The green Eola Hills

This lush Willamette Valley winemaking region shines in early summer

Karl Samson

Myron Redford is an Oregon pioneer. He didn't arrive in a covered wagon, but he did help blaze a now well-trodden trail. In the mid-1970s, he became one of a handful of adventurous winemakers who settled in the Eola Hills of Oregon's Willamette Valley. In today's world of heavily oaked wines, Redford's style, which eschews new oak barrels, goes against the grain. "Grapes are a fruit, and my job as a winemaker is to let people taste that fruit."

Whether you prefer a fruit-forward Pinot Noir or a crisp Pinot Gris, you'll find plenty to please your palate here. More than 12 wineries are tucked into the Eola Hills, which rise abruptly from the valley and stretch across 15 miles.

Start an Eola Hills wine tour at Kristin Hill Winery, where sparkling wines, including one flavored with cherries, are a specialty. Nearby, at Myron Redford's Amity Vineyards, be sure to taste the superb single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. From Amity, drive 5 miles east over the hills to Mystic Wines, where winemaker Rick Mafit makes good Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

About 5 miles south, visit the side-by-side wineries of Cristom and Witness Tree Vineyard. At Cristom, winemaker Steve Doerner is known for his Pinot Noirs, while at Witness Tree―named for an ancient oak that towers over the vineyard―you can try Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Before coming down from the hills, visit Redhawk Vineyard, where the wine is taken seriously but the labels are not. Best known for its Grateful Red, Redhawk also makes Chateau Mootom, with quirky cows on the label, and Great White, whose label features a shark. Finally, on your way home, stop in Dayton at the elegant Joel Palmer House, where the chef's love of mushrooms and wine has blossomed into the region's most memorable restaurant.

Among the vines

The Eola Hills begin 30 miles southwest of Portland off State 99W. Ask for a free winery guide from the Oregon Wine Board (800/242-2363). Call ahead for hours.

Kristin Hill Winery (1). 3330 S.E. Amity-Dayton Hwy. (State 233); 503/835-0850.

Amity Vineyards (2). 18150 Amity Vineyards Rd.; or 503/835-2362.

Mystic Wines (3). 11931 Hood View Rd. N.W.; or 503/581-2769.

Cristom (4). 6905 Spring Valley Rd. N.W.; or 503/375-3068.

Witness Tree Vineyard (5). 7111 Spring Valley Rd. N.W.; or 888/478-8766.

Redhawk Vineyard (6). 2995 Michigan City Lane N.W.; or 503/362-1596.

Joel Palmer House Restaurant (7). $$$; closed Sun-Mon. 600 Ferry St.; 503/864-2995.

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