Wine, setting, music and famous people make Nehalem Bay Winery a tasty stop

Melissa Stetzel, general manager of the Nehalem Bay Winery, serves customer Chan Christiansen. Photo by Lori Tobias

In the 16 years Melissa Stetzel has been serving wine at the Nehalem Bay Winery, she’s hung with Ken Kesey, met a world-famous photographer and danced to music by renowned musicians. So when she says, “It just seems everyday here is a new adventure,” who’s to argue.

Consider the summer Kesey came to do a reading at the winery, owned by philanthropist and decorated veteran Ray Shackelford, and discovered the mural of his famed bus, “Further” rendered in black and white.

“He made us round up all the colorful paint we could find,” Stetzel recalls. “Then, he climbed up on a ladder and he added day glow paint to the bus, painted a pink rack on the top like his bus has and little stick people on the upper part of the bus. That was pretty cool.”

It seems most days on the job are pretty cool in Stetzel’s eyes.

“The beginning of the summer season always feels very exciting to me. We have live music over Father’s Day – reggae, rockabilly – the Blues Fest on Memorial Day weekend, and we do bluegrass in August. We have a classic rock band that plays every 4th of July, and on Labor Day, we usually do a couple days of music.”

Even during the off-season when life tends to quiet down, Stetzel finds reason to relish her job – a trio of deer dashing across the parking lot, a rainbow arcing over the countryside, the surprise flurry of snow.

“You realize you are in this beautiful rural setting,” she says.

And as beautiful as the setting is outside, it’s no less welcoming within.

“Ray’s philosophy is he wants everyone who comes here to have fun, said Melissa. “We all agree with that philosophy. It doesn’t feel like work when everyone is having a good time.”

Lori Tobias

Lori Tobias is a journalist of more than 25 years, most recently as a staff writer for The Oregonian for which she covered the Oregon Coast for a decade. She currently writes a regular column for Oregon Coast Today and freelances for numerous other local, state and national publications. Her novel “Wander” is due out from Red Hen Press in 2016.

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