Check out the rest of our 7 Best Wine Destinations in the Pacific Northwest here.
Sometimes you want your wine country vacation to deliver a taste of the good life, the villa-hopping, helicopter-chauffeured, spa-scrubbed-and-buffed good life usually reserved for daydreams. Other times, you crave a getaway of a different sort, one filled with nature walks, farm stand visits and picnics with the kids.
Well, if you’re in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, named Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year in 2016, you can have it both ways—even if you limit your travels to the northernmost portion of the 150-mile-long valley. Famed the world over for its Pinot Noir and home to 500 wineries and counting, this fast-growing region can be as luxe or as low-key as you like.
For proof, head to Hilltop Lane in the lush, rolling hills around Dundee, where the highly acclaimed Domaine Serene winery just opened a grand, manor-like “clubhouse,” with a commercial kitchen for chef-driven food pairings and sweeping views of the Willamette Valley from the wraparound terrace.
But travel two minutes down the hill to easygoing Vista Hills Vineyard and you’re welcomed with vinyl on the turntable and shady spots on the winery grounds for picnics on the grass. If your timing is right, riders from Equestrian Wine Tours will be tying up outside (yes, you can pet the horses). Just a little farther down the road, catch a tour of Red Ridge Farms and taste its estate-grown olive oils; the farm has the first and only commercial olive mill in the Northwest.
Photograph by Andrea Lonas. Vintages Trailer Resort near Dayton offers retro accomodations
From here, you’re just a short drive to Red Hills Market in Dundee, where you can pick up picnicking provisions or dig into wood-fired pizzas, salads and sandwiches packed with local ingredients. Across the street is Argyle, a Northwest pioneer of sparkling wine. The modern tasting room offers ample outdoor seating and chilled bottles of bubbly to go.
For a Portland-esque dinner, check out the super-seasonal Ruddick/Wood restaurant in Newberg, where house-made preserves adorn the rustic shelves and nasturtiums might grace your dish. Order a pint of spelt pale ale made just a few miles away at Wolves & People, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself at the bucolic farmhouse brewery the next day to sample the entire lineup.
You can cap your day in an oasis of quietude and luxury at the upscale Allison Inn and Spa. Its fine dining restaurant, Jory, has been nominated for multiple James Beard awards. Or go the retro route: Catch a flick at the 99W Drive-In, one of the last drive-in theaters in the state, and stay at The Vintages, a resort of fully renovated retro travel trailers complete with cruiser bikes and fire pits for making your s’mores.
In nearby McMinnville, browse through the historic Third Street boutiques, tasting rooms and restaurants. Community Plate, with its farm-fresh menu, is a hands-down favorite for breakfast and lunch.
Photograph by Sasquatch PR. A tasting room in Domaine Serene’s new Dayton clubhouse
Properly fueled, drive south along nursery-lined country roads into the acclaimed Eola-Amity Hills AVA, where the comfortably stylish Brooks Winery is located. Brooks offers picnic blankets and Adirondack chairs for soaking up its four-mountain view, alongside silky Pinot Noirs, Friday-night wood-fired pizzas and live music on Sundays. End your day at the venerable Bethel Heights, a Pinot Noir pioneer.
There’s more than wine in the Willamette Valley. If the kids are along, don’t miss the Wings & Waves indoor waterpark in McMinnville; airplane buffs can take in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum next door, home to Howard Hughes’ famous Spruce Goose. If you have time, take the sweet little Wheatland Ferry to Willamette Mission State Park (in Gervais, about 30 miles from McMinnville), where you can see great blue herons flying past the nation’s oldest cottonwood tree, as well as the ghostly outlines of one of the state’s first settlements.
Getting there: The north Willamette Valley is about a half-hour drive southwest of Portland, and about a four-hour drive from Seattle.
Argyle Winery, Dundee, 691 Highway 99W; 503.538.8520
Bethel Heights, Salem, 6060 Bethel Heights Road NW; 503.581.2262
Brooks Winery, Amity, 21101 SE Cherry Blossom Lane; 503.435.1278
Domaine Serene, Dayton, 6555 NE Hilltop Lane; 866.864.6555
Vista Hills Vineyard, Dayton, 6475 NE Hilltop Lane; 503.864.3200
Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery, Newberg, 30203 NE Benjamin Road; 503.487.6873
Equestrian Wine Tours, Carlton, 6325 NE Abbey Road; 503.864.2336
Tour Devine by Heli, 503.433.3760
Red Ridge Farms, Dayton, 5510 NE Breyman Orchards Road; 503.864.8502
99W Drive-In, Newberg, 3110 Portland Road; 503.538.2738
Wings & Waves Waterpark and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, 460 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way; 503.687.3390
Willamette Mission State Park
Do some yoga, pet some goats, taste some wine
Goat yoga is a fitness trend sweeping the country—and adding wine tasting to the mix is the latest twist. Goat Yoga Oregon in the Willamette Valley offers this experience at Emerson Vineyards (Monmouth, 11665 Airlie Road; 541.497.2149; $60–$75). Goat Happy Hour, from 5 to 7 p.m. on most Saturdays and Sundays, follows 30 minutes of yoga and includes sampling delicious Willamette Valley wine and—yes—goat petting. We can drink to that.
FOR YOUR CELLAR
Domaine Serene: 2014 Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay, $55 Vista Hills: 2014 Treehouse Pinot Noir, $28
Argyle: 2013 Brut Rosé, $50
Brooks: 2014 Rastaban Pinot Noir, $28
Bethel Heights: 2014 Aeolian Estate Pinot Noir, $40