Sipping a flight of wine at one of Yamhill Valley’s many wineries is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. However, it’s not the only kind of flight you can take in the area. With a hot air balloon ride, helicopter flight or visit to the aviation museum, you’ll get an airborne view of Yamhill County wine country.
Plan for a sunrise departure with Vista Balloon Adventures, based in Newberg. From April through September, five days a week, hot air balloon pilots lead tours of scenic Yamhill Valley from hundreds of feet in the air. The flight offers a panoramic view of landmarks like the Dundee Hills, Chehalem Moutains, Eola Hills, as well as local vineyards and wineries, the Willamette River and a patchwork quilt of farmland. Co-owner Catherine Driver said riders often see wildlife on the ground below, like beavers and deer, as well as hawks, ospreys and eagles in their nests and in flight. And the ride itself, she said, is like nothing you’ve experienced before. “It’s calm, gentle, serene, exhilarating,” she said. Riders help set up the balloon, and, following the one-hour ride, are greeted by a chase crew for landing. They are then shuttled back to home base to enjoy a catered breakfast. The event takes about 3.5 hours, which is perfect timing for wine tasting later in the day. (www.vistaballoon.com)
Also in Newberg, Precision Aviation Services offers luxury wine tours via helicopter that take the wine tasting experience to a luxurious level. Departing from the private airpark in the heart of the Chehalem Valley, Precision’s helicopter lifts off for spectacular views of the surrounding area. The “Chehalem Wine Tour” touches down at Domaine Serene, Solena Estates and Armanta Cellers, while the “Willamette Wine Tour” hits Cherry Hill Winery, Domaine Serene, Aramenta Cellars, Solena Estates and WillaKenzie Estates. Passengers are free to spend 45 minutes at each winery before taking off again. Co-owner Nancy Sturdevant said the heli-tour offers a great way to visit many wineries in a short period of time, and visitors don’t have to worry about driving, parking or waiting in traffic. “It gives you a first class way of going to a winery,” she said.
In nearby McMinnville, Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum offers a view of aeronautical history from the ground. The museum has more than 200 air and space exhibits — enough to keep you busy for multiple visits. If you only have a few hours, don’t miss the famous Spruce Goose, designed by Hughes Aircraft during WWII, or the Titan II booster rocket, developed for the U.S. Air Force, which can be toured from within its missile silo. The SR-71 Blackbird — one of the world’s fastest aircraft, — is also on display, as well as the WWII Aircraft area with stories and artifacts from this pivitol chapter in U.S. history. Visitors with a bit more time can enjoy a film on the largest IMAX screen in the Northwest or cool down a the Wings & Waves Waterpark before heading out to visit local wineries. (www.evergreenmuseum.org)