Willamette Valley – Oregon, U.S.A.
The Way Napa Used to Be
At the end of the historic Oregon Trail, close to 10,000 acres of rolling vineyards unfold in the northern Willamette (“That’s Will-AM-ette, dammit!”) Valley, less than an hour’s drive south of Portland. Much like Napa Valley in its early days, it’s a lush agricultural area and one of two wine-producing regions that have helped make the state the envy of vintners from France to California.
The northern Willamette is home to an estimated 260 (and growing) wineries, both small artisanal operations and more commercial enterprises that rival anything in the Napa Valley. A meander along bumpy roads promises gracious inns, picturesque barns, innovative restaurants, and farm stands around every bend.
North to south on scenic Route 99W through the heart of the valley, you’ll find the small towns of Newberg, home of Rex Hill Vineyards, whose wines and museum both warrant a stop, and Beaverton, home of Ponzi Vineyards, one of the state’s first oenological visionaries, and the Argyle Winery, which produced some of the first Oregon wine served at the White House.
Dayton is worth an overnight stop. If you park your bag at the inviting Wine Country Farm B&B and Cellars, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the estate’s wine-producing hills from the 1910 farmhouse, plus firsthand access to their popular wine-tasting rooms.
You’ll also have the chance to sample the one-of-a-kind menu at the Joel Palmer House, created by the celebrated Jack Czarnecki, a truffle and mushroom hunter and chef whose award-winning restaurant is a regular pilgrimage site for visiting foodies.