The rolling hills of Oregon’s expansive northern Willamette wine region are an inviting green oasis, with six distinct AVAs producing some of the world’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Plan your tasting-room itinerary from the comfort of a new hotel
This article appears in print in the May 2019 issue, as part of the Wine Country Getaways cover story.
In the heart of old downtown McMinnville, a modest town with deep agricultural roots, the Atticus Hotel arrived last spring like a well-coiffed and custom-tailored grande dame at Bingo Night. Though newly built from the ground up, the classic architecture of the four-story, 36-room boutique hotel fits in perfectly with the historic district’s turn-of-the-20th-century storefronts, but its clean lines, well-heeled polish and artful touches put it in a class of its own.
It starts at the hotel’s entrance, where there are pinstriped awnings, flower boxes bursting with blooms and imported Dutch cruiser bikes, kitted out with wine racks, standing at the ready. In the lobby, burnished walnut trim and velvety jewel tones offer a gracious and regal welcome. But if you’re steeling yourself for a stuffy reception, relax. This is Oregon wine country, as friendly, down to earth and accessible as it gets. Those framed silhouettes on the wall? They’re not those of the usual stern-faced elder statesmen; they’re of local residents, including the beloved garbageman. Gilded knockers in a Noah’s Ark of shapes (perhaps an insect, or maybe a fox) adorn each door, and no two are alike, just like the rooms themselves. With custom upholstery, canvases from local artists and hand-printed wallpaper, each room is unique. There’s even a guidebook in each room to give inquiring minds the backstory.
The hotel also offers more traditional sleeping options
Planning a girls’ weekend? Book the fabulous bunk room with its luxurious seating area, cozy sleeping cubbies and a bathroom tailor-made for groups. Just the two of you? Take your pick from cozy studios to luxury balcony suites featuring a full-on living room and a spacious bath with a freestanding tub, Pendleton robes and locally crafted toiletries that you will definitely want to smuggle home.
Every detail at the Atticus has been labored over, with an emphasis on celebrating local goods, artisans and the area’s history. As a bonus, it’s perfectly situated around the corner from Third Street’s boutiques, restaurants and some of the best wine-tasting rooms in town (The Eyrie Vineyards and R. Stuart & Co. are must-visits). Still, with an in-room fireplace, wine fridge, wet bar and the brand-new Red Hills Kitchen downstairs, you just might never want to leave.
Atticus Hotel, McMinnville, 375 NE Ford St.; 503.472.1975; from $199
The Eyrie Vineyards, McMinnville, 935 NE 10th Ave.; 503.472.6315
R. Stuart & Co. Wine Bar, McMinnville, 528 NE Third St.; 503.472.4477
Two More Options for Tailoring Your Trip
R&R TIME :A serene pool awaits guests at the Allison Inn. Courtesy of The Allison Inn & Spa
If R&R is on your agenda, The Allison Inn is your hotel. The resort, tucked amid the vineyards near Newberg, offers valley views, tranquil rooms, an upscale restaurant (Jory) with its own garden, and a serene indoor pool and spa. Traveling with the family? Third Street Flats in historic downtown McMinnville offers 11 beautifully decorated apartments in a range of sizes (for two, four or six guests) and with all the comforts of home; think living rooms and kitchenettes, plus easy access to shops, tasting rooms and restaurants.
The Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg, 2525 Allison Lane; 503.554.2525; rooms from $445
Third Street Flats, McMinnville, 219 NE Cowls St.; 503.857.6248; rooms from $200
Beyond the Cheese Plate
Dining at a winery in the Willamette Valley used to be reserved for special occasions, such as weddings or fundraising events. Now it’s just called lunch. Since zoning laws prohibit almost all of Willamette Valley’s wineries from including an on-site restaurant, most can only offer their hungry wine-tasting guests a plate of cheese and charcuterie. But a growing number of wineries are getting around the issue by dialing down the special-occasion aspect and dialing up the frequency of dining opportunities. Instead of offering a few giant dinners a year, they’re putting chefs on the payroll to prepare small, intimate lunches each week. The trick is that you have to buy tickets in advance to these reservation-only lunches and maybe even plan your trip around them.
Chef Henry Kibit plates a dish for the Farm & Forage culinary experience at Sokol Blosser Winery. Photo by Carolyn Wells-Kramer
Three years ago, Sokol Blosser Winery hired chef Henry Kibit, who has cooked his way through some of Portland’s best restaurants (including DOC and Noble Rot), to launch its Farm & Forage culinary experiences. Offered Thursdays and Fridays at 1 p.m., and Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the six-course lunches are paired with six of Sokol Blosser’s wines and feature ingredients Kibit forages from around the area or procures from family farms. With just eight available seats around the kitchen table where Kibit and his crew work, it’s a wonderfully intimate experience. ($75 per person; minimum of two people per reservation)
Soter Vineyards offers a similar experience, called the Provisions Tasting, which pairs its current releases with a steady stream of small plates prepared from produce and meat grown on Soter’s biodynamic farm. The tastings are available from Friday through Monday and must be reserved and paid for in advance. ($100 per person)
Domaine Serene opened its opulent clubhouse two years ago, with a massive commercial kitchen. It gets plenty of use as the winery offers several multicourse wine and food pairing options every single day. The 45th Parallel tasting (limited to 12 guests) pairs food with wines from Burgundy and from Oregon side by side ($125 per person; daily at noon and 2:30 p.m.). The Paradigm tasting ($75 per person; 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. daily) pairs five wines with small plates and includes a tour.
