red Barn tasting room. Maresh vineyard had a real country feel to it. It was the most unique winery that I have visited since it reminded me of an old farm house rather than a winery. However, the wine was fantastic and the hospitality was awesome. Our fifth and final winery was at Bella Vida Vineyard. This winery was at the top of a winding hill and offered the most panoramic views in the area. The picture that I posted in this article was taken near their tasting room. I took most of my photos from this area since it offered so many photo opportunities. The tasting room was still under construction but they still had their tasting room open. It was very spacious and the hospitality was wonderful. We were told that once the construction is completed, they will have the tasting room on the second floor with ample seating and even better views. On this day I didn’t use my tripod, bubble level or my remote switch. I found that I needed to move around too often and my tripod would be too cumbersome and time consuming. To get get shot, I was using my 55-250mm Canon telephoto lens. I was also using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. The focal length was at 90mm and the F stop was at F-4.5. I was using Program mode and the shutter speed was at 1/50th of a second. The sun was fairly intense even though I took the photo at 4:15pm. The clouds were hit and miss but the vineyards created a very translucent glow. I was really concerned about having my photos turn out blurry since I wasn’t using a tripod and I was using my telephoto at a high focal length. If you love wine and wine tasting, I would recommend visiting any of the wineries surrounding Yamhill County. I believe there are close to 100 wineries throughout the Willamette Valley and I would surely recommend the ones that we visited.
[/caption] I finally decided that it was about time that I went on my first winery tour and I figured that there was no better place to start than near my own backyard. My wife and I decided that we would tour as many wineries within Washington County as we could. After visiting the visitor center, we mapped out our touring route and headed out towards Forest Grove. We figured that we could visit up to 8 vineyards without being too rushed. However, we were only able to visit 5 wineries on this trip. Our first winery was Elk Cove Vineyards, which had spectacular views of their winery and also of the many trees along their property. We then headed out to Patton Valley Vineyard, which consisted of a twisty gravel road. The hospitality was wonderful and I was given the opportunity to take some photos inside the chilling room. We then found ourselves at Plum Hill Vineyards, which also was just off a gravel road, near the main highway. The tasting room was colorful and relaxing. The owner was gracious enough to give us a grand tour of their winery operation. We got a glimpse of the winery operation and saw just how difficult and time consuming it can be. The hospitality was again fantastic. We then headed out to Montinore Estate. The building may have been constructed of concrete but once you got near the entrance it took on a feel of an old west building. The interior was very welcoming and really made you feel like you were in a grand tasting room. Again, I was given permission to walk along the vineyard and take photos of the grounds and the vineyard. Our final destination was David Hill Vineyard & Winery. The tasting room house was an old English style home that was right in the middle of the vineyard. The grounds were well manicured and there were several rolling hills of vineyards throughout their property. All of the wineries mentioned were surrounded by their vineyard, which makes for a great atmosphere as well as many photo opportunities. Since I’m trying to become a wine lover, this gave me several opportunities to try some really great Pinot Noir wines. On our next wine tasting tour we hope to visit some of the other 20 or so wineries within the Washington County area. I highly recommend that you visit any of the wineries mentioned and expect some great hospitality and some pretty good wine too. The photo shown on my blog was taken at Elk Cove Vineyards. It was about 10:30 in the morning so the sun wasn’t too bright. There were several shady areas around the trees and their grounds have several flowers that create an epic scene. I never used my tripod on this trip since there was no need. To get this shot I had the camera set at Auto Exposure and the ISO at 100. The white balance was set at -1 and the F stop at 7.1. Since the sun was so bright I also attached my CIR-PL and my Warming filter. I was using my 12-24mm wide angle lens and had the focal length at 14mm. The Exposure Time was at 1/100 second. Photographing wineries can be real challenging since you are always trying to get as much of the vineyard in the frame without having too many distractions in the photo. I tried to incorporate as many trees and flowers as possible without losing sight of the main subject.