After a day of watching football with your weird uncle, listening to your brother's screaming children, and preparing a frustratingly elaborate meal, you'll probably be ready for a glass of wine. Or better yet, a day of wine. That's the basic idea behind Thanksgiving weekend in Oregon's wine country.
The problem is, without a plan of attack, you can spend more time stuck in Black Friday traffic or withering away in tasting room lines.
Don't worry, I've done the hard work for you. Here is my list of the best places to go for great wine, chill people and bottle-poppin' parties.
Alexana Estate Vineyard & Winery
12001 NE Worden Hill Road, Newberg, 537-3100, alexanawinery.com. 10 am-4 pm Friday-Sunday. $20.
Located atop the stunning Warden Hill, Alexana sets the bar high for winery views. On a clear day, you can look out to the coast range. The winery will be pouring a "limited production" wine flight for Thanksgiving weekend.
691 Highway 99W, Dundee, 538-8520, 888-427-4953, argylewinery.com. 11 am-5 pm Friday-Sunday. $25.
Argyle is the best-known producer of bubbles in Oregon. (Fans of Michael Jordan's baseball career will be happy to learn it also makes still wines.) Argyle recently opened a huge and spiffy new tasting room (page 22), which is a marked improvement over the previous one, which looked like it may or may not have once been someone's living room.
Belle Pente Vineyard & Winery
12470 NE Rowland Road, Carlton, 852-9500, bellepente.com. 10 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday. $10.
Belle Pente wines have a label that looks like it was painted by an elderly relative and a marketing approach that could be generously described as "minimalistic." But ask any local sommelier or winemaker and they will probably tell you the same thing: These guys produce some of the best wines in the valley, full stop.
Cana's Feast Winery
750 W Lincoln St., Carlton, 852-0002, canasfeastwinery.com. 11 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday. $15.
It's always refreshing to see people experiment in the Willamette Valley in a way that doesn't seem like a marketing gimmick. Cana's Feast's chinato-style fortified wine Chinato d'Erbetti has proved one of its most successful experiments, gaining nods from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and, uh, Willamette Week, which has called it "quite possibly our favorite mixed-drink component in the state."
Carlton Winemakers Studio
801 N Scott St., Carlton, 852-6100, winemakersstudio.com. 11 am-4 pm Friday-Sunday. $15.
If you want to taste through a wide swath of the region, you don't necessarily have to drive to each wine producer. Carlton Winemakers Studio brings together some of the best small producers like Andrew Rich, Mad Violets and Hamacher under one roof.
David Hill Vineyards & Winery
46350 NW David Hill Road, Forest Grove. 992-8545, davidhillwinery.com. 11 am-5 pm Friday-Sunday. $10-$15.
Located in Forest Grove (somewhat north of what many consider to be the Willamette Valley wine region), David Hill may seem out of the way for a day of tasting. But there is a staggering amount of history at this winery that may be more interesting to explore than ever, considering it's the 50th anniversary of the first plantings of pinot noir in Oregon.
Harper Voit Wines
22070 NE Ridge Road, Gaston, 583-4221, harpervoit.com. 11 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday. $20.
Harper Voit is like a winemaking SEAL team: small scale, precise execution and impressive results. The makers of several fantastic pinot noirs and a mesmerizing pinot blanc, the Harper Voit crew will be pouring at their Gaston winemaking facilities with some of their other small-label clients.
12020 NE Stag Hollow Road, Carlton, 852-6619, lemelsonvineyards.com. 11 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday. $20.
At 12,000 cases of wine production, Lemelson is a good size for a Thanksgiving weekend party. Not so big that you'll find yourself in a wine-themed amusement park, and not so small that you're swilling wine out of an old peanut butter jar in some mad scientist's garage.
Patricia Green Cellars
15225 NE North Valley Road, Newberg, 554-0821, patriciagreencellars.com. 10 am-3 pm Friday-Saturday. $25.
Patricia Green Cellars employs a winemaking philosophy that may sound boring, but is fascinating in practice: It studies the fruit-producing capabilities of the region by vinifying grapes from methodically subdivided plots of land (appellation, vineyard, block, row). It boasts 21 wines from a single vintage.
Scott Paul Wines
128 S Pine St., Carlton, 852-7300, scottpaul.com. Noon-5 pm Friday-Sunday. $10.
In what could be one of the truly unique events of the weekend, Scott Paul Wines is planning a "Gamay Nouveau Celebration," (as in Oregon's version of beaujolais nouveau). You'll know the wine is new because it'll be poured directly from the tank.
Shea Wine Cellars
12321 NE Highway 240, Newberg, 241-6527, sheawinecellars.com. 11 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday. $15.
You know how all chart-topping pop music is basically written or produced by like two dudes? That's how the Shea Vineyard (which provides the fruit for the titular Shea Wine Cellars) is for providing fruit to the highest-quality wine producers in Oregon. As of 2011, Beaux Frères, Bergstrom, Ken Wright Cellars, St. Innocent and others were using Shea Vineyard fruit.
18401 Ribbon Ridge Road, Newberg, 538-9898, trisaetum.com. 11 am-4 pm Friday-Saturday. $15.
Go to Trisaetum for riesling. Dry, sweet, and everything in between. It's all great.
Walter Scott Wines
6130 Bethel Heights Road NW, Salem, 971-209-7786, walterscottwine.com. 11 am-4 pm Saturday-Sunday. $15.
One of the most popular new topics of discussion in the Willamette Valley is this mysterious phenomenon known as the "Van Duzer Corridor effect." It's got something to do with cold breezes and magic. What you need to know is that Walter Scott Wines takes fruit from Eola Hills vineyards that are in a prime location to take advantage of this effect. I'm sure they'd be happy to explain what that means for their wines over Thanksgiving weekend.
Whistling Ridge Vineyards
14551 NE North Valley Road, Newberg, 538-6641, whistlingridgevineyards.com. 11 am-5 pm Friday-Sunday. $5.
Full disclosure: I'm friends with the Ransoms who own and operate Whistling Ridge Vineyards. Which is exactly why I feel comfortable recommending them. They'll probably be pouring the wines, and the tasting is only $5, so what do you have to lose?