Oregon and the Willamette Valley AVA have established their oeuvre with Pinot Noir, but their repertoire is growing. A newfound love affair with Oregon Chardonnay has received notice in The New York Times, and several dedicated winemaker evangelists, such as Rollin Soles of Argyle Winery, are touting the joys of Oregon sparkling wine. Southern Oregon, a drier, sparser landscape that looks more like the Blue Mountains of eastern Washington than the Red Hills of Dundee, is producing a surprising array of varietal wines—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec and even Syrah. (Find southern Oregon wineries at sorwa.org.) A surprising diversity of wine and a spectacular array of restaurants and accommodations are the latest delightful discoveries on the Oregon Trail.
Sparkling is the latest story in Oregon, and the epicenter is the venerable but ever-relevant Argyle Winery (691 Highway 99W, Dundee; 503.538.8520, ext. 233; argylewinery.com), smack dab in the middle of the tiny town of Dundee. Founded by the inimitable Texas transplant and sparkling-wine guru Rollin Soles, Argyle also produces superb Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still wines, but sparkling wine is his passion, and the wines show it. Domaine Meriwether (88324 Vineyard Lane, Veneta; 541.935.9711; meriwetherwines.com), named after the explorer, have quietly been producing outstanding bubbly since 1998, creating four different styles that go with a variety of foods, from shellfish and salmon to pork and duck. Oregon winemaker Tony Soter of Soter Vineyards (10880 NE Mineral Springs Road, Carlton; 503.662.5600; sotervineyards.com; tastings by appointment) is making premier Pinot Noir, but his luxurious sparkling wines are much in demand, with their freshness of fruit, bright acidity and mineral backbone.
WHERE TO EAT
Start your day with a fabulous gourmet breakfast at the Black Walnut Inn (9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee; 503.538.8663; blackwalnut-inn.com), made with eggs from the inn’s own hens and organic produce from its garden. For lunch, stop at The Dundee Bistro (100-A SW Seventh St., Dundee; 503.554.1650; dundeebistro.com), a local favorite for its wine-country feel and fresh local cuisine. Dinner fare at The Allison Inn & Spa’s world-class, 100-seat restaurant, Jory (2525 Allison Lane, Newberg; 503.554.2526; theallison.com), named after the igneous-derived soil of the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, features choice, sustainably raised Oregon meat and produce, an extensive collection of Oregon spirits from craft distilleries, and an amazing wine list focusing on Oregon and hard-to-find wines, with an impressive 50 wines by the glass.
WHERE TO STAY
Nestled on a hillside in the Red Hills AVA, the Black Walnut Inn (9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee; 503.538.8663; blackwalnut-inn.com; $185–$495) offers top-notch service, luscious views of its own vineyards, and a collection of well-appointed, cozy suites with a European vibe. Check into the sun-filled Tower Room, and you may think you’re in Tuscany and decide to stay. There’s even an “Elopement” package for couples who want to escape for an intimate affair. Several excellent wineries (Erath, Winderlea) are just down the road, making this the perfect headquarters for wine touring. A luxury inn with all the amenities in the middle of wine country, The Allison Inn & Spa (2525 Allison Lane, Newberg; 503.554.2525; theallison.com; $315–$1,100) boasts luxurious suites; wedding packages; salon and spa services including massage, steam and sauna; and a swimming pool. Wander The Allison’s gardens, play golf, take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards or tour some of the Willamette Valley’s 200 wineries. The Allison is truly the new gold standard for Oregon wine country travel.
MUST-TRY WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINES
Argyle 2008 Brut Rosé, $50
Argyle 2001 Extended Tirage Brut, $60
Meriwether 2000 Prestige Rosé Cuvée, $40
Soter 2006 Brut Rosé, $44
Amity 2009 Willamette Valley Chardonnay, $58