Touring Oregon Wine Country with Grape Escape wine tours

Not long ago, I wouldn’t have thought of spending a full day during a Portland Oregon vacation touring the Oregon wine country. I simply wouldn’t have realized it was an option. In fact, the region directly around metropolitan Portland is ripe with wineries, and has been for several decades. During a recent parents’ weekend away in Portland, I spent an early spring Saturday in wine country with Grape Escape Tours, and it was certainly time well-spent. And if you are enjoying Portland with kids, good news: Grape Escape welcomes children on their winery tours, and yes, there’s actually things for them to do.

Domaine Serene Winery

We started our experience with Grape Escape before we even arrived in Portland. As soon as I reached out via their website, owner Ralph Stinton gave me a call to find out where my party’s interests in wine lay, what we hoped to see during our day in wine country, and logistical details about our group. On our scheduled tour date, Ralph met us in the lobby of our Portland hotel where we chatted further about our expectations, our wine knowledge (or lack thereof), and the like. Following our phone conversation, Ralph had designed a personalized itinerary, which he handed out to us. Included on the itinerary were the three wineries we were scheduled to visit, plus our lunch plans and a paragraph of background information on each winery. Right away, we knew we were in good hands.

Grape Escape tour guide Oregon wine country

We loaded into a Grape Escape 12-passenger van, and Ralph told us more about Oregon’s wine country and the wineries we were scheduled to visit as we drove the approximately 30 minutes outside the city. Our customized tour began with smaller boutique winery Alloro Vineyards, located in the Chehalem Mountains. We met owner Dave Nemarnick, who planted the vineyard then built his beautiful Mediterranean inspired winery. It was obvious that Ralph and Grape Escape enjoyed a good working relationship with Alloro and the other wineries we toured; everywhere we went, he was greeted by name, and able to tell us detailed information about the location, the wines we were tasting, and the differences and similarities between Oregon wines and those elsewhere worldwide.

Grape Escape tour van

We lunched at The Allison Inn and Spa in the nearby Willamette Valley, which we had arranged ourselves; had we not, Ralph would have arranged lunch for us. We headed from there to nearby Domaine Serene, a larger winery situated in the Red Hills of Dundee. We were also scheduled to taste at Archery Summit, but Ralph was able to adapt our itinerary when we opted to spend extra time touring The Allison.

Washington Country Oregon wine country

Grape Escapes booking tips:

Grape Escape vans comfortably hold up to 12 guests, but caravans are possible if you have a larger group. (Grape Escape has six vans in their fleet.) Ralph is one of several qualified guides, and founded the company 19 years ago. In his words, they ‘grew up’ with the Oregon wine industry, which explains their excellent relationship with the various vineyards.

Rates start at $80 per person for a partial day tour. The tour we enjoyed lasted from 10 am to after 4 pm, and runs $175 per person (the price lowers the larger your group). You’re paying for the transportation, but also for the expertise Grape Escape adds to the experience. The best way to get started is to fill out the form on the website, or call: 503-283-3380.

Oregon wine tasting with kids:

If you’re wine tasting with kids in tow, I’d recommend a half-day tour. I know my children would have gotten restless with a longer day. Ralph and his team know which wineries will be most kid-friendly, such as Stoller Winery, which sports a playground outside. All the wineries we saw included spacious outdoor seating, long rolling lawns, and usually a friendly dog or two. Kids will enjoy being out in the Oregon countryside and will be welcomed by Grape Escape. They’ll also sip sparkling juices and enjoy the same cheese and cracker plates as the adults. Ralph recommends bringing your own car seats, which can be fitted in any of the Grape Escape vans.

As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced Grape Escape at a media rate, for the purpose of review.