While we’re certainly not souring on Napa or Sonoma, there’s a lesser-known vino region that’s stolen our heart—and we don’t see our amour fading anytime soon. Just an hour drive from Portland is Willamette Valley, a magical land where Pinot noir is king and wine flows like water. Coupled with acclaimed restaurants, charming accommodations, a relaxed vibe, and spectacular scenery, it’s easy to see why people are lauding Willamette Valley as the next U.S. viticulture destination.
Where to Stay
The newly opened Atticus Hotel, in the heart of historic McMinnville, is the first luxury lodging in the area. The 36-room boutique property is defined by its posh, Oregon-inspired decor. Expect light fixtures from Schoolhouse Electric, custom-made furnishings, Pendleton robes, lots of walnut wood, and door knockers from local vintage shops. Warm service and thoughtful amenities (instead of a front desk, there’s a “welcome bar”) up the charm. Another overnight option is McMenamins Hotel Oregon, beloved for its quirky ambiance and rooftop bar—the views are Instagram gold.
Where to Sip
Willamette Valley is home to more than 550 wineries and 700 vineyards. Safe to say, you don’t have to look far to find fabulous vino. While it may be best known for world-class Pinot noir, this revered AVA (American Viticultural Area) produces plenty of other praise-worthy, cool-climate varieties. Fans of barrel-aged Chardonnay and aromatic Riesling will love Hyland Estates.
Fancy a flight? Sample limited releases and library vintages at The Eyrie Vineyards. Established in 1965, this pioneering label is now helmed by second-generation vintner Jason Lett. Also in McMinnville are R.Stuart & Co. and Retour (by appointment only)—both of which land on our must-visit list. And you’d have to be crazy to pass up an opportunity to sip the selection at Ken Wright Cellars. The tasting room is located in a restored 1920s train depot in downtown Carlton. How cool is that?
Where to Savor
Ask anyone for a dinner suggestion and they’ll recommend Nick's Italian Cafe. Opened by Nick Peirano in 1977 (and now run by his daughter Carmen), this James Beard Award-winning restaurant is a long-time local favorite. Signature dishes include minestrone soup with house-made pesto and dungeness crab lasagna.
Nearby, Thistle specializes in nose-to-tail cooking and inventive cocktails. Craving a taste of Americana? Head to Bless Your Heart Burger & Bar. Wash down natural beef patties with Negroni slushies. Valley Commissary is the perfect place to grab breakfast before a vino-filled day. You can’t go wrong with the slow-roasted pork hash and veggie frittata.
At Sokol Blosser, the focus is on sustainable practices, expressive pours, and fresh fare. Hungry? Join executive chef Henry Kibit for Farm & Forage, a six-course food and wine pairing experience.