Oregon Wines

Willamette Valley Wine Tasting – An Awesome Adventure in Food, Wine, and Relaxing

Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley

To wrap up our trip to Oregon, we decided to stay in Willamette Valley.   The amazing thing about Willamette Valley is that it has over 300 wineries in what would be considered a fairly small area, but it is still quaint and not overly commercialized.   They have several distinct AVA’s or unique growing regions.   When we were researching somewhere to stay, we noticed that they didn’t have the big hotel chains like you would expect, so it was mostly Bed & Breakfast properties or the Allison Resort Spa.   We opted for the Allison Resort, and we were blown away by the attention to detail and amenities at the resort.  Our experience with the resort actually started at the Wine Tourism Conference we had attended a couple of days prior.  We coincidentally ran into their sales manager and she impressed us even before we stepped onto the resort (super friendly, helped coordinate reservations at their restaurant, etc).   We will get more into the resort later, but let’s get back to the wine.

Black Walnut Winery- Oregon

The view from the patio of the Black Walnut Inn & Winery

With over 300 wineries in one area, how can you possibly decide which ones to go to?  We didn’t want to just hit the big names that everyone goes to…. We wanted to explore the lesser known ones, so we decided to drive around and just randomly pick places to stop at.    Our first stop was a great one… Black Walnut Winery and Inn.   This one was unique in that it was both a Bed & Breakfast AND a winery, which has some AMAZING views of the valley.  It was a beautiful property up a winding country road, with a Mediterranean-style Bed & Breakfast at the top.  At the time, they only had three different wines to tastes, but they were good!  The owner runs the tasting room, and he gave us the full history of how they got started, how they ended up in the wine industry, and why they are making the wines they make.  Great place to start our day since he was familiar with all the wineries in the area and gave us some great recommendations about what wineries we needed to make sure we stopped by.

Tasting Room for White Rose Winery

White Rose Winery tasting room

From there we just started weaving our way around the country roads.   There are so many wineries, that you could literally spend an entire day on just one road.  We made our next stop of the wineries that Black Walnut had recommended, and it was definitely a good one!  White Rose Vineyards was another one with a great view, and a really cool tasting room (sort or industrial, sort of like an old speakeasy).   What was unique about this winery is that they had a different wine from each of the different growing regions on the valley, and focused on Pinot Noir’s.   As we went down the tasting sheet, each wine got progressively better as we went along (and more expensive of course!).

Allison Inn and Spa

The Allison Inn and Spa where we stayed while in Willamette Valley

From there we went down to McMinnville to grab some lunch.  McMinnville has a nice little downtown and there are actually a couple of tasting rooms if you wanted to make the day out of walking around town.  We wanted to eat at The Thistle, which we heard was an awesome farm-to-table restaurant, but unfortunately they were not open for lunch.  After lunch we stopped at a couple of more wineries making our way back to Allison Spa Resort.  One day was clearly not enough time to really explore Willamette Valley, and would definitely recommend taking a couple of days to check out as many wineries as possible.

Even though we barely scratched the surface in terms of the variety of wineries in Willamette Valley, we thought we made some REALLY great choices in the ones we went to.   There are a lot of big name wineries in the Valley that we will have to save for our next trip to Oregon.   We found a lot of great wines, and not all of them were Pinot Noir’s, that we would absolutely buy again if we see it on the menu at a restaurant or at the store.    Here are some other notes on where to eat and stay if you are planning a trip out to Oregon and want to stay in the Willamette Valley

Where to eat

Jordy – this restaurant is actually located in the Allison Spa Resort… we liked it so much, that we ended up eating breakfast AND dinner there two days in a row (it was THAT good!).  Even if you don’t stay Allison, we would recommend stopping there for breakfast or dinner… you won’t be disappointed!

Thistle Restaurant – located in McMinnville, this is a farm-to-table restaurant that everyone we talked to recommended.   We didn’t get a chance to eat there since they were not open for lunch, but we will definitely be going there when we go back to the area.

Red Hill Market – amazing sandwiches, and it is right in Dundee.  This is a great place to grab something to eat while wine tasting in the valley

Where to stay

Allison Spa & Resort – there wasn’t a single bad thing to say about this place… they paid attention to every detail.  The rooms were spacious, had a balcony, fireplace, giant soaking tub… everything you could need.  What we really loved is the fact that they have Lexus cars that you can use as a guest of the hotel to drive around while wine tasting.  Even though we had a regular rental car, it was nice getting to drive the Lexus around the country roads.

Black Walnut Winery & Inn – while we didn’t stay there, it is definitely on our list of places to stay next time.  The property has a beautiful view, and the house that the rooms are in, was awesome.  Plus, you have a tasting room right below you on the lower level!

 

To read more about our trip, what wineries we visited, and what our reviews were, head over to http://www.winetrailadventures.com and create an account.  You can friend us and see all of our wine reviews.  You can also follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/winetrailadventures

Oregon Wine Country: A New Found Appreciation for Oregon Wines

Oregon Wine Regions

We had the opportunity to head to Portland, Oregon this past weekend for the National Wine Tourism Conference and for a couple of day of exploring on our own.   With this being our first conference, it was a great introduction to other people in the industry- from winery owners to tour operators.  The conference was a big success, and we were able to start introducing Wine Trail Adventures to the wine community (woo hoo!), but equally as important, we were introduced to a whole lot of wines that we would have otherwise probably never tried.

If you are like us, when you go into a restaurant and hand you the wine list, it can be a bit overwhelming.  How do you choose a wine from a list when 90% of them you probably have never tried before?  Most times you go by the server’s recommendation, right?  Well, if you look closely at the wine list next time, I bet there are several wines from Oregon on there that you probably overlooked simply because you didn’t know what they taste like.   Going into our trip, we didn’t know a whole lot about Oregon wines, other than the fact that they had a LOT of wineries in the state and they were in the top 5 wine producing states in the country.  Did you know that?

After spending a couple of days at the conference, then venturing out on our own for a couple of days, we discovered that Oregon really IS making some GREAT wine.    Aside from the conference, we spent a day in the Columbia River Gorge and then two days in Willamette Valley (we extend the stay an extra day because we were having such a great time!), and while we obviously didn’t get to EVERY winery, there weren’t many places that we DIDN’T like!

One fact that we didn’t know going into the trip is that Oregon (especially Willamette Valley) is known for growing Pinot Noir, and did we taste some great ones!   Beside Pinot, we were pleasantly surprised by some of the Chardonnay’s and Cabernet’s that we had as well.   Honestly… it isn’t very often that we can walk into a winery and say that we liked every single wine they made, but there were a couple of them on this trip that actually said that.   In fact, we ended up buying another suitcase just so that we could get all the wines home that we bought! LOL

Having spent a couple of days driving around the Portland area, there were a couple of things that we learned from this trip

1)      Oregon is absolutely producing some GREAT wines, and we will now know to look for Oregon wines when perusing the wine list at dinner
2)      You could literally spend a week in Willamette Valley and never make it to every winery.
3)      We will definitely be planning a trip back to finish where we left off.

If you want to read more about where we went, what our favorite wineries were, and suggestions on where to stay or eat, check back for our next couple of blog posts which will cover the Columbia River Gorge area and Willamette Valley.