Wine-country weddings are unique, memorable and romantic, especially when situated in one of Southern Oregon's serene and picturesque vineyards.
Who is the perfect couple for a wine-country wedding? "People who are really connected to the land and to nature," says Liz Wan of Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. "It's a wonderful option for those who aren't into the everyday type of thing. And when you get married in a winery, you always have the vintage — that once-in-a-lifetime place and time — to go back to."
If a large wedding is in the cards, Del Rio Vineyards & Winery in Gold Hill can host more than 700 guests in its five-acre park surrounded by syrah, merlot and chardonnay vines. A covered, 1,500-square-foot pavilion houses a bar and indoor restrooms. No beer or hard alcohol is allowed.
"Afternoon weddings are very magical and romantic here," says Jennifer Kerrigan, assistant to owners Rob and Jolie Wallace. "It's a very country atmosphere that definitely delivers a sense of peace within oneself."
Smaller weddings can be held Del Rio's tasting-room grounds. "Our tasting room is open for business during normal business hours, so it's not as private as being in the park," Kerrigan says.
Inclement weather is the No. 1 risk when planning a wine-country wedding. "June through September are wedding months, but we cannot promise it's going to be beautiful, and we do not have an indoor facility," says Kerrigan.
Most wedding parties arrive in a limousine while guests use private vehicles, shuttles, taxis, even classic cars. The staff at Del Rio serves all the wine and is careful to monitor consumption. Service is included in the price of the package, and a gratuity surcharge is added. Personalized wine labels can be made with a minimum case order, and renters must hire their own caterer and sign a certificate of liability proving they are insured to cover any damages.
"A typical homeowner insurance company can handle this," assures Kerrigan. "Very minimal cost is involved."
Valley View Winery, eight miles from Jacksonville in the Applegate Valley, can handle up to 300 people.
"Weddings start generally as early as April but mostly in July and August," says co-owner Mike Wisnovsky. "Those are the most suitable wine-country months, when people get it fully outdoors, and they absolutely don't have an issue with the weather."
Valley View charges a flat rate of $1,800 for its site, which includes use of indoor restrooms, water and power. Setup can start Friday morning for a Saturday event, and everything must be cleaned up by Sunday afternoon. Typical wedding hours are 5 to 11 p.m.
"The customer is responsible for renting all equipment and hiring a caterer," says Wisnovsky. "Pretty much every caterer has set up out here; it's pretty easy."
With the exception of one or two bottles of nice champagne allowed at the head table, only Valley View wines are served. "Because they're buying directly from us, there's no additional markup; we just charge the retail," says Wisnovsky. "We like to keep it at three types of wine at the most: one red, one white, one sweeter wine."
For an extra charge and minimum order of five cases, Valley View will produce a private label with the bride and groom's names on it.
Venture deeper into the Applegate to Troon Vineyard. Starting in 2010, Troon will offer five to six "super-premium" wedding packages a year, mostly to its wine-club members.
"There will be a set facility fee, the ability to use the property for a set amount of time, and our wines will be poured exclusively," says Liz Wan, the vineyard's "director of discovery and magic moments."
Troon also offers its on-site Vino Lab for pre- and post-wedding events. Rehearsal dinners, showers, bachelor parties and small receptions are held in the pavilion overlooking Troon's vines.
"It is perfect for bridal showers and bachelorette parties, mainly because of the price point," says Wan. "There's no fuss, no muss, no planning required."
The bride simply gives the day, time and personal note to put on the menu. At $15 a head, each guest tastes five wines paired with five dishes handcrafted from local ingredients by Troon's executive chef.
"It's dining al fresco with your private server tableside," Wan describes. "It's a much more relaxed approach to wine tasting, and everyone gets to go home with a beautiful, stemless wineglass."
Vino Lab also is open for mini brunches, featuring three wine tastings with three food pairings for $10, Sunday mornings Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Skip the travel but keep the atmosphere by holding your wedding at a tasting room, wine garden or vineyard within city limits.
"The best part of our facility is you get the vineyard feel — it's an agricultural, rural field — close to town," says Bethany Brown, event manager at EdenVale Winery in Medford. "The different locations we have out here make it a one-of-a-kind wedding venue."
Guests drive through EdenVale's pear orchards to the historic Voorhies Mansion.
"The estate mansion and grand front porch are beautiful for ceremonies, or you can be married amidst the vines," Brown says. "There's so much heritage along with it."
Outdoor weddings at EdenVale can accommodate up to 350 guests, with the main reception space in a grass area next to the mansion. A sun porch is used as the bar, and the garden is lined with white, twinkling lights for a fairy-tale setting.
"The time of year you get married at a vineyard says a lot," says Brown, who considers late August and September the most beautiful to be wed among the vines.
The "enchanted garden" and historic building at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville accommodates up to 65 guests.
"We have a back deck with tables and chairs that can be arranged to suit, and there is a lower garden that's broken up with brick paths and seating areas," says hospitality manager Spirit Wrzesinski. "Our side garden has been relandscaped, and it's a nice, relaxing area where wedding parties can take photos against the brick wall of the building."
Built in 1865 as the P.J. Ryan Hotel, the building offers barn-wood floors, fireplaces, amber lights and a contemporary bar. Two interior rooms provide extra seating or a place for private planning meetings.
"It has that vintage charm that appeals to people from all over the place," says Wrzesinski. "People can rent single areas or have the entire space and set it up the way they want."
Wine is available from 10 wineries (choose your favorites during a custom tasting), and South Stage Cellars also offers beer and hard cider. Water and ice are provided, but no food is available, so couples will need to work with a caterer.
Several more Southern Oregon wineries are open to hosting a wine-country wedding. The best way to find a good match for your needs is to explore and ask a lot of questions. Then get ready to exchange vows in the vines.