My wife and I are planning our first trip to Willamette Valley this fall. We’re planning to stay in McMinnville for three days. No tastings have been scheduled yet, but I expect one or two days of tastings in and around McMinnville, with one or two days at wineries in nearby towns.
I’ve been reading through past threads on this topic for ideas. I’ve found a wealth of information on topics like wineries to visit and where to stay, but I have a few other questions that I was hoping that locals or experienced travelers to this area might be able to help me with.
If you have an opinion on any of the questions below, I would welcome your feedback.
When to travel? I’ve been advised that it’s best to avoid harvest because the winemakers are really busy then and they don’t really have time to deal with the public then. Is that right? If it is, when does harvest typically wrap up? Would late October to early November be a good time to visit?
Tasting rooms with ambiance? There are some wineries I want to taste at just because of the wine. (Goodfellow, for instance.) But while my wife enjoys wine, the experience is just as important to her. Any recommendations for tastings that are in “can’t miss” venues? This could be a beautiful tasting room, nice scenery, an interesting tour, or anything else.
Wines other than Pinot Noir. We both really enjoy Pinot Noir, and I expect PN to be the star of each tasting, but my wife especially enjoys a great Riesling or Pinot Blanc. Any winemakers that work in these varietals that we should be sure to visit?
Recommended driving services? As I mentioned above, we expect to do one or two days outside of McMinnville. Are there any driving services that come particularly recommended so that I can drink without worry?
What has changed since COVID? All of the threads I’ve been reading seem to predate COVID. Have there been any significant changes since then that I should know about? Or is WV back to business as usual?
Thanks for your help!
We went end of Sept to beginning of Oct last year, so lots of Covid things still in effect. Some places had outside tastings like Adelsheim. Most only did reservation based tastings. Early October was divine. Not very busy but not sure if it was covid still or time of year.
Tasting rooms with ambiance that we went to - Dusky Goose with their woodwork and views and flowers, Domaine Serene (we were in the conference room vs main room) is a bit of a country club feel and fancy, Bergstrom was intimate but in a regular house (that was theirs, so history there). I am sure there are many more. Lots of great wines and tastings all around, but you wanted nice decor and settings.
Other varietals - Trisaetum wines had an interesting sav blanc I was not expecting. Chardonnay is in multiple places - I like Vincent’s Armstrong vineyard a lot but only had them shipped to me. Bergstrom’s rocked too. Domaine Divio has a Pinot/Gamay blend that works well with Thanksgiving turkey dinner (ok, mainly pinot noir)
Not exactly wine - Durant has some great olive oil so stop on by there for an olive oil tasting.
If you like nice views Domaine Roy and Bryn Mawr come to mind.
As far as timing goes it just depends. All the major places with dedicated tasting rooms will have staff and be pretty normal operations during harvest. Getting to see guys like Vincent or Saul (Championship) is going to be incredibly difficult.
Shameless plug but we will be open in September, no Pinot Blanc but we do have two types of estate Albariño and a sauv blanc.
Charles - We’ll be in Walla Walla and the Williamette Valley in October, staying near McMinnville. So far we have four days of tastings planned but are bumping up against harvest (or likely harvest) time, so some of our options are constrained.
We’re confirmed at Suzor, Evesham Wood, Cristom, Evening Land/Seven Springs, Kelley Fox, Trisaetum, Arterberry Maresh, Bergstrom, Domaine Drouhin, and Stoller, with a few others pending driving times and arrivals, and harvest.
Happy to share my spreadsheet and details if it would help, just send me a pm with your email address.
Tasting rooms that popped into my head when I read this: Tasting rooms with ambiance?
Coleen Clemens - we were there the first year they opened. Very nice setting with a good view of the vineyard.
Bergstrom - fond memories of having a great Chardonnay for a late morning tasting, on their deck overlooking the vineyard.
Archery Summit - we took their tour/tasting experience and it was surprisingly fun and interesting. Kinda pretentious atmosphere though.
Lenne’ - favorite visit of all. small, personal, friendly, and great wines. We took the vineyard tour and finished on their rooftop deck.
The Willamette Valley is one area that I have not spent much time in, and need to spend more.
Hey Charles - a few thoughts from a recent trip.
If you’re looking for a tasting “experience” akin to what you might see in some other west coast regions, you might check out the Antica Terra lunch. It’s expensive ($195 per person with gratuity included, I think), but we found that the food was excellent, and it was nice to try a wider variety of wines – the tasting includes wine from other wineries and regions. Given the quantity and quality of food and wine, we felt it was a worthwile experience. It’s a world away from tasting in a winery or walking a vineyard, but would probably provide a good foil for some of your other tastings (like at Goodfellow which we also very much enjoyed!).
If you’re into beer or even enjoy it passingly, I would swing by Heater Allen.
In terms of a driving service, we used Main Street Drivers. They DD for you using your car which significantly reduced the cost (I think it was around $42 an hour) when compared to a limo service. If you’d prefer a more traditional arrangement, our AirBnB recommended Aspen Limos.
Lastly, and somewhat randomly, if you enjoy bowling consider Walnut City Lanes. I’m not sure anyone is flocking to the area for the bowling, but we thought it was fun to mix in an activity that wasn’t wine related (and it was refreshing to bowl a couple games for $11 or so with shoe rentals).
Thanks for the tip. I don’t think we can make their lunch fit in our schedule, but maybe a tasting. So they serve not just their down wines, but others as well? Are they a restaurant? I can’t really tell from their website.
Yes, they serve both their own wines and those from other wineries across the world.
When we were there they had rented an event space (Brick Hall) in Dayton to host the lunch, and I believe they are doing tastings there, as well.