The new Atticus Hotel in McMinnvillePHOTO BY SIONNIE LAFOLLETTE
My first morning atThe Atticus Hotel, I walked into the elevator and saw a plush blue carpet with “Wednesday” embroidered on it — anyone on a wine vacation knows how useful it is to have an elevator mat remind you what day of the week it is. It’s one of many whimsical touches at the first boutique hotel inside Oregon’s main wine region, and The Atticus is a sign that the area’s tourism industry is growing up to match the strength of its wineries.
The heart of Oregon’s wine industry, Willamette Valley, starts about an hour’s drive from Portland — and it makes for a perfect wine country vacation. There are wineries with beautiful tasting rooms, great restaurants, a grand resort, quaint inns and B&Bs. What’s been missing was something like The Atticus — something new, fun and glamorous right in the middle of downtown McMinnville. It’s a brand new construction, but the four-story, 36-room building, located around the corner from the city’s main 3rd Street, feels inside and out like an old building transformed into something chic. This is by design. Architect Nathan Cooprider is a local and wanted the hotel to blend seamlessly into the historic part of the small city.
Two of the three owners, Erin Stephenson and Brian Shea, are also locals (along with partner Ben Perle), but with all the Oregoness inside the hotel, you might think they were interlopers trying to assure the community they had good intentions. While the interiors are modern, they’ve also imbued the property with local history. In the lobby is a floor to ceiling walnut display, recreated from a 1909 Exposition exhibit, when McMinnville was known as “Walnut City.” A mural behind the reception desk celebrates everything from the region’s Pinot Noir to a beloved minestrone soup from Nick’s Italian Cafe, a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Behind the reception area, a wall panel opens up to reveal a hidden Drawing Room — a perfect place to sit with a complimentary espresso or cappuccino for some quiet time. On one wall are 20 gold-leafed silhouettes of local icons, from winemakers to sanitation men, and on another wall are poems made from old copies of the local newspaper.
The celebration of the area continues upstairs in the guest rooms. Under the direction of interior designer Christina Tello, all 36 rooms of the hotel are designed with different wallpapers, headboards and furnishings, based around colors of dark blue and white, with gold accents — and all contain the “Atticus Chair” that she designed, and is manufactured nearby. Room numbers are hand painted, and every door has a unique antique knocker. Even the utility rooms have their own flash of style — the laundry chute has an icon of a bedsheet parachuting down to safety. Paintings by local artists are in each room, as are teas, coffees, honey, bath products and plants all sourced from Oregon.
All the rooms feature fireplaces, living areas and large bathrooms. There is two bedroom penthouse, as well as a balcony suite overlooking the town, and a perfect-for-bachelorette-weekends Luxury Bunkhouse, a 600-sq. foot room with a king size bed and two bunk beds built into cubbies in the wall. The onsite restaurant is Bless Your Heart, a casual burger and fries place, that also makes a great and a place where the locals dine as often as the guests. And, this being Oregon, the person you chat with at the next table may very well be pouring you their latest vintage the next day when you’re visiting their winery.
All in all, The Atticus is the perfect base to visit some of the 200 wineries within a 20-mile radius and add some style to a wine vacation. Being able to taste wines during the day, and then be in McMinnville in the evening is a definite plus, and there are even winery storefronts nearby to visit by foot or bike when you’re done with driving for the day. It’ll be interesting to see how the hotel develops its own history in the coming years. From my experience, the elevator mats were correct from Wednesday until I left on a Sunday. I’m sure they kept the streak going, but no one wants to know it’s Monday in wine country anyway.