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Guide to Willamette Valley Wine Country

Get a taste of this corner of the northwest, from winery tours to hot air balloon rides

 


The northern portion of Oregon’s Willamette Valley is only an hour’s drive from Portland, the state’s largest city, but the 5,200 square mile swatch of wine country seems a world apart in its unhurried, scenic way.

The Willamette Valley offers a great deal more than wine, boasting acres of commercial cereal grain and grass seed crops, orchards and vegetable gardens. It’s common for travelers to encounter roadside stands offering fresh fruits and vegetables for sale as well as u-pick berry patches.

The Willamette Valley AVA is a V-shaped region along the Willamette River, stretching from the Columbia River in the north to south of Eugene, home of the University of Oregon.

About 400 wineries produce an average of 4,600 12-bottle cases in the Willamette Valley each year. Experts say the best wines are rarely seen outside Oregon, which means you have to visit to find them. The industry is still so young (the region officially became an AVA in 1984) that it’s not uncommon to find the owners working at their wineries.

However, the Willamette Valley’s wines, in particular its Pinot Noir, have been lauded as among the top 100 wines in the world. The region’s cool, mild climate produces wines layered with flavors, florals, fruit and fragrances.

In keeping with Oregon’s penchant for environmental sustainability, some wineries are solar-powered, while many vineyards produce organic wine.  Can’t Miss Wineries

One of Oregon’s oldest winemakers, The Eyrie Vineyards in Dundee is responsible for the state’s first Pinot Noir and the United States’ first Pinot Gris.

Established in 1971 before Oregon had its own AVA, Adelsheim Vineyard is a family owned and operated winery known for combining traditional and modern methods to produce complex Pinot Noir and white wines. Visitors are invited to make appointments for in depth winery tours, as well as to visit the tasting room with patio seating.

Located in Dayton, Stoller Vineyards boasts the nation’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified winery. It employs gravity-flow winemaking techniques, energy-efficient heating and cooling and wastewater reclamation to reduce negative environmental impact.

Dayton’s second-generation, family-run Sokol Blosser winery is certified organic. One of the state’s pioneering wineries, it produces Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and proprietary blends Evolution White and Evolution Red, among other wines.

Further south in the Willamette Valley, Eugene is home to two unique wineries – Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company and King Estate. Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company touts its offerings as being “built with viticultural grooviness and oenological prowess.” Its tasting room often remains open into the evening, occasionally featuring live music. King Estate owns the largest contiguous certified organic vineyard in the world. Its Acrobat Pinot Gris was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines of 2010.

Tours

With its foothills and valleys, pastures and rivers, the Willamette Valley’s scenery serves as the ideal backdrop for wine tours.

Tour companies offer a number of packages to guide you through the region, including ecologically friendly tours in vans and buses powered by 100 percent biodiesel, to bicycling wine tours and traditional limousine tours.



Lodging

In keeping with its rural, boutique atmosphere, the Willamette Valley features a wide selection of bed and breakfasts. The Dundee Manor Bed and Breakfast and McMinnville’s Joseph Mattey House are among those frequently recommended.

Those seeking accommodations on a grander scale might consider The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, the first resort in Oregon wine country. Built with wood and stone to convey a Pacific Northwest feel, the resort features 65 large guestrooms, a concierge, window seats and balconies with views of orchards and the town, a highly touted restaurant, Jory, and a living roof (a roof covered in plants to reduce runoff).  

Combining lodging with wine, Dundee’s Black Walnut Inn offers nine luxury suites as well as 13 acres of Pinot Noir vines. The inn was built in the style of a Mediterranean villa.

Dining

The Willamette Valley dining experience often means local, farm-to-table fare including seafood harvested from the nearby Oregon coast, beef, seasonal game and produce, and desserts made with local berries, all paired with regional wines.

Favorite restaurants in the area include Salem’s DaVinci, the Gathering Together Farm in Corvallis, Eugene’s Red Agave and Albany’s Sybaris. Celebrated newcomer Paulée, located in Dundee grows its own produce.

Other Fun Options

Hot Air Balloon Rides - For an aerial view of Oregon’s wine country, consider a hot air balloon ride. The Willamette Valley is home to a number of companies offering just that. Rides range from an hour to several hours.

Evergreen Aviation Museum - Home to Howard Hughes’ famous all-wood Spruce Goose, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville features an impressive collection of vintage aircraft, an IMAX theater and a water park.

Truffle Hunting - Each winter, the Oregon Truffle Festival is held in and around Eugene. Considered one of nature’s delicacies, the wild truffle grows well beneath the Willamette Valley’s Douglas fir forests. Oregon has two types – the Oregon white truffle and the Oregon black truffle. The festival draws chefs, foragers and fans of the truffle to gather in celebration of the underground mushroom.

Want to learn more?    
Visit willamettewines.com, oregonwinecountry.org or traveloregon.com.


