Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the best U.S. wine capitals, known for its delicious and award-winning wines, and every wine lover needs to make a pilgrimage out to rural Oregon to try everything it has to offer.
You may gravitate towards wining and dining in the Willamette Valley during the warmer, summer months of June to September, but don’t limit yourself. Wine season technically lasts all year long, which means you can beat the crowd during cellar season (November – March).
Taking a long weekend trip to the Pacific Wonderland gives you ample time to explore the majestic Willamette Valley one wine glass at a time as you travel from winery to winery. We’ve put this guide together to help you plan your wine country vacation so you can get up close and personal with the vines, the land, the process, and the people.
Willamette Valley Wine Tours
Willamette may be an incredibly challenging word to spell, but it’s tied to such agricultural and cultural significance that it will be hard to forget. The Willamette Valley is the place to go wine tasting in the Pacific Northwest—there are hundreds of wineries and vineyards that you can choose from to make your trip perfect.
While Oregon Wine Country is best known for its pinot noir, you can find any and all kinds of wine across the entire region, so it’s important to keep your mind open to new flavors and varieties like chardonnay and pinot gris.
How to Plan Your Wine Tasting Trip
When you hit the road in search of an unforgettable wine tasting experience in the Willamette Valley, make sure that you don’t schedule more than four winery visits per day. You don’t want to get sick of wine before the end of your stay.
When you’re visiting wineries, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t need to be a sommelier to enjoy wine tasting, and it’s ok if you don’t know a lot about wine. Learning is half of the fun! The other half is, of course, tasting and relaxing.
While you’re traveling the Willamette valley, don’t forget to book a night or two in some of the region’s best hotels and BnBs; make sure to stop by at some of its best historic sites, restaurants, brewpubs, and attractions.
Ready to Restock Your Wine Cellar?
If you’re flying into Oregon from somewhere else in the USA, you’ll be relieved to know that the Oregon Wine Board, Travel Oregon, and Alaska Airlines have all joined forces to create the Oregon Wines Fly Free program. This program allows you to take a case of your favorite Oregon wines on the plane when you take an Alaska Airlines flight for no additional checked baggage fee.
Oregon Wine Regions
Oregon is home to several wine regions called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), one of which is the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley is the largest AVA (100 miles x 60 miles), and within this region, there are several smaller AVAs that contain hundreds of incredible wineries and vineyards. Its geographic location makes the climate perfect for growing the grapes needed for its world-famous pinot noir and chardonnay.
Some of our favorite wineries are located in the Chehalem Valley AVAs, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and McMinnville AVA and we think you should check out their wines first. Try a few here and there to get the best Oregon wine country experience.
Chehalem Valley AVA
The Chehalem Valley contains 4,600 acres of grapes at 100+ vineyards. The terrain is chock full of mountains and ridges that feature a mix of different soils and elevations that make it an ideal region to grow wine grapes. Many of its highest points are located on mountains 1,000+ feet above sea level—Bald Peak (1,633 feet) being the largest—which can affect the weather dramatically. The region’s unique climate and conditions directly affect the taste of its wines, giving every one of them a distinct flavor. A wine tour in this region should give you a slew of opportunities to taste wines from different altitudes and soil compositions. The Chehalem Mountains AVA is flanked by the Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and Dundee Hills AVAs, which opens up the possibilities to rich, complex wines produced in the region.
Climate Type: Woodland (Mediterranean)
Soil Types: basaltic, ocean sedimentary, and loess
Flavor profile: complex, rich, spicy, tannic
Well-known for: pinot noir, chardonnay, gamay noir, pinot gris, riesling, pinot blanc, and gewurztraminer
Places to Stay
Spending a week wine tasting in the Chehalem Valley wouldn’t be complete without taking the time to explore the area when you’re not tasting the region’s award-winning wines. There are plenty of lodging options nearby that will make traveling easy and painless.
