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Willamette Valley: Oregon Wine Country

Cheers! We recently spent several days exploring the wineries, restaurants, and small towns of Willamette Valley. This area is perfect for a couples getaway, a girls weekend, or even a special 21st birthday celebration.😉 No matter why you visit, you won't be disappointed.

Willamette Valley wine region is one of the most important in all of Oregon & the Pacific Northwest containing two-thirds of the states wineries and vineyards. Willamette Valley is sub-divided into six unique AVAs - each with it's own unique climate, terrain, and wine characteristics. This region is known for outstanding pinot noirs.


We travelled to Willamette Valley for a girls trip celebrating my daughter's 21st birthday. Our home base for our trip was Newberg. This cute town is located in the heart of Willamette Valley and a great spot to find accommodations, restaurants, cafes, and shops. (For my recommendations on where to say and eat, check out this blog post). It is also a relatively quick (less than one hour) and easy drive from Portland. Our accommodations were within walking distance to the downtown area.


Our first afternoon/evening in town, we visited two tasting rooms.


At Bravuro Cellars we sampled "big and bold" reds enjoying five tastings of their pinot noirs. Our host provided great insight on the wines, the history of Bravuro, as well as tips on restaurants and coffee shops we needed to sample while in town. Bravuro is open 12pm-6pm, does not require a reservation, and the tasting fee is very inexpensive at only $10 per person (waived with the purchase of a bottle).


The second tasting room was also in the downtown area and walkable from our accommodations. Chehalem offered flights which included a tasting of their chardonnay, rose, and several pinot noirs. While reservations are available they are not required and we had no problem securing a table. Open 12pm until 8pm, the tastings here were $25 per person (waived with a purchase of $50). Chehalem also offered small plate options. The staff here were friendly but not as interactive as our first stop.

On days two and three, we visited wineries!


To do this safely we used the driving services of Oregon Select Wine Tours. This is a locally owned and operated company which provides door-to-door service in full size SUVs for parties up to 6 people. Jeff and his team will create a personalized itinerary for you (including making all reservations) or just provide the transportation needed to get from stop to stop. Stephanie was our driver over the two days and we loved her! She was on time, kept us on time, and had the vehicle filled with special touches that made our day even better. OSWT can also provide day trip transportation to the coast or Columbia River Gorge to see Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam and the wineries of Hood River. I cannot say enough good things about this service and highly recommend using them!


Our winery stops (in order) included the following. Again, we visited three wineries each day over two days.


This is a working winery with beautiful views and great wines. Throughout our tasting, we saw employees cleaning barrels, moving barrels, and feeding their hogs. Located on a hill, the view is outstanding. It was the perfect first stop because our host not only shared characteristics of the wines we sampled but also included the history of the region and winery, as well descriptions of the valley and learning on the AVA. Reservations are required and can be booked online. The tasting is $75 per person (waived with a purchase of 2 bottles per guest). A note on the website indicates the tasting room can be chilly so be sure to plan ahead if tasting has been reserved indoors. We enjoyed our tasting outside on their patio so this was not an issue for us. Five star review from us. We left with several bottles following us home.

Soter Vineyards feels a bit like walking into a spa. We were greeted with a glass of wine at the door of the beautiful tasting space and encouraged to enjoy the grounds while we waited for our tasting. Trust me! These grounds are definitely instagramworthy.


Sotor is private vineyard located on a biodynamic farm called Mineral Springs Ranch. One note, if we had not had a driver, I am not sure we would have found this winery as it unlisted and unmarked. Reservations are a must and guests are able to choose a classic tasting or a provisions tasting. We enjoyed the classic tasting which is offered seven days a week for $45 per person ($35 waived with a 2 bottle purchase). Guests are able to add a cheese or charcuterie board as desired. Groups should be no more than 6 per table. The experience includes a dedicated host (we loved our host) to share the history, story, and tasting notes for each of the wines sampled. The provisions tasting is offered Monday - Friday at 11:30am or 2:30pm. This experience includes the dedicated host and wine sampling paired with farm to table food samplings. It is designed to replace your lunch so they recommend coming hungry. This experience is $150 per person and they cannot accommodate more than 6 people per party. Another five star review from us. We again left with bottles following us home!

