Pretty much the whole reason we chose to go to Oregon for our anniversary trip was wine. We went to Napa for our first anniversary and had a delicious time, but we’re more pinot people than anything else, so the Willamette Valley seemed like the perfect place to visit. And it was.
We tasted wine at seven or so wineries over the course of about two days which may seem like a little or a lot, depending, but it seemed just right to us. After all, we had to fit in ample nap time at our home away from home, the glorious Black Walnut Inn.
I like wine a lot, but a wine connoisseur I am not — nor is KP. We’re very much the types who know what we like but you definitely won’t find us waxing poetic about tannins, oxidation or balance. Maybe that’s why, near the end of our trip, I decided that everything tasted like cherries. Leggy, approachable cherries.
Here are my three favorite places where we sipped — and rarely spit — in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
1. Anderson Family Vineyard
Our first stop was Anderson Family Vineyard in Newberg. It was highly recommended by our concierge at The Nines in Portland and he made the required reservation for us. We like these smaller vineyards that compel you to join their club — because you can’t really find the wines elsewhere. And I loved the Anderson family’s story; operating a vineyard was their lifelong dream and they’re living it. Cliff and Allison, the husband/wife duo behind Anderson Family Vineyards, are very hands-on; she conducted our tasting (and turned me back onto pinot gris!) and he was there, running around doing things a busy vintner does, I guess. Their wines — pinot noir, dijon chardonnay and pinot gris — were so good that of course we had to join the club. Now if only it would cool off in Austin, we’d get our first shipment…
2. Torii Mor Winery
One of the cool things about Black Walnut Inn is that they provided a list of their favorite local wineries, categorized in different ways. If memory serves, Torii Mor was classified as a “hidden gem” or the like. It was one of my favorite wineries we visited because it was so uniquely beautiful. Yes, every single winery we visited was picturesque; it’s hard not to be in that part of the world. But Torii Mor was really memorable — and the wine was amazing.
I love the story of this winery’s name. “Torii” refers to ornate gates often seen at the entrance of Japanese gardens. “Mor” means earth. Together, it is “beautiful gate to the earth.” There are “gates” like this all over the property.
Torii Mor was probably the quietest, most peaceful tasting room experience we had while in Oregon. There is a small Japanese garden adjacent to the tasting room, and there’s a huge wrap-around deck on the back of the property which is nestled in the trees.
3. Archery Summit Winery
Archery Summit felt like the black label of all of the wineries we visited. Very high end. Very pricey club. Very exclusive feeling. We tasted several pinot noirs and I was on my best behavior.
Other Wineries We Visited
Erath is pretty common. We’ve bought it at Whole Foods and HEB. It’s good pinot noir. But the tasting experience there compared to Anderson and some of the others felt a little more “corporate,” for lack of a better way of putting it. Less of a personal touch, more robotic. As one of our wino friends said, it’s the Mondavi of Willamette. Still, the wine was wonderful and the scenery even more so.
White Rose Estate
I don’t remember exactly how we stumbled upon White Rose. I think we went because it was close to Archery Summit, and we were more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants on this trip. If we visited a tasting room and there were others closeby, we checked them out, too, usually. The wine was fine, but my favorite part of White Rose was the cute little tasting room. It was this little log cabin-like building, and it was really dark and cozy inside.
There was lavender everywhere. Seriously, Willamette couldn’t be more picturesque if it tried.
Durant Vineyards and Red Ridge Farms is also near White Rose and Archery Summit; I think that’s how we ended up in that area to begin with. Everyone in the area raved about the farm and the olive oil and we wanted to do some gift shopping and get some snacks, so that’s where we went. The tasting room wasn’t even on the agenda, but since we were already there, how could we not?
Red Ridge Farms is a really cool little place. It’s part nursery where I suppose locals go to buy plants and gardening stuff, part gift shop where you can do olive oil tastings (and buy olive oil in every variety imaginable) and buy luscious lavender lotions and bath salts, kitchen stuff, oh, and picnic accoutrements to pair with your wine tasting on their lawn.
They also have these amazing little ice-cream sandwiches. (He even let me have a bite.)
Seven of Hearts
Seven of Hearts was another, well we’re already here tasting. We went to Carlton to check out Republic of Jam (and I’m sorry, but calling that little shop a “tasting room” that has “flights” of sweet and savory bites is a bit of a stretch… we were told we could sample whatever jars of jam they had — in little cups) and Seven of Hearts has a tasting room just a few doors down, so in we went. Full disclosure: we went in so I could use the bathroom, and doing the tasting was my way to not feel guilty about that. Surprise, surprise… the joke was on us. Because we walked out with a case of wine headed our way.
I did a relatively good job of jotting down notes on all of the wines that I liked. Just now, I wanted to share which Seven of Hearts it was that sucked me in (because one of the whites was so good, I couldn’t resist… the 2013 Viognier & Roussanne?). But I have no idea where said notes are. See, a true wine connoisseur wouldn’t be so callous. Thank goodness we have some shipments coming so I can remember what it was that I liked so much.
By the end of our trip — I can’t believe I’m going to admit this — KP and I both needed a little bit of a wine break. You know those things you see on Pinterest about what to do with leftover wine? I always scoff. Who ever has leftover wine?! Well, after all wine all day for consecutive days, I needed to get some vodka in the mix, or something. And I can only take so much serious wine talk for so long. By our final day in the valley, everything was leggy and approachable as far as we were concerned.