Move over Napa, Oregon is for wine lovers! And nature lovers, and food lovers, and any traveler in search of their next great adventure!
As a travel enthusiast, I love to explore new places that can possibly give me a fresher perspective. My mind, at this point, is a pot full of different cultures and places – only begging me to explore further. This summer, I wanted to go somewhere new that would bring me peace (and of course, wine), without requiring a passport. After researching the most notable wine regions in the country, I finally set my sights on exploring Willamette Valley.
Known for its award winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Willamette Valley is home to more than 500 wineries. And while wineries are the centerpiece of most travel itineraries for this region, it’s farm-to-fork food scene, hiking trails, and outdoor activities made Willamette Valley a must-see for me. Plus, it was conveniently located just an hour outside of Portland International Airport! Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Oregon.
The one-hour car ride from the airport to Willamette Valley was an experience in and of itself! I’m a sucker for amazing views, and I’ve certainly been blessed with the opportunity to experience some of the world’s best, but the breathtaking scenery of this region literally left me speechless. I felt like I was inside a living painting as we drove along winding roads and rolling hills, through a valley where farms, wineries, and forests collide. And then we pulled up to the Alison Inn & Spa, a luxury resort nestled on a quaint 35-acre setting among the lush natural beauty of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It was no wonder my friend ranted, raved, and highly recommended this resort!
I checked in, grabbed coffee to cure the jetlag, and went straight up to the room. The room was modern yet cozy, with a balcony showcasing sweeping views of the surrounding wine country. I had my morning coffee on that balcony every day of the trip- peaceful tranquility, just me, my coffee, and the view. It was the perfect start to days filled with winery hopping!
On this trip I visited 6 world class wineries, had a meal at one of the most famous restaurants in the region, and took a detour to nearby Pacific City! Here is my Willamette Valley itinerary.
First up, Bells Up- the perfect introduction to Willamette Valley.
If you are looking for an intimate and more private experience where you can talk at length with the owner/winemaker and learn about what it's like to operate a small winery, this is the place to go. I loved Dave’s enthusiasm and friendliness. He made us feel at home from the start and took great care of us.
Not only were the wines exceptional but the story behind how the winery came to life was truly amazing and inspiring. While sipping and talking with Dave, we were able to experience a one-of-a-kind view of the entire Willamette Valley from the far top deck.
A family business.
When John and Karen Bergström began Bergström Wines, they wanted to start a business that would become a legacy for their children and pay tribute to John’s agricultural Swedish upbringing. Their son, Josh, and his wife, Caroline, have made that dream a reality, both joining the family business and carrying on the legacy.
Their hand-crafted wine doesn’t come from large-scale industrial manufacturing, but from a natural, smaller, and simpler process- a marriage between artisan and farmer- that creates a quality you can taste. Simplicity is a theme that carries on in the modest yet sophisticated design of the Bergstrom’s tasting room, complete with a deck encircled by blossom draped lattices, and of course, spectacular views.
A one-of-a-kind winery experience.
Granville provided such a unique tasting format- a private picnic overlooking the picturesque vineyards, while sampling delicious their wines. Truly an unforgettable and enhanced tasting experience!
Beyond the lovely ambiance and fabulous wines, the staff was absolutely fantastic. They greeted us with such genuine pleasure that it brought a smile to my face. So much friendliness and enthusiasm for guests, it truly makes you feel welcome, which is a key component of the overall experience.
Location Location Location.
Benefitting from the Seven Springs slope terroir- a natural environment in which a particular wine is produced due to factors such as soil, topography, and climate- Evening Land is home to world class Pinot Noir, and some of the best I have ever tasted.
The winery creates unique combinations of old and new plantings, mixing particular blocks and innovating new flavors as they create limited batches, or cuvees, of their renowned blends. If you are a fan of Pinot Noir, this is the tasting experience for you!
A match made in heaven.
Nicolas-Jay was our first stop of the day, and much like the others, it was beautiful and elegant, and nothing less than extraordinary. My favorite part of their private indoor tasting was that they paired each delicious wine with the perfect gourmet compliment. I still dream about the Maya and Honnalee artisan cheese! Here I found the Chardonnay to be one of the best I have tasted.
A vineyard tour by horseback.
The tour started at Domaine De Broglie, where we embarked on a guided horseback ride through the vineyards to Winters Hill for more wine tasting. And while the wine was spectacular, the views during the majestic horse ride were absolutely beautiful- the most unique and special vineyard experience I’ve ever had.
I couldn’t leave Willamette without trying the renowned Rosmarino Osteria Italiana. We had heard amazing things about this restaurant so we made sure to book reservations in advance. The outstanding meal was second only to the exceptional service, romantic ambiance, and warm hospitality. The owner himself came straight to our table shortly after being seated to personally welcome us. He chatted for a while, telling us the story of Rosmarino Osteria Italiana and recommending specialty dishes. He highly recommended the Bolognese as the recipe has been passed down from generations to him- I have to say it was incredible!
Pacific City was our last stop of the trip, only an hour and half drive from Willamette. Just when I thought the views couldn’t get any better, we arrived at the Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa. This time, I soaked in the incredible scenery with a Manzanita – their signature drink made with Mezcal (now my favorite). Headlands was gorgeous inside and out, with a can’t-beat location surrounded by forested cliffs overlooking the sand dunes, tide pools, and the great Pacific.
We spent three days hiking, eating fresh seafood, and sampling chowders. My favorite hike of the trip was the Cape Lookout, a trek that rewarded you with 360 degree views of the ocean, complete with whale watching! Experiencing Haystack in person was also incredible- more breathtaking than a photo could capture. And the evenings were spent wrapped in blankets on the beach, roasting smores by bonfire. You don’t have to be a nature lover to have the experience of a lifetime in Pacific City.
By now, I hope you’ve decided to make Oregon your next great adventure. Please let me know when you do so we can trade stories of food, wine, and mother nature!