Willamette Valley Bounty Electric Byway
An Oregon Electric Byways Road Trip
Just a short drive from downtown Portland, the Willamette Valley is the most well known of Oregon’s 17 wine growing regions. Stretching for more than a 100 miles from the town of Newberg in the north to just past Eugene in the south, the Willamette Valley is home to more than 225 wineries and six sub-AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). The story of the valley doesn’t stop there, however. The growth of the wine industry has also nurtured a thriving culinary culture. With so many great wineries, tasting rooms and restaurants, it’s hard to know where to begin. This day trip, which introduces the wineries and farm-to-table cuisine in the northern tip of the Willamette Valley, is a great place to start.
Start your day in downtown Portland at Electric Avenue on the Portland State University campus. While you’re charging up your car, choose from a host of delicious downtown breakfast spots like Mother’s Bistro & Bar. Fill up your to-go cup with rich drinking chocolate or espresso at Cacao in the Heathman Hotel or nearby Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe.
Head out of Portland on Highway 99 West and into the rolling hills and vineyards of the Willamette Valley. Oregon’s wine pioneers began planting vines here in the 1960s, convinced that the moderate climate, created by the sheltering Coast and Cascade ranges, would be ideal for growing grapes. That climate and the ancient volcanic soil deposited here by the Missoula Floods about 15,000 years ago created the perfect conditions for nurturing the pinot noir grape, which has become the Willamette Valley’s signature wine.
Historic downtown Newberg (pop. 22,244) offers the chance to visit several tasting rooms. Anam Cara Cellars offers pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling.
If you are in town around dinnertime, visit The Painted Lady for some of the best dining in the valley. The “refined, modern and American” menu is matched by the beauty of the restored Victorian that houses the restaurant.
Charge your electric vehicle at the Newberg Chevron charging station.
Dundee and Dayton
Just a stone’s throw down the road, you’ll find yourself in Dundee (pop. 3,188), which has it’s own sub-AVA, Dundee Hills. The AVA includes dozens of wineries, many of which are leading the industry in sustainability. Winderlea Vineyard and Winery founders work with Philippe Armenier, a leader in biodynamic farming, to incorporate the best practices in growing chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Argyle Winery was one of the first in Oregon to achieve LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certification, which recognizes international standards of sustainability and grape production. Also in Dundee you can find Erath Winery, where wine pioneer Dick Erath planted vines in 1969.
A few miles further down Highway 99 in Dayton (pop. 2,555), but still in the Dundee Hills AVA, you’ll find Sokol Blossor. Founded in 1971, Sokol Blossor was the first LEED-certified winery in the U.S., thanks to its USDA organic farming certification and thoughtful business practices. Stoller Family Estate, another leader in sustainability, was the first LEED Gold certified winery in the country. Look for pinot noir (estate and reserve) as well as chardonnay and pinot noir rosé.
Don’t miss dining at The Joel Palmer House. Fourth-generation chef Chris Czarnecki crafts the menu around wild foraged truffles and mushrooms paired perfectly with local wines from a very well stocked cellar.
The town of McMinnville (pop, 32,451), with its own sub-AVA of the same name, has a quaint downtown area and several tasting rooms within walking distance. Check out Panther Creek Cellars, housed in the town’s historic power station, for pinot noir, melon and pinot gris. R. Stuart & Co. winery and Twelve are also located downtown, both offering pinot noir and R. Stuart & Co. pouring various specialty wines like vin tardive and rosé de’or. Further down Highway 18, and still in the McMinnville AVA, find Maysara Winery. The Momtazi family planted vines here on a former wheat farm in 1998, and has built a thriving vineyard using biodynamic standards in a holistic approach to grape growing.
Charge your vehicle at the Oregon Mutual Insurance charging station. When it’s time to dine, McMinnville’s options abound. For breakfast, lunch or weekend brunch stop at the Community Plate, serving hashes, scrambles, breakfast burritos and Stumptown coffee. You don’t have to speak French to appreciate authentic the French cuisine at Bistro Maison, which serves lunch and dinner. At Thistle, chef Eric Bechard works with local farmers and fisherman to source the freshest farm-to-table ingredients for dinner.
Editor’s note: Check out our other Oregon’s Electric Byways Road Trips for more EV itineraries around the state.
about author Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.
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