Summer means wine-tasting, right? At least it does in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, home to more than 400 wineries. This season is a great time to visit the Valley, which celebrates its 50th anniversary as a wine-growing region. If you’re thinking about a warm-weather trip to this top tippling terroir, which begins less than an hour’s drive from Portland and continues south for another 150 miles, you’ll want to peruse our short summer guide to the prime Pacific Northwest wine region.
What to Sip
Back in 1965, David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards planted the first pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley. Today, the Valley — largely known for its red wines — is considered one of the world’s top pinot-producing regions. If you’re serious about your pinot noir, plan your Willamette Valley visit for July 24 through 26, when the International Pinot Noir Celebration comes to the town of McMinnville. It’s three days of wine seminars, tastings and dinners featuring guest chefs from across the Northwest, including the talented Allen Routt from Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Painted Lady Restaurant.
Where to Eat
Set in a Victorian home in the town of Newburg, The Painted Lady Restaurant has been catering to wine (and food) lovers since 2005. Its multi-course dinners emphasize local products. Expect irresistible-sounding dishes such as potato gnocchi with green garlic, frog legs, English peas and shaved truffle, as well as citrus-crusted wild salmon with smoked eggplant, sheep’s milk dumplings and baby vegetables.
The restaurant’s vino list features nearly 500 varieties from the Willamette Valley and beyond. The Painted Lady marked its 10th anniversary in May by bringing in a variety of 2005 pinots (an homage to its debut year) to pair with the menu items. You can enjoy these wines through August or until the selection is gone. Time your visit for the July 23 wine dinner with nearby Roco Winery and you’ll get a special treat: a six-course feast with local pours.
If you’re hosting a special dinner, consider booking the chef’s table at JORY at The Allison Inn, the Four-Star restaurant at Newburg’s The Allison Inn & Spa. Executive chef Sunny Jin will create a customized five-course menu — with wine pairings — for you and up to nine other guests.
Where to Sleep
The Willamette Valley doesn’t have many deluxe lodgings, but the options it does present are full-service hubs of luxuriousness. An excellent choice for a couple of evenings in the area is the aforementioned Four-Star Allison Inn and Spa, an 85-room property with a first-rate art collection set on 35 acres.
If you’d prefer to day-trip from Portland, the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Hotel deLuxe, decorated with a retro Hollywood theme, or the landmark The Benson, where The Palm Court restaurant has a wine cellar stocked with more than 1,500 bottles, are both fine places to stay.
Another good sleep for wine tourists is The Heathman Hotel, a boutique property with inviting, handsome guest rooms. The Four-Star hotel will send you to the Willamette Valley with its Portland, Oregon Wine Tour package, which includes a bottle of Oregon pinot noir and personal concierge assistance to plan out your wine tasting itinerary. Of course, you can always opt to duck into the hotel’s The Heathman Restaurant and Bar, whose cellar carries more than 6,600 bottles and 800 selections from 20 of the world’s major wine regions with an emphasis on Oregon.