Oregon Tours de Force
By Gail Oberst
While you and your friends are wine tasting this Memorial Weekend, or any day, it may occur to you that you're tea-totaling and somewhat judgmental Aunt Martha was not a fun choice for chauffeur. But with all of the services available to wine tourists - from taxis to stretch limousines - how do you know which to choose?
Enter Northwest Tour Guides Association, a cooperative effort among previous competitors who are intent on keeping standards high for local tour guide operators. The aim, according to the group's mission, is to provide a safe and entertaining atmosphere for both the wineries and guests who are visiting them. Participating tour guides include Grape Escape, Oregon Wine Tours, Eco Tours of Oregon and Beautiful Willamette Tours. They operate mainly north of Eugene, in Oregon and Southern Washington, but often lead tours or can recommend reliable guides in Southern Oregon as well.
"We encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol and will act accordingly if we believe that safety or fair business practices are affected by our guests' intoxication," reads the group's mission, adopted late last year. That means, if you lose your good sense while traveling with these tour guides, they'll soberly help you find it. And according to the rules, they'll be very courteous and kind about it.
To that end, the four tour guides in the association have passed a few policies that are noteworthy, no matter who is driving:
• Drinking alcohol in tour vehicles is not allowed.
• Drivers and guides won't taste on the tours - in other words, they'll be sober.
• Tour guides will train visitors in tasting room etiquette as well as state rules and regulations.
• Vehicles will be clean, presentable and well maintained.
• If a customer is too intoxicated to drive home after the tour, the tour company will arrange for a driver or a taxi.
• Members of the association will help one another if they are in need.
• All litter generated by member tours will be managed by the tour guide.
For more information about the association and its members, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eco Tours of Oregon
Guide/Owner: Jeff Davies
Oregon Wine Tours
Guide/Owner: Ron Burke
Guide/Owner: Ralph Stinton
Beautiful Willamette Tours
Guide/Owner: James Merlot