It’s not everyday that we get to discuss one of our favorite styles of wine tourism. A chance to view and taste Oregon’s Willamette Valley from the air — by helicopter.
Tucked away in the heart of one of our favorite New World wine regions, Tour deVine by Heli — operated by Precision Helicopters — offers a unique perspective and an exciting experience above a landscape that is producing some of the finest cool climate varietal wines in the world.
There was a time when helicopter tours may have been out of reach for the common wine traveler. Now, thanks to Tour deVine and a variety of partnerships with wineries in the region, Willamette Valley helicopter tours are more affordable than ever.
Tour deVine also offers one of the most immersive wine travel experiences you can have. This, in conjunction with the friendliness and regional knowledge of the pilots and tour staff, have yielded raving reviews about the company. Shattering any expectations tour groups have had.
“The food was incredible, the wineries were gorgeous and the people involved were so friendly. Our pilot Ty was professional, and knowledgeable about the wineries and different AVAs. Not only were the tasting events fun, but the wine makers really took their time to educate us about their processes. I can’t say enough great things about this excursion,” noted recent participant Kori K.
A Quick Background on Willamette Valley
Wedged between the Western Pacific Coastal Mountain Range and the Cascade Mountains to the East, Willamette is home to over 500 wineries. From North to South, it spans more than 140 miles along the Willamette River and beyond. The entire AVA accounts for over 2/3’s of all of Oregon’s wine production and currently hosts 6 sub-appellations (McMinnville, Eola-Amity, Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton)
Rolling green hills, winding roads, friendly Vintners, delicious cuisine, soft warm summer days, crisp, cool and refreshing evenings are just a few reasons why this valley is so special. But it’s the region’s affinity for award-winning Pinot Noir that has helped to put it on the map in recent years — and it’s no coincidence.
Willamette’s Terroir is incredibly diverse in terms of soil composition and micro-climates. Not surprisingly given its size. But its positioning on the 45th latitudinal parallel puts it almost exactly in line with the world-renown Pinot Noir region of Burgundy France. This means that Willamette receives approximately the same amount of rainfall and daily sunlight as Burgundy.
Many Willamette Vintners have adapted centuries old French wine making practices (new modern, advanced techniques are also being utilized), helping to yield consistently refined and complex Pinot’s. In addition, a variety of other stellar cool climate wines are also being produced. Including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.
What to Expect with a Helicopter Tour from Precision
Tour deVine currently offers flights over and within 5 of Willamette’s AVAs — McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains and Yamhill-Carlton. Your group will need to decide which AVA they’d like to visit (Tour deVine discusses the AVAs in more detail here.
Tours cost $399 — a more than modest price given what you’ll be experiencing. Each tour lasts about 4 hours, includes pre-flight festivities and snacks, stops at 3 unique wineries, lunch, all tasting fees and roughly 30 minutes in the air.
Note that while your tour operators will try their best to accommodate your first choice and special requests, this largely depends on demand, scheduling and winery availability on any given day. That said, it’s best to book your tour as far ahead as you can. Keep in mind that these helicopter wine tours are only offered during Oregon’s wine growing season, which runs from May to October.
Already have something special in mind? Tour deVine offers custom tours too! If there is a specific route or winery you’re looking to visit, or you’re a solo-traveler looking to pair up with a group, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss options directly.
Depending on the overall size of your tour group, experiences are offered on two different styles of aircraft — the A-Star AIRBUS AS350B2 and the Bell 206 BIII. The A-Star comfortably fits 4 winederlusters and 2 pilots, while the Bell is designed to carry smaller groups.
If you’re like me, I rarely leave wine country without taking a few bottles home. For convenience’s sake, both helicopter models mentioned above have been outfitted to carry up to 14 cases of wine in outside storage compartments.
Take the Trip
Are you ready to experience the Terroir of and hospitality of Willamette? Reserve for your helicopter tour with Tour deVine today, and be one of the few who have had a chance to experience this special place from above.
All images courtesy Andrea Johnson Photography.