A short drive from downtown Portland, the Willamette Valley is the most well known of Oregon’s 18 wine-growing regions. More than 150 miles long and 60 miles wide, the Willamette Valley is home to more than 500 wineries and six sub-AVAs (American Viticulture Areas). The story of the valley doesn’t stop there. The growth of the wine industry has also nurtured a thriving culinary scene. With so many outstanding 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.
Charging station: Portland, Electric Avenue, 121 SW Salmon Street (between SW 1st and 2nd Ave.)
Start your day in downtown Portland at Electric Avenue, 121 Southwest Salmon Street. While you’re charging up your car, choose from a host of delicious downtown breakfast spots such as Mother’s Bistro & Bar and Bijou Cafe. Fill your to-go cup with rich drinking chocolate or espresso at Cacao in the Heathman Hotel or nearby Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe.
Charging station: Newberg Chevron, 3745 E Portland Road
Leave Portland on OR-99 West and head into the rolling hills and vineyards of the Willamette Valley. Oregon’s wine pioneers began planting vines here in the 1960s, convinced the moderate climate, created by the sheltering Coast and Cascade mountain 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. 22,508) offers the chance to visit several tasting rooms. Anam Cara Cellars, for one, offers pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling. If you are in town around dinnertime, visit The Painted Lady Restaurant 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 OR-99, you’ll find yourself in Dundee (pop. 3,176), which has its own sub-AVA, Dundee Hills. The region includes dozens of wineries, many leading the industry in sustainability. The founders of Winderlea Vineyard and Winery work to incorporate biodynamic 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. Check out Panther Creek Cellars for pinot noir, melon and pinot gris.
A few miles farther down OR-99 in Dayton (pop. 2,542) and 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 well-stocked cellar.
Charging station: Oregon Mutual Insurance, 400 NE Baker Street
Where OR-99 meets OR-47, the town of McMinnville (pop, 33,131), with its own sub-AVA of the same name, has a quaint downtown and several tasting rooms within walking distance. R. Stuart & Co. and Remy Wines each offer specialty wines like a vin tardive and rosé de’or (R. Stuart) and dolcetto and lagrein (Remy). At nearby Brooks Wines, visionary Jimi Brooks planted vines in the Eola-Amity Hills region and built a thriving vineyard using biodynamic standards in a holistic approach to grape growing. His family carries on the tradition in his name.
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 French cuisine at Bistro Maison, which serves lunch and dinner. At Thistle Restaurant and Bar, chef Eric Bechard works with local farmers and fisherman to source the freshest farm-to-table ingredients. Charge your vehicle at the Oregon Mutual Insurance charging station.
Carlton, Yamhill and Forest Grove
Carlton (pop, about 2,000) makes up for its size with a big contribution to the Willamette Valley wine scene. Sitting in the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton sub-AVA on OR-47, Carlton is home to 20 wineries, including Carlton Cellars, with estate vineyard pinots forming its Roads End reserve as well as the Cape Lookout wine. Carlton also claims the Carlton Winemakers Studio, a co-op comprising 11 winemakers under one roof in a state-of-the-art facility constructed of reused and recycled materials. The eponymous Ken Wright Cellars highlights that winemaker’s more than three decades crafting Oregon pinots and chardonnays. Carlton’s serves up delightful dining to go along with its fine wines at restaurants like Cuvee — locally sourced French cuisine — and AgriVino, with an authentic Italian menu and lodging available in three converted grain silos.
Continuing north along OR-47 and its side roads, oenophiles have scores more wineries to choose from, including Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, WillaKenzie Estate, Solena Estate, Elk Cove Vineyards, Patton Valley Vineyard, Plum Hill Vineyards and Montinore Estate.
On the way back to Portland, charge up at Jim’s Thriftway in the town of Banks.
As part of the Willamette Valley’s Plug & Pinot program, many of the wineries along this byway have installed Level 2 EV charging stations onsite to show their commitment to sustainable travel.
Don’t own an electric vehicle? You can rent an electric BMW i3 from ReachNow in Portland. Visit the ReachNow website for information about how to sign up and start driving.
For the most up-to-date information about EV charging stations around Oregon, download the PlugShare app. This online resource provides real-time detail about station locations and services as well as trip planning features.
Check out Oregon’s Electric Byways Road Trips for more EV itineraries around the state.