One of the largest wine producing states in the country, Oregon enjoys worldwide recognition for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris among other varieties. The Willamette Valley boasts over 300 of the state’s more than 350 wineries, with ample lodging and culinary experiences dotted along the wine trails, one of them being Highway 99W.
To get a sense of Willamette Valley Wine Country, I suggest a day trip to the Dundee Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) for starters. We have an itinerary designed to give both novice and know-it-all oenophiles a diverse taste of the local grape growing landscape and varietals:
Take I-5 South from Portland about six miles, then hop onto Highway 99W for another 18 miles. After driving about 45 minutes away from the city, you’ll enter the quaint town of Dundee, Oregon. A wine and food lovers’ paradise, you can choose from a variety of vineyards for tasting stops or to sip and savor the local cuisine at the most well-known restaurants.
Named for the owners’ four daughters, The Four Graces vineyard began in 2003 with 110 acres of lush Pinot vines. And 10 years later, with incredible attention to detail and a natural winemaking process, try a taste of some of the most balanced and well-structured wines in the region, such as The Four Graces Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Noir.
Guided by a dedication to creating unparalleled Willamette Valley wines as well as sustainable viticulture, the vineyard and winery at Sokol Blosser are as beautiful as any brochure shots of the region. Taste a variety of the best wines of the season, like their just-released Evolution White Sparkling Wine, then take a tour of the eco-friendly facility (be sure to make group reservations for the tour and tasting, $25).
For lunch, stop by the renowned Dundee Bistro founded by the Ponzi family, one of Oregon’s premier wine pioneering families. Showcasing the area’s best wines and delicious Pacific Northwest cuisine, chef Christopher Flanagan is known across the country for creatively utilizing the freshest Willamette Valley ingredients in classic wine country dishes such as flatbread, hummus, prawns, curry, Mama Lil’s peppers and pea shoots.
Saunter next door to the Ponzi Wine Bar. Rotating specially selected flights, including a tasting of Ponzi wines and the “Red Eye,” a side-by-side comparison of two Pinot Noirs, throughout the seasons, guests can enjoy wine by the glass, bottle or case. Guest winemakers are featured in the summertime and for those interested in other spirits, try a microbrew on draught or an Italian coffee.
Ranked one of the best in Oregon, the Argyle Winery mixes old world viticulture with new age winemaking processes, including tirage, the process of introducing a new live yeast culture to the base wine just before the wine is bottled, to begin its second fermentation. Be sure to taste Argyle’s famous sparkling wine before you continue.
The next stop is to one of the original wineries of the region, Erath Winery. With more than 40 years of experience crafting the highest quality Pinot Noir, Erath boasts a beautiful tasting room with sweeping views of the Jory hills of Dundee and many single vineyard wines truly authentic to the region. Insider’s tip: the owner recently made a trip to Italy, which inspired him to plant Dolcetto vines. Made in tiny quantities, this rich, exotic red sells out quickly every year so be sure to ask about its availability.
After a full day of eating and tasting, stroll amid the vineyards, footpaths and acres of hazelnut orchards at the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon. The hotel, its restaurant Jory and The Allison Spa are all Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star recipients. If you’re too tired to hit the road home, this is a great place to sit back and enjoy another glass of Pinot or a good night’s sleep.
Photos Courtesy of iStock-NikoVujevic, John Vallis and The Allison Inn and Spa