World-class pinot noir and a boundless enthusiasm for farm-to-table cuisine bring Burgundian flavors to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But a decidedly Northwest mindset puts a new-world spin on these old-world influences. You’ll find the heart of the Willamette Valley’s wine-tasting scene in and around the “Red Hills of Dundee.” These famed hills get their colors from their nutrient- and iron-rich soil, aka jory, that gives the wines their treasured complexities. Among its claims to fame, Dundee is the most-densely planted of the Willamette Valley’s seven subregions.
The tasting room at Argyle Winery, at the base of the hills, is a great place to get your bearings. Because Argyle’s sparkling wines will open your palate. And the winery’s staffers will open the doors to the valley, in a manner of speaking. Because they eagerly share recommendations on restaurants and other wineries to visit.
Each of the valley’s subregions tends to produce wines with slightly different characteristics, thanks to differences in soil content, elevation and other factors. This is why many tasting rooms offer “horizontal” tastings. This format allows you to discover how conditions in different sites affect fruit profiles, smokiness and other characteristics in wines from the same vintage.
You’ll find a variety of restaurants and hotels in Newberg, Dundee and McMinnville. (Newberg is about 23 miles southeast of Portland. Dundee is about 4 miles southwest of Newberg. And McMinnville is about 12 miles southwest of Dundee.) North of Dundee, the cute towns of Carlton and Yamhill are home to important wineries, locavore restaurants and even a cool food truck or two. Lodging options include a couple of boutique hotels, B&Bs, a few chain hotels and Air B&B/VRBO options. And several more wineries can be found in the southern valley, in and around Eugene. (Eugene is about 90 miles south of McMinnville and about 110 miles south of Portland.) Since Eugene is the home of the University of Oregon, it also offers convenient lodging and a variety of dining options. Just be ready for crowds when major campus events, including football and basketball games, are going on. Map it.