Northern California is quintessential wine country. Portland, Oregon, is home to more breweries than any other city in the world. And Seattle is well known for coffee. But these Pacific Northwest regions don’t stick to what’s expected of them. Northern California boasts dozens of breweries, and Oregon is home to 16 specific American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and Washington state claims another 14.
Here are some wineries and breweries in the Pacific Northwest that make great off-site venues for meeting events.
North Coast Brewing Co.
Fort Bragg, California
In the coastal city of Fort Bragg, California, the North Coast Brewing Company takes visitors beyond the brewery. Group kayaking trips up the Noyo River showcase the city’s and the brewery’s water supply. Tours of Fortunate Farm highlight how the brewery’s spent grains are used to grow crops. And a trip to the Noyo Center for Marine Science showcases how the center uses proceeds from one of North Coast Brewing’s philanthropic beers.
And if that weren’t enough, North Coast’s owners are jazz lovers, and the brewery features live jazz music nearly every weekend, said Joe Seta, visitor service marketing manager. Since opening in 1988, North Coast has supported jazz education, a fact that was formalized in 2006 with the launch of Brother Thelonious Belgian-style ale, which supports the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The Sequoia Room is a multipurpose function space: a jazz club on Friday and Saturday nights and a 60-person event room for meetings and meals. Planners can also organize live jazz for their events.
Just five miles from the brewery, groups can tour the 40-acre Fortunate Farm before sitting down to a farm lunch. Visitors learn about the carbon farming system that uses spent grain and hops from the brewery to grow produce that North Coast then uses at its on-site restaurant. Veggies end up topping pizzas that come out of the restaurant’s stone-hearth oven, “the heart and soul of our restaurant,” Seta said. The taproom and dining room can be used for private events by special arrangement.
The brewery will also arrange for groups to check out the Noyo Center for Marine Science visitor center; North Coast Stellar IPA is the brewery’s other philanthropic beer that supports the center’s marine mammal research. North Coast partners with a local outfitter to take groups up and back down the Noyo River on “tide-assisted kayak trips,” Seta said: up the river with the incoming tide, stop for lunch and back down with the outgoing tide. Along the way, paddlers may see redwoods, otters, great blue heron and salmon running, if the season’s right, and “you can often play with a seal on the way up — until you hit that saltwater-freshwater line, and they’ll turn on a dime,” Seta said.
Woodward Canyon Winery
The Woodward Canyon Winery was one of the frontrunners in the Walla Walla Valley appellation of Washington and one of the region’s founding wineries when Rick Small and his wife, Darcey Fugman-Small, started it in 1981. The land has been in the family for five generations, originally as a wheat farm, and it is still an independent, family-run operation, said Selena Kritsonis, who handles events for the winery.
Woodward Canyon sits in the pastoral countryside 15 miles west of Walla Walla, and its tasting room is located in a restored 1870s farmhouse. Woodward Canyon is next to L’Ecole No. 41 winery; L’Ecole’s tasting room is in an old schoolhouse, and Woodward’s farmhouse is where the principal used to live, Kritsonis said.
The Reserve House was built in 2005 next to the tasting room and is the winery’s main event space, with room for a 60-person reception. The building’s garage-style glass doors slide open to create an indoor-outdoor space for up to 100. Woodward Canyon holds its winemaker dinners and other private events in the cellar below. Groups arrange tours that include the cellar and the library, the barrel room and other production facilities, she said.
If they can swing it, winery staff lead tours of the vineyards, a five-minute drive away. At the base of the vineyards, the winery’s organic Lazy S Arrow garden provides most of the produce for Woodward Canyon’s lunch and dinner programs, including its wood-fired pizzas. A wood-fired pizza oven in the tasting room’s backyard is “sort of the focal point,” she said, and when the chef is creating made-to-order pizzas, “people naturally circle around to watch; it’s always entertaining.”