Located in Carlton, this tasting room is housed in the 1920s train depot and offers both indoor and outdoor tastings. This tasting room requires reservations and is open seven days a week from 11am-5pm (6pm on Friday and Saturday). The $30 tasting fee (waived with a $100 purchase) includes a sample of five wines including their pinot blanc, a rose, and several pinot noirs. We also could have purchased seasonal food items during our tasting. Unfortunately, our host was not very engaging and after our first two five-star tasting experiences, we just didn't love this place as much as we hoped. In addition, we didn't love the indoor space (it was a bit cramped and the seats around a wine barrel were uncomfortable) and it was too hot (full sun) to sit outdoors. Two star review and no wine followed us home.

Van Duzer Vineyard is located about 50 minutes from Newberg in the Van Duzer Corrider AVA. This winery sits on a hill surrounded by grapes, farms, and even sheep. The views are stunning - another instagrammable location. The tasting room recommends reservations (which can be booked online) for a tasting experience. For a $20 tasting fee (refunded for every two bottles purchased) we enjoyed samples which included a rose, a chardonnay, and several pinot noirs. We were also able to purchase a cheese and meat board. Our host provided a brief history of the winery and wines. I personally loved the label which included the red-headed goddess of wind - perfect place to celebrate my red-headed daughter! Another five star review with bottles of wine following us home.

Located in Dundee, the indoor and outdoor spaces of the tasting house were fun, offered a different vibe from the other tasting rooms, and were filled with people. The Argyle also offers an opportunity to sample sparkling wines. Our host was thrilled to be part of the 21st birthday celebration trip - offering the history and story of the winery, tasting notes throughout our sample, as well as several additional tastings specific to our likes. For our tasting, we were able to choose either the "sparkling flight" or the "flat flight" which worked perfectly for our group. The tasting room is open 11am-5pm (earlier Friday-Sunday) and reservations are recommended. Charcuterie boxes are available and should be included with your reservation to ensure availability for your visit. The $45 tasting fee includes five (or more) samples of bubbly or flat wines. Another five star review with wine following us home!

Our final winery destination was Hawks View Winery. Located nine miles from Newberg and high on a hill, the views from the patio did not disappoint. We saw multiple hawks souring overhead throughout our tasting experience. The $30 per person tasting included five samples - their sparkling rose, a pinot gris, a white pinot noir, and two more traditional pinot noirs. Reservations are recommended, however, they do allow walk-in guests. We did not have a great experience with our host which we learned over our time in Oregon really makes a difference. She was not attentive nor did she provide the history, story, or tasting note details we had become accustomed to at each of the other wineries. In the end, no wine followed us home and we would give the winery a 3 star review mostly for the outdoor space and views.


Know Before You Go:

  • We loved the Willamette Valley area! This was a great place to celebrate a birthday and would also be perfect for a couples trip, a girls trip, or even a honeymoon. This would not be a great trip with someone under 21 and/or families with young children.

  • We had reservations at each of the wineries and restaurants we visited. Reservations are a must for both the wineries and the restaurants. I think if you try to visit this area without, you will be disappointed.

  • Bring clothing layers. Several of the wineries had notes that indoor spaces might be cool. We did take our jackets on and off throughout our tasting experiences as needed. Also, our weather fluctuated from 55 degrees in the morning, 90s in the afternoon, to 60s in the evening.

  • Use a driving service to safely navigate your various tastings. We used (and highly recommend) Oregon Select Wine Tours. Ask for Stephanie - she is great!

  • We shipped most of our purchased wine home. While each winery handles this process just a little bit differently, all of them pay close attention to weather so the wine arrives in its best condition. We visited in July and anticipate our wine arriving in late October. We did carry home four bottles of wine using the wine angel. They worked great!

  • Take full advantage of my love of travel and planning skills, connect with me here to book your travel and/or free quote for my planning services.

When to Go:

The wineries are open year round to visitors. For the best temperatures and the driest days, we recommend planning your trip June - September.


Is Willamette Valley Safe?

Yes! This area is very safe. However, if flying thru Portland, we recommend taking the typical city precautions – don’t walk alone at night, park your vehicle in well-lit locations, ensure valuables are stored out of sight, be aware of your surroundings.


Lodging

I have great lodging (and restaurant) recommendations. Check them out in my blog post - Willamette Valley: Where to Stay and Eat.


Getting Around:

For the greatest level of flexibility and site-seeing opportunities, we recommend using a rental car. We used a rental car to get to and from Willamette Valley from the airport in Portland. Travel tip - we uber'd from the airport to the closest car rental company and saved $300 dollars on our rental! We found both the Waze app and Google maps to be easy to use to navigate from one destination to another.


For the greatest level of safety while sampling wines and touring wine country, we recommend using the private driving services of Oregon Select Wine Tours.


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