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Willamette Valley AVA Celebrates 40 Years! Plus 2023 Highlights

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2023 was a great year for the Willamette Valley! We received recognition from major wine magazines and newspapers including being called “The Next Napa” as well as placing in many top 10 and top 100 wines of the world lists. Though Pinot Noir continues to be our claim to fame, accolades are pouring in for our chardonnay and sparkling wines. Oregon leads the country in natural, organic and biodynamic wines including trends for Pet Nat (petillant naturel fermentation finishes in the bottle leaving behind bubbles) and orange wines (skin contact white wines), the latter of which are favored among younger wine consumers.


Let’s recap some of the 2023 highlights for Willamette Valley wineries:


Time Magazine named the Willamette Valley as one of the world’s 50 greatest places and one of only six in the US. It was titled “The Next Napa” to the chagrin of many Oregon locals who have no interest in chasing the reputation and popularity of the Napa Valley. The good news is that we are far from Napa in crowds, wine prices, triple-digit tasting fees and glitzy wineries. The best wineries here are small and boutique where the owners/winemakers offer the tastings (often weekends only) and are happy to answer questions as well as engage with guests about their work. Sometimes, they even add barrel tastings, vertical tastings, and vineyard tours as a bonus.


Wine Spectator named six Willamette Valley wines among their top 100 wines of 2023. Resonance’s 2021 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir took the spot #6 followed by Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Purple Hands, Bergstrom, Archery Summit and Ken Wright—all 2021 Pinot Noirs. 


Want to visit some or all of these wineries? It’s possible on a Triangle Wine Country Willamette Valley Tour! Or, if you tour with us, you can visit our picks for the hidden gems that offer similar experiences and high quality wines that don’t produce enough to submit their wines for review. Plus, you’ll be able to meet the winemakers and owners who often host the tastings.


Food & Wine Magazine suggested the Willamette Valley is on its way to being the ultimate wine destination, combining the charm of both Napa Valley and Burgundy. In addition to world-class wine tasting, the Valley can offer top restaurants as well: Okta in McMinnville was named by New York Times as one of the top 50 restaurants in the United States. Lodging here is also first-class: Relais and Chateaux opened The Tributary Hotel right next door to Okta. In Newberg, The Allison Inn offers a luxurious wine-centric experience complete with a spa and The Jory restaurant named after the Valley’s famed iron rich soil, also Oregon’s state soil.


Inside Hook named the Willamette Valley as the US’s most captivating wine region! This ranking was based on delicious wines and beautiful wineries, proximity to Portland, excellent lodging options and many other diversions including hiking, biking, kayaking and food tourism. The Allison Inn, Atticus Hotel, Douglas on Third plus many bed and breakfasts offer a variety of pricing options. Weekly farmer’s markets offer a bounty of local berries, vegetables, flowers, locally made jams, chocolates, coffee, hazelnuts (Oregon is the leading US producer of the nut), honey, and more.


Let’s look ahead to our milestone year 2024:


2024 marks 40 years since the Willamette Valley was recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco  Tax and Trade Bureau as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) on par with Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The designation put Oregon on the world’s wine map and highlighted the success of our locally-grown pinot noir wines. Sub AVAs followed including Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountain, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill Carlton, Eola Amity. Wineries will be celebrating our roots all year due to the anniversary, with special events and commemorations of our founding wine pioneers and their wineries, most still operated by first and second generation family members! Read about our history on the Willamette Valley Wineries Association website. Check out our Founders Tour where you can visit some of our oldest wineries and enjoy library pours, vineyard walks, as well as food and wine pairings.


Wine Festivals abound in 2024. Consider planning your visit around one of these exciting events:

What are you waiting for? Check out the Wine Flies Free deal on Alaska Airlines and book your vacation now! Stay in Portland or in the Valley— we can pick you up anywhere downtown or as far south as McMinnville for your customized wine tour. Choose your wineries or let us take you to our favorite hidden gems. 

Dog lovers don’t forget to ask for our Bernese Mountain Dog Cassie to join your tour!

Photo credit: Durant Vineyard Jan 2024 

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