If you can swing it, stay at one of Oregon’s finest wine country resorts—the Allison Inn & Spa. This luxury spa resort is located on a 35-acre plot in the heart of farmland, giving you the escape you need to finally relax and refresh during your trip.
The Feathered Nest is a bit more affordable lodging option to those who still want a luxury experience in Oregon wine country. The beautiful rental house is located on a 2-acre plot of rural land just minutes from downtown. The house can accommodate a maximum of 8 guests, meaning you can split the price tag across the group. Enjoy a gas fireplace, private chef, porch swing, and even a wraparound porch!
The Best Western Newberg Inn is one of the most accessible hotels in the region. It’s located seven miles from the Sokol Blosser Winery and 10 miles from Bald Peak, making it easily reachable from various local wineries. Best Western’s suites have everything from flat-screen TVs to whirlpool tubs, a hot tub, and a steam room.
Things to Do
When you have some free time to explore the Chehalem area, make sure to stop by some of its main attractions. For example, the Chehalem Cultural Center is the arts and culture hub of the region, featuring local events and classes for all ages. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon, too! Vista Balloon Adventures is the Northwest’s premier hot air balloon operator, flying up to seven balloons every day.
The Willamette Valley may be known best for its wine, but like the rest of Oregon, the food is top-notch, too. When in Chehalem Valley, make sure to check out local food favorites like Recipe, a Neighborhood Kitchen, an upscale eatery with a seasonally adapted artisanal menu utilizing local produce. If you’re looking for something a bit more laidback, consider Chehalem Valley Brewing Co. and taste a wide selection of handcrafted local beers—there’s something for everyone. Grab something a bit lighter when you stop by the Red Hills Market; they have sandwiches, pizzas, and other gourmet lunch and dinner options, and obviously a great selection of beers and wines.
Eola Hills AVA
The Eola-Amity Hills region encompasses 30,000+ acres of Oregon, 2,400 of which are home to some of the state’s best vineyards—96 to be exact. Enjoy incredible scenic views from the tasting rooms of 26 local wineries; the majestic rolling hills look like something out of an oil painting. The Eola-Amity Hills are home to refined, award-winning wines that exemplify the passion of grape cultivation in Oregon.
Climate Type: Maritime (cool)
Soil Types: volcanic basalt, marine sedimentary, and alluvial deposits
Flavor profile: crisp, clean, and precise
Well known for: pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, auxerrois
Places to Stay
The Eola-Amity Hills region is home to an array of amazing, luxurious hotels and inns that will make your wine tasting experience unique and unforgettable. Many of the best places to stay are located on winery property, so you know a good pinot noir isn’t far from your suite.
Bella Collina Bed & Breakfast is a destination inn situated on 30-acres of vineyard, in the quiet Oregon coastal range. The themed suites may carry hefty price tags, but each one is furnished like a mansion master bedroom to ensure the perfect weekend in the Willamette Valley. It’s one of the highest rated Oregon wine country hotels.
There aren’t many budget places to stay, but the mid-range lodging options do offer less expensive suites. Amity Flats is home to a restored masonic lodge with the accomodations one might find in any luxury resort. The grounds are located within walking distance from award-winning wineries, turning an afternoon stroll into a wine lover’s dream.
Things to Do
Indulge in non-wine-based fun in the Eola-Amity Hills area. The Pentacle Theatre is Salem’s premier community theatre space, located just outside of Eola. Enjoy an intimate live theatre experience in a rustic, wooden theatre. Afterwards, stop by the Brigittine Monks for a taste of Oregon’s desserts. Choose from handmade artisan chocolates, fudge, and truffles to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The Eola-Amity Hills region is home to a wide array of fantastic meal options, ranging in price and cuisine. Ritter’s features a more minimalist, modern take on lighter fare, mainly specializing in breakfast and lunch. The Kitchen on Court Street is a 24-hour bar and eatery joint that offers pub food with an exciting twist. The Blue Goat on the other hand is much more apt to provide an upscale meal, specializing in farm-to-table NW cuisine with an Argentinian twist.
