A Wine Lover’s Guide to the Willamette Valley Portland-based sommelier and entrepreneur Chevonne Ball lends expert insight into one of the world’s new Pinot Noir capitals.
Famed as the “promised land of flowing milk and honey” in the 1820s, the Willamette Valley continues to be a fertile agricultural landscape. This incredible 150-mile stretch of land west of the Cascade Mountain Range and nestled east of the Oregon Coastal range is now home to over 700 hundred wineries producing some of the world’s best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, and many other cool-climate varieties.
Less than an hour drive from the coffee roasting, farm-to-table restaurant-loving, bike riding Portland, it's easy to make a day trip, long weekend, or take a whole week to explore all the Willamette Valley has to offer. With so much to offer it’s hard to know what to choose and where to go. Here is a list of just a few of my favorite places to eat, drink and sleep in Portland and the Willamette Valley.
Only 35 minutes from Portland in the Chehalem Mountains, the dynamic husband and wife duo, Andrew and Annedria Beckham grow Pinot Noir, Trousseau Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Aligot, Gamay Noir, and a small lot of Italian grape varieties. Beckham Estate is probably the only winery that makes its own terracotta containers, from a proprietary blend of clay, for fermentation and age on-site and is integrated into the cultivation and production of wine.
This charming family-owned winery is not one to miss. Jackson and Ayla Holstein are making wines with heart and ageability. When they aren’t chasing two adorable tots they are making wines exclusively from small vineyards that they are intimately familiar with. Holistic and true to the terroir these wines are what makes the Willamette Valley so special.
Sofia Torres-McKay is a literal Earth Goddess. A first-generation winemaker from Mexico, Sofia practices biodynamics and the care she takes in each of her offerings shows. She is but a humble servant to her vineyard which is on one of the most prestigious sites in the Dundee Hills. She continues to do great justice to the land and the people working in the valley. Her Blanc de Noirs are made in very small production and we only hope she’ll make more. Pro tip: Ask for a vineyard tour.
Founded in 2012 by Janis Pate, this less-than-50-acre vineyard and farm is producing incredible wines and the cutest animals. Home to runner ducks, dogs, and Suffolk sheep, this beautiful, biodynamic practicing farm sits in Chehalem Mountains, adjacent to Ribbon Ridge. Sit under a canopy in the middle of the vineyard and listen to Janis inspire you to follow your heart while sipping brain-teasing wines.
Locally sourced. NY Style, pizza in a speak-easy setting from local farmers Bubba and Sarah of Godspeed Hollow. Get the garlic knots, just get them.
Go for the Pinot Noir burger and truffle fries. Pro tip: Add a glass of bubbly and sit in the lounge.
Named one of Wine Enthusiast’s “50 Best Retailers 2020,” Neil Thompson and Stacey Gibson have turned this once-upon-a-time brasserie into a wine lover’s dream. With a retail shop to get lost in and a wine bar with “Legacy Pours” and delicious bites by Stacey’s husband, Joey Gibson, you are sure to lose track of time.
Located in the historic Central East Side, JNH is a modern hotel, a stone's throw from several top Portland restaurants. It has easy access to the Willamette Valley.
Located in the heart of wine country and above the most beloved eatery in the Valley, these small cozy rooms offer a great place to relax after a day of tasting.
The chicest and newest hotel to the Willamette Valley and located in the big town of McMinnville, the Atticus is top notch for hospitality and atmosphere. Pro tip, ask for a room with a tub.
A Certified Sommelier, French Wine Scholar, and one of Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 40 under 40,” Chevonne Ball is the owner and operator of Dirty Radish Travel and Hospitality Consulting and the winemaker of her own label, Dirty Radish Wines.
Editor’s Note: As fate would have it, SommSelect’s own Ian Cauble and Mark Osburn toured the Willamette Valley in early January, prospecting for future Daily Offers and club packs. Below are a few of their favorites to add to Chevonne’s picks:
“Jim’s 2019s are going to blow everyone away. Press is going wild.”
“One of the very first Certified Organic Willamette Valley wineries in 1990.”
“Jason Lett’s lineup was impressive as always. The single-vineyard Pinots are spectacular, and we hope to do another SommSelect-specific bottling with him.”
“Winemaker Erin Nuccio made us dinner and uncorked older wines. Be on the lookout for some limited back-vintage releases in the future!”
More from February’s Newsletter
Through the grapevine
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