Why Come to the Willamette Valley? Why Not!
** Spoiler Alert This is a Willamette Valley Ad!**
So you’ve been wine tasting in Napa/Sonoma (or if you are lucky France, Spain, Italy, Germany) and you are looking for something different. Maybe you are still skittish about overseas travel and crowded places. Not interested in sitting in traffic, booking months in advance for dinner or worrying about wildfires? Well, the Willamette Valley may be the answer to your travel conundrum! This wine country features award winning wines, amazing scenery, is close to an airport and a big city with lots to do. So how do I convince you there is enough to do here, and maybe for your “I’m not a huge wine fan” friends or family?
Let’s begin with the wines of the Willamette and the other options as well:
Pinot Noir, a speciality in this region, is the best in the world outside of Burgundy (where it originated), and some argue, better than Burgundy! Oregon Pinot got on the world wine map in 1979 when Eyrie Vineyard’s 1975 Pinot Noir placed in the top 10 in a blind tasting at the Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiad and it’s only gotten better since then. Whether Pinot Noir is in your wine cellar is a matter of taste, so I won’t try to persuade you. Instead, just come and see for yourself, as I’ve said in other posts, the best stuff doesn’t leave the state so don’t judge based on what you may have tasted outside of Oregon.
Chardonnay is another regular feature of the Willamette Valley, but it differs from the California oaky buttery big type. Oregon Chardonnay doesn’t hide behind oak and receives its flavor from the soil, the climate and the elevation (aka terroir) with little winemaker intervention. Domaine Divio’s Chardonnay was recently ranked #3 in the world in the over $50 category in Wine Enthusiast magazine. I have tried it and agree it’s one the best I’ve ever tasted!
Sparkling wines have been popular in the Willamette Valley for years. See: Roco, Argyle, Sokol Blosser who have been perfecting it for many years. Other wineries are getting in the game: Durant, Anne Amie, Varnum with much success. A party in a glass is my motto on sparkling wines, and much more affordable compared to Champagne, so you don’t need to save it for special occasions. Tuesday night with sushi, or Friday movie night with popcorn?
Breweries, cider houses and distilleries have been making waves in Portland for years beside the independent coffee houses we know and love. For the non-winos in your group, visit Brooks Winery which offers (in addition to their great Pinots and Rieslings) draft beer and cider as well as espresso drinks (for that second wind). Or visit Branch Point Distillers near Stoller or Kildeer Distilling near Trisaetum (who also just opened their own distillery). Consider adding a distillery or brewery to our wine tour schedule. Anything is possible on a Triangle Wine Country private tour!
Getting Here and Staying Here
Portland Airport is a breeze to fly in and out of, as it has considerably fewer crowds than SFO, as well as a light rail to take you around the city. And, it takes just under an hour to get you into the heart of wine country. You can stay in great quirky hotels or AirBnBs in one of the many walkable Portland neighborhoods: Hawthorne, Mississippi, Alberta, or Division are fun, beautiful areas to stay Or, you can immerse yourself in the valley at the posh Allison Inn or Setting Inn, as well as the more affordable Dundee Inn, Chehalem Ridge or Willamette Valley B&B or the Vintages where you can rent a vintage Airstream or hook up your RV.
Where to Eat?
Take your pick of dozens of acclaimed restaurants in Portland and the Willamette Valley. Weekends will require reservations, so plan ahead. If you can’t then try out the food truck courts all over the city. In Portland: Kachka for Russian food, including house made flavored vodkas, Bamboo for sushi, Le Pigeon for French, Berlu for Vietnamese, Gado Gado for Indonesian, Sweedeedee and Dame for New American, Tusk for Mediterranean, Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty for pizza and Paadee for Thai.
Some options in the Willamette Valley: La Rambla for tapas, Rosemarino Osteria for Italian, SubTerra and Tina’s for New American, as well as Dundee Bistro, Jory (at the Allison Inn).
What else to do?
How about an olive mill tour and tasting at Durant Vineyards? Visit the woodworking gallery of artist Ken Austin at the Raindance Vineyard tasting room? Taste Elizabeth Chambers wine at the Erin Hanson art gallery? Learn how Andrew Beckham at Beckham Estates makes terracotta amphora for wine storage on site at his winery/ceramics studio?
I almost forgot the largest attraction here is Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum! The story of transporting the engineering feat from its previous home in Long Beach, California, via ocean to river, to truck, is amazing.
We aren’t just about drinking wine, but if wine works for you then Portland and its wine country belongs on your bucket list. But know there is so much more to do in the Willamette Valley and Portland after a hard day of visiting beautiful places and tasting beautiful wines. With over 700 wineries to choose from, I dare you to get bored! And I didn’t even talk about the scenery (and if you are lucky Mt. Hood will make an appearance). Come see for yourself! Plus, you have a friend in the Willamette Valley since I will bring you to my favorites based on wine preferences, location, best views, wine diversity and best people to ensure every winery visit is a winner.