Jason Hanson, co-founder of Hanson Vineyards, grew up on his family’s farm between Woodburn and Silverton—not far from Mt. Angel. When he turned 18, he knew that he wanted to experience a different part of the country, so he attended college on the East Coast, enrolled in graduate school in Washington, D.C., and launched his professional life in the nation’s capital.
After spending a few years on East Coast, Jason thought at length about how to make his way back to the Pacific Northwest. He’d usually spend at least one or two days wine tasting while visiting family in the area and, with Oregon in the midst of a wine boom, saw an opportunity. “There was a deep pull toward wine,” says Jason.
Jason and his father, Clark, started Hanson Vineyards in 2005; three years later, Jason moved home for good and took over as winemaker. These days, you’re likely to find Clark tending to the vineyard while Jason crafts the winery’s inventive output and pours for curious customers.
Today, Hanson Vineyards is part of the Cascade Foothills Winegrowers collective, which numbers 14 wineries between the Salem area and the foothills of Mount Hood. The group has established the eastern Willamette Valley as an area teeming with creative winemakers, rarely seen varietals, and a laid-back atmosphere that welcomes budding and seasoned oenophiles alike.
In addition to Hanson Vineyards, you’ll find the likes of Wooden Shoe Vineyards (which pours estate-grown wines just outside Woodburn), Pudding River Wine Cellars (which prides itself on sustainable practices and hosts a tasting room along the banks of the Pudding River), and Pheasant Run Winery (which offers Pinot noir and several white wines from 30-year-old vineyards).
So if you’re looking to get off the beaten path and explore some less-traveled wineries in the Mid-Willamette Valley, here are three compelling reasons to make the Cascade Foothills your favorite wine destination.