Welcomed by the Willamette Valley

Oregon’s wine country also brews beer, cider, and mead.


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Photo by Sheila Sund

The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s Wine Country, home to over 500 wineries. And while pinot noir is its superstar, this lush 150-mile-long region about 30 miles southwest of Portland also offers many breweries, distilleries, and even meaderies and cideries.

The landscape surrounding the town of Newberg is among the valley’s most idyllic—and it’s the place to be pampered. Luxury resort The Allison Inn & Spa has JORY, one of the only fine-dining restaurants around, as well as a renowned spa, manicured walking trails, and refined-yet-relaxed service.

A short drive away, Wolves & People is one of the most visitworthy breweries, not just in Oregon but also in the whole United States. On founder/head brewer/beer writer Christian DeBenedetti’s family hazelnut farm, the historic white light-strewn barn makes for a transportive tasting room. Its “beer geek”-ish brews range from vibrant sours to a gin barrel-aged saison and a hazelnut beer made with nuts from nearby trees.

As wineries go, the new Domaine Divio is worth a detour in Dundee Hills: A slice of France in Oregon, it was opened in 2015 by Bruno Corneaux and André Weil, two Frenchmen who have produced wine in Burgundy and around the world. From the scenic perch of their modern barn tasting room, sip elegant, Old World-meets-New World chardonnay and pinot noir.

Hungry? Ruddick/Wood is a modern tavern in a renovated 1920s garage serving fried rockfish sandwiches, hazelnut biscuits, and chicken roulade.

Home to Oregon State University, with its charming old downtown flanking the Willamette River, laid-back Corvallis is a pleasure to walk, kayak, or bike. Edible joys are many, whether it’s gourmet, dipped-to-order donuts at Benny’s Donuts or third-wave coffee at Tried & True Coffee’s two locations. View arthouse films at the town’s only independent, locally owned movie theater, the tiny Darkside Cinema.

One of the region’s greatest gems is a 20-minute drive out of town. Off a dirt road in Philomath, Harris Bridge Vineyard is a magical escape, like visiting a friend’s farm. Here you can picnic, play lawn games, walk the village’s historic covered bridge, and listen to music. Harris’ fantastic vermouths, aperitifs, and dessert wines are unique, expressive of the region and of this spot’s welcoming owners.

The Lorenz brothers take mead to a new level at award-winning Nectar Creek: Instead of the sweet honey wine many expect, most of their meads are crisp, dry, and drink like a beer or cider. The innovative brothers are just opening their massive new meadery and restaurant with an outdoor garden gazing up at the mountains on the outskirts of town.

OSU courtesy of Oregon State University, Creative Commons

The Willamette Valley may be home to vineyards and OSU, but the area is also making a name for itself with talented beer, cider, and mead makers.

Salem’s modern-industrial sprawl is not exactly appealing—until you reach the few blocks of walkable, historic downtown where musicians play in alleyways and locals hang out at sidewalk cafes. While Salem’s restaurants in general can feel dated, lofty-cool Archive is a hipster coffee shop and lunch spot by day, restaurant and cocktail bar by night. Try its cheesesteak sandwiches, deconstructed cappuccino, and alcohol-free coffee “cocktails.”

Journey down an alleyway to sip no-sugar-added ciders at 1859 Cider Co. As former winemakers, husband-and-wife owners Dan and Patricia Fox ensure balance in each cider, utilizing local apples and cherries. They host bands, throw cornhole tournaments and “paint your growler” events, and cheekily serve an unfiltered peach cider called 1859 Impeachment.

Launched by a group of homebrewers, Santiam Brewing is a cozy pub/brewery producing a range of beers including English-style ales and the popular Pirate Stout, a tropical stout partly aged in rum barrels. Another Salem favorite is Gilgamesh Brewing, started by three brothers, whose vibrant beers include DJ Jazzy Hef, an American wheat beer brewed with jasmine tea.

 

When You Go

The Allison Inn & Spa: 2525 Allison Lane, Newberg, Ore., 877-294-2525, www.TheAllison.com.

Wolves & People: 30203 NE Benjamin Road, Newberg, Ore., 503-487-6873, www.WolvesAndPeople.com.

Harris Bridge Vineyard: 22937 Harris Road, Philomath, Ore., 541-929-3053, www.HarrisBridgeVineyard.com.

Gilgamesh Brewing: 2065 Madrona Ave. SE, Salem, Ore., 503-584-1789, www.GilgameshBrewing.com. 

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