Vines in Winter
Sweet Cheeks Winery | Pinot Noir vines during “cellar season”

Cellar Season in Wine Country

Winter in wine country is referred to “cellar season“. The grapes from the harvest are either in tanks or freshly placed in barrels to begin a key fermentation process. This very important process takes place in the cellar – hence “cellar season”. When visiting wineries during this time, it’s important to plan ahead. Many smaller wineries are still using this time to catch up from harvest and gear up for spring and summer. While you may think of “cellar season” as eerily quiet and perhaps not the best time to visit, it could actually be one of the best times.

Book Reservations in Advance

Just like harvest season, it’s strongly recommended you make reservations at the wineries you would like to visit. I recommend looking on TOCK or winery websites to book reservations.

It’s also nice to book reservations in advance so you know what to expect. Wineries might be offering special tastings or events this time of year to celebrate the season!

What if I’m a wine club member? Wineries want to give you the best experience possible, so I still recommend booking a reservation in advance or calling and asking if a reservation is necessary.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is the perfect pairing for winter in wine country

Enjoy the Tasting

We’ve all been there : it’s January 1st and you tell yourself you aren’t spending any money, drinking any alcohol, and cutting out most foods. Until 2022, I would make those same promises to myself. What I feel is more sustainable is to not deprive myself of that slice of pizza, glass of Pinot Noir, or buying the boots I secretly wished someone gifted me in December.

I look to be more intentional with my consumption and purchasing. How can you also be intentional with wine? Tastings are an excellent way to be intentional. It allows you to learn about that varietal, decide if that wine fits with your social calendar or culinary cravings, and purchase wines that you know will be enjoyed.

Budgeting might be on the forefront of your mind during the winter months. Often wineries reimburse your tasting fee with a minimum bottle purchase. It’s acceptable to call a winery in advance to inquire about tasting fees and reimbursement.

Sweet Cheeks Winery in Winter
Sweet Cheeks Winery in winter

Map Out Your Visit

While booking your reservations, or mapping out your visits, keep distance in mind. Map out the time it will take between each winery because you want to make sure you don’t feel rushed. Winter can bring frosty roads, so take it slow!

Some wineries may let you know in advance how long the experience can last, and if they don’t – expect to spend around 2 hours maximum.

Keep Your Group Small

It’s best to keep your group small in the winter months because you will be more likely to book a reservation. Many wineries begin pairing down the number of tables or locations of tastings. If you are planning an outting with a larger group, look for wineries who can accommodate a group of that size and absolutely book a reservation or call in advance.

The weather in the Willamette Valley during the winter months can be unpredictable! You can see snow, rain, and sunshine all in the same day. Be sure to pack layers, but most likely you will be enjoying your visit indoors.

Pack Provisions

Before you depart on your wine country adventure, it’s best to eat a meal and hydrate. Some wineries may pair down their food options in the winter months, so inquire in advance what the options are. I don’t recommend packing a large cooler of food because it can be distracting from the main component of your day – the wine! If you are looking for lunch to enjoy during your day, look at local restaurant stops or wineries that have a restaurant on-site.

Additional Tips

Think about the type of experiences you are looking to enjoy and plan ahead.

Consider booking a night at a beautiful wine country hotel or b&b.

If you have the budget, think about hiring transportation. Keep in mind that most of the time Lyft or Uber won’t pick you up from winery locations.