Wine Country Weekend at the Black Walnut Inn
Travelers tend to flock to wine country at harvest time, or on burnt summer days, but we like Oregon’s winter months in pinot country, when chilly mornings give way to bright afternoons, and the architecture of bent vines and slumbering orchards stand along endless slopes of rust, coffee and moss colored earth.
Recently, we spent the weekend at the Black Walnut Inn set atop the Dundee Hills AVA, less than an hour from Portland. It would be tempting to never leave this luxurious retreat, with its welcoming fireplace, leather couches and arm chairs overlooking the whole valley, and the Black Walnut’s own Pinot Noir ready to pour. Under the warm and sophisticated care of innkeepers Karen and Neil, we were spoiled with frothy cappuccinos, evening hors d’oeuvres and outstanding breakfasts (included with the room). But it’s hard to sit still when beckoned by rolling, uncrowded country roads laden with vineyards. Some of our favorites are just down the road: Winderlea, Domaine Drouhain, and Penner Ash, to name a few.
Nearby, 10 or more terrific restaurants make it hard to choose—chefs are drawn to the Willamette Valley by some beacon of the palette and create fresh, amazing food with local, well, everything. One night we enjoyed small pours of local wines (Chehalem Three Vineyard 2007 Pinot was our favorite) and yummy apps at the swanky Allison Inn—with a cozy Cole Porter ballad singer in the lounge. The Painted Lady, in Newberg, provided one of the most memorable dining experiences we’ve had in Oregon—a 4-course tasting menu with a remarkable wine pairing (2009 Trisaetum Riesling paired with foie gras, apple butter and red onion jam – wow!). The pancetta wrapped quail and chevre cheesecake were also outstanding.
I spent our last morning devouring a year’s worth of Conde Nast Traveler magazines, noting Greek islands and Paris restaurants I hope to one day discover. Driving home, we listed countless places in Oregon we’d like to explore. Travelling begets travel dreaming, and for this couple with young kids, a quiet winter weekend to wander and dream, was a luxury indeed.
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