Willamette Valley Wine Country, Oregon
Ah, Tuscany…Here I am sharing a bottle of a very nice Sangiovise with one of the region’s premier vineyard owners in his pajamas. That’s how comfortable and relaxed we strangers are at the Carlton Inn in Yamhill County just an hour outside of Portland. Ok, so it’s not Tuscany, but meandering through a mosaic of orchards, pastures, vineyards and rolling farmland exploring Oregon’s Willamette Valley Wine Country can vie with the best of Italy.
The rambling adventure — sipping here, stopping for a view there — is all the better with splendid restaurants and terrific places to stay. This lush valley produces more than 200 vineyards catapulting Oregon’s reputation as one of the premier Pinot noir producing regions in the world.
Traveling back roads in and out of remnant forests you’ll have a mini-glimpse of Oregon’s gradual economic transition from timber to wine. [more]
Partners Jessica Bagley and Allen Routt deserve the rave reviews they’re getting for their culinary sensation, The Painted Lady restaurant www.thepaintedladyrestaurant.com. Chef Allen’s inventive menus might include lobster salad with grilled peaches or his acclaimed Carlton Farms Pork Three Ways. Monthly winemaker dinners feature local wineries. Red Hills Provincial Dining and Tina’s in Dundee are local standouts. A platter of truffled fries is a good ice-breaker at Dundee Bistro www.dundeebistro.com — plenty to share with neighboring diners. In nearby Dayton, indulge in chef Jack Czarnecki’s wild mushroom dishes at The Joel Palmer House www.joelpalmerhouse.com.
Cuvée www.cuveedining.com is a wine country standout, with signature French seafood dishes as well as the heartier biftec avec pommes frites and lamb chops. Cana’s Feast Winery (formerly Cuneo Cellars) http://canasfeastwinery.com serves light enoteca (wine bar) lunch fare on summer weekends and casual Friday night suppers. Carlton’s historic train depot is home to Ken Wright’s Tyrus Evan www.tyrusevan.com wine tasting room and retail shop. The Horse Radish Wine & Cheese Bar www.thehorseradish.com has everything for a picnic (or eat in the spacious, airy, comfy room) great local wines and deli foods. Ceilo Blu www.cieloblurestaurant.com for Italian. Need a break from wine? Penguin’s Café ’n’ Ice Cream Shoppe serves hand-dipped milkshakes. Fair Warning: Penguin’s featured “orchard pie” is a commercial product, not homemade.
Yes, another always-good-food McMenamin entry, the candlelit Ironwork Grill or the Yardhouse Pub at The Grand Lodge www.mcmenamin.com.
Besides handcrafted ales and pub fare, locals recommend Golden Valley Brew Brewery & Pub www.goldenvalleybrewery.com for quality steaks from locally raised beef. Don’t miss the rooftop bar at Hotel Oregon www.mcmenamins.com. Like the other McMenamin hotels and brewpubs — take a historic building, make it sing with eclectic, whimsical art and décor, good food and drink. Other local favorites are Kame Japanese Restaurant http://kame-restaurant.com and Red Fox Bakerywww.redfoxbakery.net for fresh baked breads and pastries, coffee, and lunch. Nick’s Italian Cafe www.nicksitaliancafe.com has been the place for fine Italian dining for more than 30 years, but newcomers are giving Nick Peirano friendly competition. The chic, Spanish-inspired La Rambla www.laramblaonthird.com features delectable tapas, Spanish-influenced Northwest cuisine, a full bar and an extensive selection of Northwest and Spanish wines. Then there’s the cozy Bistro Maison www.bistromaison.com offering traditional French cuisine from homemade pâté or escargots to confit de canard or steak tartare in a charming historic house; patio dining in the summertime.
Fair Warning: Most inns have their own pets so if you can’t travel without yours, let them have their own lodging. Karen Utz of Black Walnut Inn recommends Tail Wag-Inn Boarding Kennel tailwaginn.com in Dundee.
Springbrook Hazelnut Farm www.nutfarm.com Surrounded by orchards and vineyards, this 1912 estate on the National Historic Register includes gardens, pond, swimming pool and tennis court. Two beautifully restored Craftsman-style dwellings, Rose Cottage and the Carriage House, offer an eclectic collection of antiques and original art. Contemporary sculpture and art in unexpected places throughout the property and the historic barn houses J.K. Carriere winery (appointments appreciated, 503.554.0721). The farm’s nut stand on the highway is open from the October hazelnut harvest until Christmas. Fair Warning: Rose Cottage is near a spur road that has noisy evening and early morning traffic.
Lion’s Gate Inn www.distinctivedestination.net Before you say, Who wants to stay in downtown Newberg? consider this beautifully restored Craftsman home and its proximity to one of Oregon’s best restaurants, The Painted Lady, where you can indulge in prix fixe meals paired with superb wines and not worry about driving. It’s about an eight-block walk, but along the way you can see handsome historic homes. Besides, after your extravagant meal, you’ll need a refreshing jaunt. You’re only a few blocks from George Fox University too, where you can hike the creekside ravine before setting out on your wine-touring adventures.
The Allison Inn & Spa www.theallison.com Oregon’s newest spa. Fair Warning: Not reviewed by me as yet. Rave reviews from Oregonian feature; iffy reviews by friends I trust (especially restaurant).
Two miles west of Newberg, you’ll depart from hectic Hwy. 99W
into the famous
Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard www.blackwalnut-inn.com. This glamorous Tuscan-style hilltop villa combines Old World elegance with modern élan. Unwind in luxury as you take in sweeping vistas of vineyards, the valley, Mt. Hood and the Cascade Range.
