The Willamette Valley AVA stretches over Oregon, from Eugene towards the southern part of Oregon to Portland to the north. It is renowned all over the globe for its breathtaking Pinot Noir. In the past four decades, the 5,000-square-mile region has grown into a hotspot for a genuinely exceptional bottle. However, with that many acres to cover and over 780 wineries that you could visit, it isn’t easy to narrow the list of places to visit.
As the Wine Enthusiast’s official Oregon wine critic, I’m familiar with this region well. Here are my current top Willamette Valley wineries to visit, as well as some helpful advice from people who are knowledgeable. It’s a mix of old and new, along with some clever suggestions for where to eat and how long you can stay.
The Eyrie Vineyards
The current Willamette Valley wine era launched with the Lett family planted Pinot Noir and a host of other varieties in the year 1965. In the tasting room of the Eyrie Vineyards’ winery in McMinnville’s downtown McMinnville is a moment of amazement.
“In a region of increasingly opulent tasting rooms, the historic Eyrie Vineyards keeps the focus on the beauty inside the glass,” says Mimi Martin, founder of the Wine & Spirit Archive, which is a drinks industry education program. “This is a must-read place to understand the Willamette Valley’s culture and its history. Simply tasting that history from Eyrie’s library collection is a great method to gain knowledge.”
Bookings must be made in advance for this signature $40, 75-minute tasting. While you are there, ask whether any library wines — a little of the history in liquid form that could span decades are available.
Where to go to eat: A meal at James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurant Okta by executive chef Matthew Lightner gives an unbeatable dining experience. Lightner has worked working in Michelin-starred kitchens, including Mugaritz, located in the Spanish Basque Country, and Atera in New York, and creates tasting menus based on seasonal local, high-quality ingredients. His summer menu of 10 courses that puts local produce on a pedestal isn’t to be not missed.
What to do: Its Tributary Hotel close to Okta is a sensible and enjoyable option. Choose from the hotel’s eight suites that come with amenities like a bathtub, fireplace, or a private balcony and access to the restaurant and wine experiences.
Brigadoon Wine Co.
Hidden in the forest just to the north of Eugene lies Brigadoon. It is a rustic site situated on an old timber estate. The founders, Chris as well as Sheree Shown, are joined by their sons, who make wine Matt in making all sorts of wines that range from Pinot Noir along with Pinot Blanc to some of the top Riesling on the market in the state.
“What impresses me the most about Brigadoon’s wines is their pure focus,” says Boris Wiedenfeld Needham, director of Bo’s Wine Depot, an upscale wine shop located in Eugene. “Chris and Matt do not over-style their wines. They strive to help convey precisely what makes their winery distinctive.”
The Brigadoon tasting room is located on the outskirts located in Junction City. Alongside the great quality of the wines on offer, the tasting offers stunning views of the valley and homemade crackers made with parmesan that are just as delicious as Ted Lasso’s delicious biscuits. Prices for tasting flights vary.