 

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Comments

  • Snooth User: flerbert
    151741 19

    Pretty impressive that they can fit 400 wineries in a 5200 square foot area. They must be manned by leprechauns. :)

    Aug 13, 2012 at 2:30 PM


  • in every article regarding oregon wines, invariably two of the best examples of oregon pinot noir are overlooked by the experts. Cardwell Hill Cellars just out side of Corvallis, and Broadley Vineyards in Monroe. Both produce small amounts of some of the best wines in the valley.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 2:59 PM


  • While the wineries mentioned are great, they are some of the biggest and best-known in the state. The thrill of Oregon wine tasting is the discovery of the incredible pinot (amongst other varieties) coming out of so many unassuming little spots.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:05 PM


  • Snooth User: jtryka
    Hand of Snooth
    312799 2,061

    Great to see the spruce goose in an article about the Willamette Valley!

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:21 PM


  • Lange has been one of my favorites for the past decade or so. The view from their patio is very nice as well. Dundee Hills area...

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:35 PM


  • Wineries mentioned leave article's credibility hollow...
    Ponzi, Tori Mor, other greats are missing and in need of mention...
    .

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:36 PM


  • Having come from the sonoma valley, the one thing i really miss here is the winery bocce leagues. it seemed that every winery had at least 2 courts. not so easy to find them here.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:41 PM


  • How about Domaine Serene and Shea Vineyards?

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:46 PM


  • I was surprised that Archery Summit and Willamette Valley Vineyard were not mentioned in the artlcle.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:49 PM


  • I don't think that the fact that some great wineries were left off make the article less credible. the wineries are well know and easily obtainable, so they are the first mentioned in almost any story about OR wines. the problem is that for them to review the smaller wines they would need someone on the ground here to search them out and review them.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:50 PM


  • Snooth User: fcrealtor
    1123561 15

    I think the author is mathematically challenged. It should be 5,200 square miles, not 5,200 sq. ft. and the statement that 400 wineries produce an average of 4,200 cases a year could be misconstrued. I don't really know what average has to do with it because the range is probably 100 cases to a hundred thousand cases or more. Last I heard, there were about 200 wineries in the Willamette Valley and the total production is around 1.5 million cases.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:02 PM


  • wow, tough crowd. the mistakes are probably from not proofing before posting, other than that it was well written. those statistics are called filler, to give some interest to the article. so it did not have all the info each thought it should. those that think they can do it better, get to it.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:45 PM


  • Snooth User: Kate Statton
    Hand of Snooth
    853836 1,079

    hi all - thanks for catching the square feet vs. square miles! this has now been corrected.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 5:06 PM


  • Snooth User: Harryjb
    1107249 107

    Based on a Snooth article about Portland from earlier in the summer, I booked a wine tour in July with Ron Burke <http://www.orwinetours.com/>. Ron is extremely well-informed about wine, in general, and the Willamette Vally, in particular. Rather than visiting the big, well-known wineries, like those cited above, we went to some excellent, smaller wineries that distribute in the region: Thistle Wines, Elk Cove, Kramer, Patton Valley, and Apolloni. A great tour!

    Aug 13, 2012 at 6:20 PM


  • Snooth User: dwbarry412
    1057979 117

    Not going to make everyone happy unless you mention all WV wines. Tthis is my favorite area in the world for pinot, not to mention pinot gris. Penner-Ash, Gypsy Dancer, Benton Lane, Montinori, Walnut City and King Estates to add to the list - I can't find an Oregon pinot I don't like.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 7:57 PM


  • we were there last week and are still on a tour of Victoria and Vancouver tasting wines in BC. Our short list from Williamette is Chehalem (favorite), Styring, Vidon, Natalie's, and Four Graces.Eat at Subterra and Recipe in Newberg, Jakes and Mother's in Portland. Have a gin/tonic at Teardrop Lounge in Portland when you get enough wine. That's our notes from the road. Be home soon!

    Aug 13, 2012 at 9:20 PM


  • Snooth User: birdman582
    1128399 20

    I have heard of all but one of these wineries and have visited many of them. If you are in Dundee you have to check out White Rose winery. Up on the same hill as Domain Drouhin and Domain Serene. Winter's Hill is in that same area too. Further south but not to be missed is Saint Innocent.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 12:54 AM


  • Snooth User: K.C. Baker
    1126892 19

    Made a wine buying trip to OR last weekend...brought home several to try. Even right next door in SW Idaho, availability of these great WV Pinots is not good. Looking forward to trying the Stone Wolf 2009...Cooper Hill...Benton Lane (really excited about this one!). Erath is more available at home for us, and it is always a solid choice. We have found that the countless subtleties that exist within this single AVA have not placed us at risk for being "one dimensional". Love the Oregon Pinots!!

    Aug 14, 2012 at 2:50 PM


  • Eola Hills is probably one of the more distributed wines from this region. they produce a wide variety of wines and their pinot is always at the top.

    Aug 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM


  • Snooth User: WineUpWineMerchants
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    842528 15

    Check out http://www.agreatoregonwinetour.com the best tour ever!!!

    Aug 15, 2012 at 6:02 PM


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