The McMinnville AVA is located just west of the city that shares its name, which places it within the range of the coastal foothills. This AVA’s stunning landscape features 600+ acres of vineyards spread between 15 wineries, with rolling hills and cultivated vines as far as the eye can see. This region’s unique climate of cool nights and warm days produces perfect, high-quality fruit. The McMinnville AVA is not far from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and in some cases you can loop them together to enjoy the highlights of each.
Climate Type: Maritime
Soil Types: marine sedimentary and basal
Flavor profile: rich strong black and blue fruit flavors, spice, and earthy tones (red); bright, fruit-forward (white)
Well known for: pinot noir and whites
Places to Stay
McMinnville offers a slew of lodging options for all occasions. Whether you’re traveling with friends, or someone special, McMinnville has the variety to make sure your wine country experience is more than just a tasting adventure.
The Atticus Hotel is the only luxury lifestyle hotel in the Willamette Valley, and it’s located smack dab in the heart of historic downtown McMinnville. Choose from one of 36 elegantly furnished rooms with unique amenities and decor. Rooms can fit between two and six people, and while prices vary depending on size, all of Atticus’ boutique rooms are on the more expensive side of the coin.
The Wine Country King Suite is a beautiful Airbnb rental located in the suburbs of McMinnville. The building is a quaint, newly remodeled house complete with garden, keyless entry, and other luxurious features. The space can fit up to four guests making it ideal for a double date wine tasting weekend in the Willamette Valley. Don’t forget about the free continental breakfast!
The Comfort Inn & Suites in McMinnville is a tried and true classic with affordable pricing. If you’re just looking for a place to stay in between visiting wineries—saving money for a case or two of wine—this is the hotel for you. It’s located near the center of town, making it easy to travel to and from.
Things to Do
When you have a moment, pause your schedule and explore downtown McMinnville. Take a load off at Breathe Body & Spa so you and your significant other can feel rejuvenated and ready for the rest of your trip. Enjoying pure relaxation is one thing, but if you’re looking for entertainment look no further than McMinnville Macstage in the heart of the city. Macstage features several live band performances each week with an occasional smattering of live theatre performances. On your way out of the city, whether you’re going home or to another winery, make sure to stop at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum for a step into the incredible history of human flight.
McMinnville is more than just a town in wine country—it’s Yamhill County’s largest city. The city is full of things to do and places to eat so make sure you leave as much time as possible to ensure that you get the full experience. On your way to your next winery stop, eat some sustenance before downing more wine. Swing by Sandwich Express and choose from a variety of sandwiches made from deli meats, veggies, and more. Grab breakfast at the only artisan bakery in McMinnville, Red Fox Bakery & Cafe. They make fresh bread, pastries, and sandwiches every day so you can have your morning meal. When you’re ready for dinner, check out Thistle Restaurant & Bar in downtown McMinnville. Enjoy the chic bistro vibe, à la carte menu, cocktail assortment, and wine pairings.
If you’re coming in from out of state and are hoping to loop in PDX, there are many wineries near Portland so you can head north to spend a day exploring the city in your rental car. Enjoy the food, beer, and entertainment of the Rose City alongside the award-winning pinots of the Willamette Valley just an hour out of the city.
Raise A Glass and Take to the Skies
Ready for your Oregon wine country vacation? Wanna make it special? Forget renting a car, go wining and dining in style… from above.
Book a helicopter wine tour with Tour DeVine to get a bird’s eye view of the Willamette Valley’s rolling hills lined with rows of grapevines.
Enjoy the natural beauty of a sunny day on some of Oregon’s finest vineyards. We offer winery packages in three different Willamette Valley AVAs: Chehalem Valley, Eola-Amity Hills, and McMinnville. Pick your region and choose up to three wineries from hundreds of wineries, and book your itinerary. Explore the passion and magic of the Willamette Valley.