When we Californians think of wine country, the Napa Valley, Paso Robles or the Santa Ynez area come to mind most easily. A mention of Oregon calls to mind lush, green forests, the Cascade Mountains, and rugged coastal cliffs, but perhaps, not wine. However, Oregon’s wine country is home to nearly 700 wineries where one can sip all the wine they desire (including world class Pinot noir) among the gorgeous Oregon scenery. It’s time to plan your getaway and discover Oregon’s wine country. Covering more than 100 miles, the Willamette Valley stretches from Portland, on the Washington border, down to Eugene, near the central coast. Wine Enthusiast named Willamette Valley its 2016 Wine Region of the Year, read the full story here.
For the outstanding quality of its wines, the resulting international recognition and the tectonic shifts in wine investments these have engendered, Wine Enthusiast is pleased to name Oregon’s Willamette Valley as its 2016 Wine Region of the Year.” – Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast
Unless you know precisely where to go, if you’re looking for small batch, boutique wines and a truly educational wine-tasting experience Napa might not be your best bet. However, the average Willamette Valley winery produces less than 5,000 case each year, and with the best wines being produced in such small quantities, you must travel to the wine – it’s unlikely that such small batch, beautifully crafted wine will come to you.
Since 1965 when David Lett planted the first Pinot noir varietals in the Willamette Valley at The Eyrie Vineyards, until today, the wine industry in Oregon has grown strong. A visit to the state and its wine country is well worth experiencing.
There are many available flights in and out of Portland and within an hour or two after landing and picking up your rental car, you’ll be in the thick of your wine destination. I recommend visiting the Willamette Valley, Oregon Wine Country website. This is one of the most comprehensive websites covering the Willamette Valley as well as all of Oregon’s wine country. On the site, you will see that they’ve put together a suggested itinerary for a long weekend visit which is especially useful for first-time visitors. For the return visitor or for one more versed in the area, you can use their online tool to customize your own itinerary.
One of the best places to stay is the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg. The service and hospitality is outstanding, the guest rooms are gorgeous and their award winning restaurant, Jory, is sure to impress. If you ask for wine tasting recommendations, you’ll receive a personalized itinerary. In addition to wine tasting, other nearby activities include hiking, biking, golf, and hot air balloon rides. If you like horseback riding there is even an equestrian ride to the wineries.
Hungry? These are some area favorites:
- Recipe – seasonal wine country cuisine in Newberg, OR.
- Thistle – a locally sourced, seasonal menu that changes daily in McMinnville, OR. If you can’t decide, try the Chef’s Whim and let the chef prepare a menu for your table.
- Nick’s Italian Cafe in McMinnville, OR features Italian cuisine made with local NorthWest ingredients. The Crab Lasagna is a guest favorite.
Thirsty? Here are a few wineries not to miss:
- Tyee Wine Cellars – 26335 Greenberry Rd., Corvallis; 541/753-8754
- Bethel Heights Vineyard – 6060 Bethel Heights Rd. N.W., Salem; 503/581-2262
- Antica Terra – 979 SW Alder ST., Dundee; 503-244-1748
- Elk Cove Vineyards – 27751 N.W. Olson Rd., Gaston; 503/985-7760
A pro tip to ensure a stress-free vacation is to make your reservations early – especially if you’re traveling in the summer. During the other seasons (October through May) – if you’re game for some spontaneity – you can get away without pre-booking. To make the most of what Oregon’s Wine Country has to offer, however, good planning in advance of your trip will pay off and make for a most rewarding and relaxing getaway.