We’re wild about wine in the Willamette Valley, but this fertile region has even more to offer than the 300-plus wineries within its boundaries. Beer, mead, cider, farm-to-table cuisine and local harvest also flourish here. Why not take a trip beyond the wine in the Willamette Valley?
Brews News: From the monks at Mount Angel Abbey, known for their contemplative retreat and meditative Bach Festival, comes the newly opened Benedictine Brewery. Check their Facebook page for updates to their “Taste and Believe” enterprise. Corvallis’ Mazama Brewing celebrated its first anniversary of brewing Belgian-style ales in May 2014. Visit the taproom for a taste of Hop Eruption, Pyroclastic Porter and more. Deluxe Brewing Co. and Sinister Distillery Co. bills itself as Albany’s first brewstillery. On the beer side, look for the Pre-Prohibition Pilsner as well as a dark and amber ale. Sinister’s offerings include rum, gin and whiskey. Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood is home to several fabulous craft breweries — Ninkasi Brewing, Oakshire Brewing, Hop Valley Brewing Company and Falling Sky Brewing’s Delicatessen.
From Bees and Trees: Corvallis’ Nectar Creek Honey Wines offers three varieties of tasty mead: ginger, raspberry and wildflower. The honey-based drinks are naturally gluten free. For more mead, check out Kookoolan World Meadery in Yamhill with more than 100 varieties from around the world. 2 Towns Ciderhouse in Corvallis presses Northwest apples into cider varieties ranging from classic Bad Apple to Cherried Away, Made Marion and Rhubarbarbian. Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem selects heirloom apple varieties from Oregon to create varieties like Bloom, Wanderlust and Wickson.
Farm to Table: From Field & Vine Events comes the Dinner in the Field series. Arriving by school bus, diners are treated to a tour of the host winery or farm followed by a six-course meal at communal tables set in the field. Albany localvores rejoiced when Cody Utzman, two-time winner of the Food Network’s “Chopped,” returned home and opened Frankie’s with his sister, Kila Swearinger, late last year. Named for their late father, Frankie’s focuses on the freshest goods from local farmers, foragers, and fishermen.
Local Harvest: Find dozens of farmers markets in towns throughout the Willamette Valley, including Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis, Albany and Salem, many of which run through fall. Search for locations on the Oregon Farmers’ Markets Association website. U-pick fresh fall fruit and vegetables around the valley at locations like Detering Orchards in Harrisburg, Beilke Family Farm in Brooks and Lone Pine Farms in Junction City. Check out fall festivals like the Sublimity Harvest Festival, Mount Angel Oktoberfest, Independence Hop & Heritage Festival, Venata Harvest Festival, Colonial Harvest Days in Pleasant Hill and the Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival in Eugene.