Oregon’s Willamette Valley is an epicure’s dream — a world-renowned wine destination just under a half hour’s drive from Portland that lures pinot noir devotees who delight in the mix of mom-and-pop and state-of-the-art vineyards found around every bend.
The best time to visit the Willamette Valley
If you’re an oenophile, there is no season like crush to visit Oregon wine country. Depending on the year, harvest typically kicks off in late September and runs through early November. You’ll see the vineyard landscape dotted with crews picking the ripe fruit and truck beds filled with bins of deep purple pinot noir grapes cruising backcountry roads.
The summertime is idyllic, too; the sun is high in the sky, the days are long and leisurely and fields of green stretch at every turn. For adventure seekers, the warmer months make for the best time to hit the hiking trails or to glide along the river in a kayak.
Fall brings leaf peeping, pumpkin patches and brisk country air — a hiker’s delight. The infamous rain begins in November and usually continues until summer returns.
If you have a hardy spirit, sturdy galoshes and ample Gore-Tex, you can plan a winter visit for late January around the Oregon Truffle Festival. The weekend feast, held in the college town of Eugene, is a gourmand’s delight. Each activity (and dish) salutes the elusive and delicious fungus with a grand dinner, truffle-hunting forays and cooking classes.
What to pack for a trip to the Willamette Valley
A light sweater or jacket is always good to have at hand when you’re traveling in Oregon. Even if you arrive during summer, warm weather doesn’t really start here until after the Fourth of July. A wrap or a shawl is a great accessory for women, especially since restaurant air conditioning can be powerful.
The Willamette Valley is blessed with breathtaking scenery, found by visiting vineyards or hiking trails, so plan to pack a sun hat, sunglasses and sturdy shoes. Even in the nearby urban center of Portland, fleece is considered high style, so sporty fashion is appropriate for most, if not all places.
If you brave the late fall and winter season, rubber boots and any kind of waterproof wear are wise choices. You’ll know the native Oregonians, because they walk around in the drizzle without an umbrella. If that’s not your style, packing a pocket-sized parasol is a good idea, too.