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Oregon Wineries Welcome Visitors to View Complete Solar Eclips

October 2017
by Peter Mitham

Rickreall, Ore.—Oregon welcomed North America’s first total solar eclipse in 38 years shortly after 10:15 a.m. on Aug. 21, as the solar spectacle began its 2,400-mile-an-hour journey across the continental United States.

The path of totality (the 70-mile-wide strip where day became night for approximately two minutes) started at Lincoln City, Ore., and left the United States from Charleston, S.C., approximately 90 minutes later.

Its course made the Willamette Valley one of the key areas for those keen to glimpse the new moon blocking out the sun’s light.

Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management and Travel expected more than 1 million people to join the state’s 4 million residents for the days leading up to and after the event, which peaked in Salem, Ore., from 10:17 a.m. to 10:19 a.m.

The influx provided a lucrative tourism opportunity for Willamette Valley wineries seeking exposure.

“Our No. 1 motivation and goal is to get people to drink our wine,” said Stephanie Bobb, event planner for Eola Hills Vineyard in Rickreall, just west of Salem.

Three-hundred people signed up for Eola’s three-day eclipse festival. People began arriving Aug. 18 to camp by the winery’s Legacy vineyard for the weekend, paying their site fee by purchasing a case of wine.

The weekend included seminars about astronomical phenomena to stoke people’s enthusiasm and prepare them for what would unfold. A winemaker’s dinner showcasing recent vintages crowned Saturday night. A further 700 guests arrived to view the eclipse on the morning of Aug. 21.

Eola Hills produced a special eclipse-branded wine to honor the event, but the eclipse itself isn’t expected to have any impact on the 2017 vintage.

Packages ranged from $750 for campers to $2,900 for hotel accommodation—not bad considering that some property owners were making campsites available for hundreds of dollars per night. Hotels were largely sold out.

Other wineries hosted special tastings to mark the occasion. Helioterra collaborated with Bjornson Vineyard in Salem, where its production occurs, to showcase its wines at a pop-up tasting room.

Brooks Winery in Amity staged two days of events, while Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore., put on a one-day event showcasing Pacific Northwest Cuisine. Bethel Heights Vineyard near Salem hosted a private event.

The next total solar eclipse to visit the United States occurs in April 2024, with the path of totality crossing northeast from Texas to Maine.


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