Willamette Valley, Oregon

I’ve been trying to write this post for 2 weeks now but life keeps getting in the way.  The last 2 weeks have been rather trying due to work obligations and let’s just leave it at that.  Moving on to better times and memories, below are some of my recommendations on wineries and restaurants in the Willamette Valley wine region.


Willamette Valley is located in northern Oregon and is about an 1.5 drive south of Portland. The valley runs north-south geographically and is mostly known for its pinot noir though it also produces quite a bit of chardonnay as well.  As it’s further north in the U.S., the climate here is cooler than you find in California and the volcanic soil in much of the region produces a lighter, softer pinot than you get from ones grown and produced further south.  The ones in California are what I call “fruit bombs” but Willamette produces wines that are bit softer and more nuanced – that doesn’t necessarily mean better as I think that is matter of personal taste.  There are actually a few different AVAs in Willamette, some with red volcanic soil and some with softer more alluvial soil, so the wines vary quite a bit from sub-region to sub-region.

Steve and I at Domaine Serene Winery in Dundee Hills
Vineyard views in Willamette Valley, OR

We visited the AVAs of Carlton-Yamhill, Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge.  For this trip we rented the same adorable vineyard cottage located in Yamhill again.  Unfortunately, the absolutely wonderful owners of this property won’t be renting it out anymore, but we were lucky enough to stay one last time.  I will really miss this little piece of heaven.

Our adorable vineyard cottage
View from our cottage – our own private vineyard!

Our dear friend, Karen, flew in and drove down to meet us in Willamette so we all got to hang out and do some great wine tastings together for the next 4 days.  Given the cottage’s rural location, we usually wine taste during the day and then prepare dinner back at the house (no drinking and driving for us and there is no uber out there).  Not a problem because we never wanted to miss a sunset over our private vineyard anyway.

Steve and our friend, Karen, enjoying a picnic lunch at Anne Amie winery

We visited several wineries this trip, including Anne Amie, Patricia Green, Penner-Ash, Domain Serene, and at least two more that escape my memory now!

Looking up towards Domaine Serene Winery

Another great thing about Oregon is that it also produces a lot of flowers (Oregon roses, especially), so there are flowers everywhere in the area and outside each wine tasting room.


View from Penner Ash – look at all that hazy smoke from the forest fires!

You may notice that my pictures look a little hazy and that’s not my camera phone.  There were terrible forest fires raging several hundred miles away but the smoke was everywhere.  It was at its worst on our first day there and our rental car actually had ash all over it!  The first day, you could literally smell it – that acrid wood smoke smell, and not in a good way.  I wear contact lenses and have sensitive eyes and it was definitely irritating and burning.  The winds started to shift a little the next day and the smoke slowly improved over the next few days.


As for restaurants, I can highly recommend the Red Hills Grocery in the town of Dundee, which is a counter order restaurant and gourmet food/wine store as well.  We had the most amazing goat cheese and squash blossom pizza here for lunch one day.  A lot of people come and order their hand made sandwiches to go for picnics at the various wineries in the area.  Another favorite for us is The Horseradish restaurant in Carlton, which also does handmade gourmet sandwiches and paninis.  We picked up our sandwiches here for a picnic lunch that we enjoyed at Anne Amie Vineyards which sits on a hill overlooking the valley.  The forest fire smoke meant our views weren’t as great as we hoped but a nice bottle of red helped us ignore that.

Beautiful ripe pinot noir grapes.  The ones on the ground have been purposefully cut to allow the ones on the vine more breathing room and sun to finish ripening.
View of our private vineyard – this was the very first day when it was super smoky

We definitely plan to visit the valley again one year though we’ll be hard pressed to find another rental house that we loved as much our little vineyard cottage!  Hopefully on our next trip, the weather will be better and no smoke from forest fires.


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