From Wine to Seafood, Don’t Miss These 9 Willamette Valley Hot Spots
Find intimate wine tasting experiences alongside plenty of Pacific Ocean seafood.
“There is a movement happening” in the Willamette Valley, says Tiquette Bramlett, the newly named president of Vidon Vineyard. The winemaking region nestled in northern Oregon has long been known for its Pinot Noir.
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In addition to those world-class red wines, “new vintners are entering the game and trying new styles,” Bramlett says. Vidon, meanwhile, has been “intentionally unconventional” since 1999.
You can take in sweeping views of the valley while sipping the winery’s Tempranillo—billed as one of the area’s few cool-climate versions—before savoring roasted chicken and mushroom pizza at the cozy Forage café, all within a 10-minute drive.
And there’s plenty more to be discovered across the region. “Winery and brand owners are letting us know,” Bramlett says, “there is more than one way to talk about wine.”
Take Alumbra Cellars, for example. Only a few minutes from downtown McMinnville, the family-owned vineyard offers intimate tastings in a tent amid the vines. “Alumbra means ‘to shine’ in Spanish,” says winemaker and president Elena Rodriguez. “I felt the vineyard process has been eliminated from the tasting room experience and that is where I saw my intention in winemaking.”
Elena’s father, Baudelio Rodriguez, Sr., left his native Mexico for Oregon more than a decade ago. He was a “true farmer,” Elena says, who planted the vineyard but didn’t make wine. Elena’s involvement helped her “understand the skilled work it takes to care for a vineyard,” she says. “It’s unlike farming any other crop.”
Elena and her brother, Leo Rodriguez, now co-own Alumbra to celebrate “the Latino culture of the family and farmworkers who embody the soul” of the wines, as they write on their website. They produce a Rosé and an estate Pinot Noir.
About 15 minutes north in Yamhill, Ximena Orrego and Guy Insley welcome visitors to their home and vineyard for private tastings of Atticus Wines in English or Spanish. Their Pinots are “a balance between power and elegance,” Bramlett says, and the couple provides a tasting experience “like few I know.”
Orrego “fell in love” with the aroma of Pinot Noir grapes as a harvest intern at the nearby Raptor Ridge winery more than a decade ago. “Doing punch downs was one of my favorite things,” Orrego recalled. “The experience completely seduced me. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is smell the fermenters every day and see the various expressions of the fruit as they develop in that early stage.”
The “sky is the limit,” Orrego added. “Every vintage brings new opportunities to be even better than before.”
Both Alumbra and Atticus are part of Celebrating Hispanic Roots, an annual event at Beacon Hill Winery & Vineyard in Gaston during Hispanic Heritage Month. The gathering aims to “display the diversity of the Hispanic cultures which span most of Latin America and Spain, and as small business owners give back to the Spanish-speaking community in Oregon,” according to organizers.
Bramlett, too, is spearheading efforts to advance and celebrate diversity in wine. In addition to her work at Vidon, she’s the founder of Our Legacy Harvested, which aims to “educate, advance and empower the BIPOC community at any career level so that tasting rooms, cellars and vineyards may be welcoming to, and may better represent, the diverse world of wine drinkers and enthusiasts,” according to the nonprofit’s website. Our Legacy Harvested hosts a BIPOC Block Party each summer to support its goal of a permanent campus for events, seminars, and more.
“What makes the Willamette Valley unique is where we have the potential to go,” says Bramlett. Here are her top spots to sip and savor in the region for good vibes and great wine.
“When you join us here at Vidon, we want you to enjoy our unique varietals, and know that when you are here with us, overlooking the valley, this is your time to unwind and take in the experience we have curated just for you,” Bramlett says.
The Setting Inn
Stay at the The Setting Inn, a “picturesque getaway” in the heart of wine country. It sits “on a hill with a direct view of our winery” and offers amenities such as retro yard games.
Head over to Forage for dishes made with local ingredients and Pacific seafood. The Newberg restaurant found a home for its signature wood-fired oven in a 1915 Craftsman bungalow. The team’s love for wine country “really shines through on their menu.”
Honey Pie Pizza
If pizza’s more your thing, Honey Pie Pizza “offers New York-style pies made with love and local ingredients from Willamette Valley farms.”
Alumbra Cellars‘ story “shines a light on family, hard work, culture and new beginnings, and their tasting experience is no different.” The family-owned vineyard also hosts pop-up dinners with Olympia Oyster Bar chef Maylin Chavez, a Baja California native. “The dishes shine a light on our Mexican roots,” winemaker Elena Rodriguez says.
Housed inside Mac Market, a restored historic warehouse, Collab Kitchen “is the perfect place to go and eat when you are looking to go and gather in the heartbeat of McMinnville.” Chef Kari Shaughnessy uses local, seasonal ingredients to make dishes like cured trout with padrons and crispy potatoes.
Verdant at Abbey Road Farm
The 82-acre Abbey Road Farm offers guests an “elevated tasting and culinary experience” called Verdant from chef Will Preisch. Expect intimate lunch seating for a six-course meal made with “hand-picked ingredients” from the garden and property. You’ll meet the chef, kitchen team, and wine experts onsite in Carlton.
During private tastings offered in English or Spanish, Atticus Wine‘s Ximena Orrego and Guy Insley “welcome you into their home” amid the vines.
Dauntless Wine Co.
Right on Main Street in Forest Grove, Dauntless Wine Co. was founded by three Iraq war combat veterans. Each label “commemorates a piece of military history, whether that be a pivotal battle, campaign—every label honors the past so it is not forgotten,” Bramlett says. “Simply put, these wines are fearless and stylized.”