Sometimes getting to a place is half the fun. During a day trip to Arcane Cellars, in the heart of the Willamette wine country, we opted to take the freeway 39 miles south of Portland and exit at Brooks for a short drive through the land of hops and berries, to the little Wheatland Ferry. The $2 ferry takes you across the Willamette River. Drive off the ferry and turn right to Arcane Cellars at Wheatland Winery.
As we drove down the gravel road passing vineyards and the peaceful Willamette River we commented on how differently we felt so quickly after exiting the hectic I-5 freeway. And, once there, we discovered that Arcane Cellars is more than a place to buy wine: it’s a shaded, peaceful oasis… a gathering place for people who want to enjoy an afternoon or, as we found out, several days.
Taking in Arcane Cellars
At Arcane Cellars, you can enjoy tastings in the tasting room or on the shaded patio; go fishing, kayaking and canoeing on the river; or attend special meals and mingle at the BBQ grill, propane fire pit, and private picnic area. Arcane also hosts special events such a summer music series and paint and sip classes.
Arcane Cellars is the first business taking part in the official Willamette River Water Trail, a 185-mile designated national water trail that givers paddlers a beautiful new way to experience the river and the beauty along its banks. Arcane Cellars hosts the annual Paddle Oregon event sponsored by Willamette Riverkeeper and you can actually canoe or kayak right to the cellars.
We arrived on a Friday and the place was bustling with activity. Wine club members and staff were bottling wine. Orlando from El Vaquero Grills was grilling up some beef and zucchini on a grill he designed and made himself. A painting class was beginning and visitors chatted and tasted wines.
As we listened to 60’s and 70’s tunes in the background, we strolled the grounds enjoying the flowers, views of the river and the agricultural side of things… old barn, farm equipment and the vineyards. We sat under huge trees and chatted with the friendly staff as they got ready to provide lunch to the bottling crew and others.
While waiting for lunch, we tasted through the many offerings, from Pinot Gris to dessert wine. My pick was the 2014 Riesling, awarded 90 points by Wine Advocate/Robert Parker. It’s an ideal hot weather wine, light and fruity and well-balanced with a smooth finish. And, at only $16 a bottle, it’s a bargain. So, of course, I bought one to take home to enjoy on my deck. All of Arcane’s wines are reasonably priced and very drinkable.
Arcane offers a wide selection of the red and white varieties that grow throughout the entire Northwest, including more than eight single vineyard lots of red wines and a number of single vineyard white productions. Their offerings may be wide, but the number of cases per variety is small. They sell wine at area farmers markets and retain that local feel.
Stay and Experience Tiny Home Living
Nestled in the trees with a view of the vineyards at Arcane, you’ll find a lovely tiny home complete with patio and fire pit. The setting invites you to stay awhile and enjoy wine and a picnic. We were impressed with the large picture windows and, unusual for tiny homes, a full bath!
ESCAPE Homes offers this home for a Tiny RV Home “Test Stay” Vacation. The ESCAPE Vista XL model tiny home at Arcane Cellars in Salem is one of the company’s three tiny portable RV homes available to rent in the U.S.
The light and bright 162 square-foot cottage on wheels is situated in a beautiful private setting just behind Arcane’s barrel and tasting rooms. The tiny portable home features wrap-around windows, full bath with large tub/shower, queen bed, wet bar with microwave, refrigerator dining/computer table and unique pop-up big screen TV. When we visited, the glass top burners were not hooked up. The heat and A/C make it comfortable year ‘round. The stay, offered through Air BnB, is only $130 per night. (no pets).
After a test stay, folks who feel that tiny home living is for them can buy their own tiny abode. ESCAPE Homes offers to handcraft and deliver a tiny house to you within 90 days.
Stay Free with Your RV
While at Arcane, we learned that a couple were staying overnight in their RV courtesy of a special program offering a unique opportunity for RVers to explore back roads and find hidden gems across North America. Harvest Hosts has developed a network of winemakers and farmers who allow you to park your RV at their vineyards and farms. There is no charge, just a one-time membership fee. What a unique concept… buy wine and local foods and enjoy them in the privacy of your own RV.
If You Go
No need to dress up. Arcane Cellars is as unpretentious as they come. They offer natural beauty with the river at their doorstep and a down-home country feel at the tasting room.
If you check the website and see that the Wheatland Ferry is not running, you can take another route and drive through the wine country from Newburg or Salem. Tasting room hours vary according to the day of the week and the season. — Story and photos by Elizabeth R Rose
Arcane Cellars is just west of the Wheatland Ferry at 22350 Magness Rd. NW, Salem, OR Map
Directions from Portland via the Wheatland Ferry. (To confirm ferry is open call 503-588-7979)
Directions from Salem
Directions from Newberg
Phone: (503) 868-7076