Explore New Territories

Two wine passports offer delightful perks

Overlooking Hyland Vineyard, a winery participating in the McMinnville AVA Passport Program.##Photo by Carolyn Wells-Kramer, courtesy of the Oregon Wine Board
Promotional ad for the Bear Creek Wine Trail Passport.##Image provided by Bear Creek Wine Trail

By Greg Norton

Novelist E. L. Doctorow called the passport, a birth certificate and a library card “the three most important documents a free society gives.” Adventurous wine lovers will find Oregon’s regional wine trail passports equally essential.

Passport programs promote the exploration of an area’s local wine culture. Here are a couple to inspire mid-winter wine country excursions beyond your familiar favorites.

McMinnville AVA Passport

McMinnville’s charming downtown area where tasting rooms close to restaurants and boutique shops attract many tourists and visitors. However, the McMinnville AVA, or American Viticultural Area, sprawls along the foothills southwest of town. Here, over 600 vineyard acres await exploration.

“People visit the tasting rooms downtown and think they’ve been to the McMinnville AVA,” said Dominic Allen, president of the McMinnville Foothills Winegrowers Association. “They’re surprised to discover rolling hillsides full of wineries out here.”

Nine local wineries transform surprise into delightful discovery with the McMinnville AVA Passport program. Wine lovers receive a free passport at one of the participating wineries, while collecting stamps when they visit others.

Once bearers complete a wine tasting, purchase or other special activity at a tasting room, they receive a stamp. As the stamps accumulate, the number acquired qualifies participants for one of three tiers of prize drawings. Prizes range from local bottles to a selection of branded merchandise.

Now in its second year, the program lasts from February 1 to April 30 in order to encourage late winter/early spring touring. Winter provides coziness with a slower pace in wine country, according to Allen. “People get really good one-on-one time they might not experience during busier times the rest of the year,” he said.

Visit for more information.

Bear Creek Wine Trail Passport

Oregon’s southernmost wine trail was acclaimed by Wine Enthusiast magazine as one of the world’s “Ten Best Wine Travel Destinations.” Nearly a dozen Rogue Valley wineries agreed to offer a year-round passport program accessible by smartphone.

The digital passport costs $35 and entitles the bearer to sample three wines at each of 11 tasting rooms, receiving a 10 percent discount for any purchases. Passports remain valid for one year from date of purchase.

Since its inception in 2011, the program used printed paper passports. The new digital version is intended to appeal to local wine lovers as well as visitors from outside the area. “They can purchase before leaving home and have it ready to use when they arrive,” said Naomi Fuerte, co-owner of Ashland’s Grizzly Peak Winery.

The year-long arrangement allows for multiple visits. Home to the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the area features art galleries, shopping, mountain biking, hiking and rafting– and over 35 wine varieties from Albariño to Zinfandel.

The Bear Creek Wine Trail will attract wine lovers who have yet to discover the region, according to Fuerte. “Once we’ve captured their attention, we just want them to circulate through our Valley and experience all the great things that we have.”

Learn more at

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