Dundee Manor www.dundeemanor.com. Wander through gardens or putt on a private green at this 1908 Georgian estate. Sumptuous and elegantly themed rooms — Asian, European, African, and North American — are appointed with treasures from around the world.
Maresh Red Hills Vineyard Retreat www.vineyardretreat.com, a secluded timber-framed home retreat for families, couples and groups set amid family vineyards, orchards and forests. Their own Maresh Red Barn Tasting Room is open 11am-5pm Wednesday-Sunday, March through Thanksgiving.
Red Ridge Farms www.redridgefarms.com,
a luxurious suite hidden above the nursery’s garden store overlooking
lush vineyards. Besides herbs and specialty plants, including
100 varieties of lavender, owners Penny and Ken Durant have recently
planted 2,000 Arbequina olive trees as a “convergent strategy”
to global warming and to introduce high-quality olive oil to
Abbey Road Farm “Silo Suites” www.abbeyroadfarm.com The “Silo Suites” are just that — unique luxury accommodations in two retrofitted grain silos. The farm’s storm-damaged black walnut and white oaks were utilized by local artisans on beautifully crafted staircases. You can assist owners John and Judi Stuart in the garden, gather eggs, or help Judi milk her goats. Lovely pastoral views.
The Carlton Inn www.thecarltoninn.com, a 1915 gem of a bed and breakfast inn just a few blocks from Carlton’s wine-centric downtown — cozy, Scandinavian-influenced, cheerful and welcoming, with gleaming hardwood floors, unusual art and bright colors. Owners Pia and Eric enthusiastically offer advice and directions.
The Winery Lofts in Carlton, handsome suites featuring art, antiques and sumptuous bedding with mini kitchens located above the Black Dahlia garden store and the Quilt Nest on Carlton’s Main Street. Fair Warning: “Downtown” night noises are nil, but trucks begin to roll through town early.
The Lake House www.distinctivedestination.net. Located in the hinterlands near Yamhill, you wind through bucolic pastureland and into the woods to this fairy-tale like gabled home overlooking a charming pond. A weeping willow and the turquoise water (from algae control) mesmerize. No swimming or boating, but outdoor decks and a tiny island from which to spy minnows and ducks. Fair Warning: Bring food, because you may not want to leave this wholly relaxing, enchanting otherworld.
The Grand Lodge www.mcmenamin.com was
built in 1922 as a Masonic & Eastern
Star home (also an adjacent orphanage) and later served as an
infirmary. Walls and ceilings of this grand structure are festooned
with art and photographs depicting stories and characters entwined
in the area history. Fair Warning: Most
rooms have shared bathrooms down the hall. [ARCHIVES: A
A' Tuscan Estate www.a-tuscanestate.com Owners Jacques and Liz Rolland have beautifully restored this 1928 Colonial style home as well as the next door 1913 Craftsman “annex.” Polished Honduran mahogany woodwork and gleaming oak floors complement the rich colors, antiques and artifacts of the Old World European-influenced décor. Even though the exterior is hardly Tuscan, interiors reflect Italian flair and gracious comfort. Try your skill at Jacques’ pétanque court (similar to bocce ball). Sommelier, restauranteur, culinary author and chef Jacques not only will delight you with his breakfasts, but he’ll enthusiastically recommend visits to his favorite wineries. Enquire about his special five-course dinners.
Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn www.youngberghill.com. Breathtaking panoramic views of the Cascade and Coast Ranges, valleys and vineyards. Perched atop a 12-acre vineyard of pinot noir grapes on one of the highest hills in the area amid grasslands, farms and oak glades. Built especially as a bed and breakfast property, the remote inn emulates a farmhouse, but an exaggerated grand one with private baths and glorious decks. Gracious Old World charm truly away from it all.
The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, McMinnville, 503.434.4180) www.sprucegoose.org features Howard Hughes’ famous "Spruce Goose," and more than 80 historic aircraft, including the helicopter a friend pilot and I once ferried back to McMinnville from Anchorage, Alaska (now in a museum, eek!).
If you like vintage, designer, second-hand clothing stores, New to You is a must (238 NE Highway 99W McMinnville).
Vista Balloon Adventures (701 SE Sherk Pl, Sherwood, 503.625.7385/ 800.622.2309) www.vistaballoon.comunforgettable one-hour champagne brunch flights.
The Lawrence Gallery (19700 SW Hwy 18, McMinnville, 503.843.3633), fine art, pottery and sculptures from premiere artists. 1,113-acre
Hagg Lake is ten miles outside Forest Grove for boating, water-skiing and fishing.
Momokawa/Sake One brewery www.sakeone.com in Forest Grove is the only American owned sake brewery in the U.S.
It’s all about Wine! www.willamettewines.com / www.yamhillvalley.org / www.winesnw.com The excellent “Willamette Valley Wineries” brochure/map can be found at many Yamhill Valley shops, wineries, and lodgings. Fair Warning: Many of the small boutique wineries request appointments before visiting. Carlton Winemakers Studio www.winemakersstudio.com is a consortium of local winemakers with their own tasting room. McMinnville wine bars include Noah’s (525 NE Third Street, 503.434.2787), Art of the Vine (300 NE 3rd Street, 503.883.2063) and NW: A Wine Bar www.nwwinecompany.com (326 North Davis Street, 503.435.1295).
Carlton’s August Walk in the Park www.carltonswalkinthepark.com weekend celebration of artists, musicians, local restaurants and wineries benefits local charities. Big wine events Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends.
Ocean beaches are just an hour away over the Coast Range.