Over at Ponzi Vineyards, one of the Willamette Valley’s founding wineries, chef David Sapp, an alum of Portland’s venerable Park Kitchen, offers a two-hour, three-course, wine-paired lunch, with sweeping views of the vineyards and the rolling Chehalem Mountains. ($125 per person, six-guest minimum)
Keep in mind that these special culinary lunch experiences are for those 21 and older and require advance reservations. But if planning ahead isn’t your thing, Sokol Blosser, Ponzi and Domaine Serene also offer a small selection of food for more casual walk-in wine tasting.
And if it’s dinner you’re after, the Joel Palmer House in Dayton still reigns as one of the area’s best fine dining (and wild-mushroom-focused) restaurants, along with Jory at The Allison Inn, which pulls ingredients from its own garden. But don’t miss the new Red Hills Kitchen on the ground floor of the Atticus Hotel in McMinnville. An elevated version of the beloved Red Hills Market in Dundee, Red Hills Kitchen is centered on wood-fired cooking.
Domaine Serene, Dayton, 6555 NE Hilltop Lane; 503.864.4600
Joel Palmer House, Dayton, 600 Ferry St.; 503.864.2995
Jory, Newberg, 2525 Allison Lane; 503.554.2526
Ponzi Vineyards, Sherwood, 19500 SW Mountain Home Road; 503.628.1227
Red Hills Kitchen at the Atticus Hotel, McMinnville, 375 NE Ford St.; 503.472.1975
Sokol Blosser Winery, Dayton, 5000 Sokol Blosser Lane; 503.864.2282
Soter Vineyards, Carlton, 10880 NE Mineral Springs Road; 503.662.5600
ROOM WITH A VIEW Domaine Serene’s elegant tasting room overlooks rolling hills and vineyards. Photo by Sasquatch Professional Photography
Plan your itinerary around visits to these 10 tasting rooms that offer something extra.
Trisaetum: Opulent Rieslings, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in a tasting room that doubles as an art gallery, featuring the paintings and photography of owner James Frey. Newberg, 18401 NE Ribbon Ridge Road; 503.538.9898
Antica Terra: By-appointment-only tastings of cult-favorite Pinots come with foie gras terrine or small plates crafted by famed Portland chef Timothy Wastell. Dundee, 979 SW Alder St.; 503.244.1748
Domaine Serene: The grand European-style tasting room features a wraparound terrace with sweeping views. Order a few small plates or sparkling fresh oysters to go with the award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Dayton, 6555 NE Hilltop Lane; 503.864.4600
Sokol Blosser Winery: The tasting room of this iconic, pioneering and sustainability-minded winery is an architectural stunner, with sweeping views and table-service wine tastings. Dayton, 5000 Sokol Blosser Lane; 503.864.2282
YAMHILL AND CARLTON
Saffron Fields Vineyard: Enjoy Pinot Noirs from acclaimed winemaker Tony Rynders, as well as the owners’ private collection of contemporary art and Japanese-style gardens. Yamhill, 18748 NE Laughlin Road; 503.662.5323
Flâneur Wines: Sip covetable Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by winemaker Grant Coulter, formerly of Beaux Frères, in a newly restored grain elevator. Carlton, 128 S Pine St.; 503.899.4120
Ken Wright Cellars: Famed winemaker Ken Wright has left his mark on every aspect of Oregon wine industry. At the winery, you can taste his acclaimed Pinot Noirs in a refurbished train depot. Carlton, 120 N Pine St.; 503.852.7010
The Carlton Winemakers Studio: This winemaking co-op’s shared tasting room offers 15 indie boutique producers under one roof, including Andrew Rich and his Rhône-style blends. Carlton, 801 N Scott St.; 503.852.6100
MCMINNVILLE AND EOLA-AMITY HILLS
The Eyrie Vineyards: As the birthplace of Oregon Pinot, this humble, history-steeped tasting room is hallowed ground and still produces some of the best wines in the region. McMinnville, 935 NE 10th Ave.; 503.472.6315
Brooks: You can choose your own adventure here, from playing cornhole and noshing on wood-fired pizza to partaking of elegant monthly food pairings with biodynamic Pinots and multiple mountain views. Amity, 21101 SE Cherry Blossom Lane; 503.435.1278