The time had come to finally take Wine Country Caroline out of California to discover some new wine-filled frontiers. My latest adventure landed me in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Eola Amity Hills AVA to be exact, and guys… I’m moving to Oregon. Kidding, I actually kind of wish, but the good news is it is wildly easy to there from LA and we can visit whenever we want!
WEEKEND GETAWAY GUIDE: OREGON WINE COUNTRY
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- There are direct flights from LAX to PDX on Alaska Airlines (they actually offer the most nonstop flights to West Coast destinations!)
- Wine Flies Free on Alaska too so you can shop till ya drop
- There is no sales tax in Oregon. I repeat there is no sales tax in Oregon
- The PDX airport is one of my favorites. It’s so… “portland”. Totally foodie centric, laid back, so easy to navigate. I love it. It’s also only about 20 minutes from the heart of Portland so if you want to drop into town and do a little shopping/dining it’s easy peasy!
- Wine Country is only about an hour drive from Portland and the airport – it is crazy easy. And getting a rental car was surprisingly a total breeze.
- This is going to surprise you perhaps, but Oregon is a very rainy place. The best time to visit would be during the summer/early fall
- There are a number of cool towns in the area I was in that are worth checking out, especially for meals! The main ones to put on your radar would be Dundee, Newberg, Amity, Carlton, Salem, and McMinnville.
- The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is a sweet spot for grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (my favorites) but they offer other interesting varietals such as Gamay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauv Blanc, Riesling, and some Sparkling Wines.
- There are about 600 wineries across the Willamette Valley, 30+ of which can be found in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA (and honestly, I haven’t met a wine or winery from this region that hasn’t blown my socks off yet)
- Lodging is, I’m not going to say tricky, but it’s not as prevalent as what you’d find in an area like Napa for example. That said there are some absolutely fantastic Airbnb style/guesthouse-type options and I would highly recommend checking out the vacation rentals that Lifestyle Properties Oregon has to offer.
- You could easily day trip up here from Portland, I have actually done it before and visited some wineries in a different AVA but I HIGHLY recommend staying for at least a night. There’s wine tasting involved, for one, and two trust me it’s a hard place to leave.
- There are no rideshare options in this area but if you’re interested in hiring a car service for tastings etc, I recommend going through Pinot Car! They were amazing.
MY TRIP DETAILS
WHERE WE STAYED
Thanks to my partners Alaska Airlines and Lifestyle Properties Oregon… I had the unbelievable pleasure of staying at arguably the coolest guest house I’ve ever been to located on the property at Bryn Mawr Vineyards. I seriously cannot wait to come back and repeat this entire weekend again, but especially the part where I get to stay here and live my best “I-casually-live-on-a-vineyard” life. The layout, the design, the deck, the views, the kitchen, the light, the WINE… literally heaven on earth.
WHERE WE TASTED
I wish I’d had 1 to 2 more days but I just keep saying, I have a great excuse to come back! Which I fully intend to do perhaps even as early as this summer! As mentioned, this area is well known for its incredible pinot noir and chardonnay (my absolute favs) but there is plenty of other varietals being produced here. On this trip, we stuck to wineries located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA and this area is just particularly fun/gorgeous/delicious. We were so impressed. You’ll also notice that everything in this area seems ultra small town/family-oriented and trust me you’ll feel the love.
Bryn Mawr: our homestead for the weekend also happened to be our favorite winery. Not only are all of their wines incredible, but their winery is located – I believe – at the highest point of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA area. Thus the views are absolutely breathtaking; I’d come back to Oregon just for Bryn Mawr.
Dukes: what a GORGEOUS winery. It’s a smaller run family winery that have quite the loyal following, we happened to be visiting during one of their “open house” events and had an absolute blast sipping through different vintages of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, snacking on home-cooked food, petting the winery dogs, and relaxing by their beautiful little “lake”.
Eola Hills: our tasting at Eola Hills goes down as one of my absolute favorites, not only because it was such a beautiful winery with great wine but because they offered quite the unique experience with their option to go “wiking” (wine hiking). We went on the most absolutely beautiful 2-mile loop around the vineyard with bubbles in hand and had the best time! It’s the perfect morning/early afternoon wine tasting experience.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS ON MY LIST AND/OR CAME HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:
Evening Lands: The one winery I really wish I’d been able to visit, as it’s a Raj Parr project (one of my favorite winemakers from the Central Coast). They offer private tastings and have the option for a lunch setup, it is a bit pricey but I imagine it’s worth it!
Lingua Franca: Next door to Evening Lands is Lingua Franca, another high-end prestigious winery. Started by Larry Stone and Dominique LaFon, loved their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that I got to try at a private dinner we had one of the nights I was there.
Brooks: Looks like a beautiful winery and are known for their Reisling and Pinot Noir. They also have a lunch option which is worth noting if you’d like to set up a tasting in the area that also offers food beyond snacks.
Cana’s Feast: this place came recommended by a few new friends in the valley as well as via some folks on Instagram! I dont know much about it but I know it’s on my list for next time.
Cristom: Great wines, well known in the area, recently scored a 99 on one of their Pinot Noirs.
Evesham Wood: cute winery at the bottom of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, I’m told they have some killer wines at some really fair price points so that’s worth noting
Fallia: the Oregon project by Ehern Jordan, of Fallia in California
Bethel Heights: an Eola-Amity Hills “classic”, as the founders were part of the formation of the AVA
Björnson: beautiful property, great wines, located right near Bryn Mawr
iOta: private winery run by a husband and wife team
Grochau: interesting wines, small location. Also home of Vincent Wines (who have been getting great reviews lately)
Elton Wines: the “prestige” line of the Willamette Valley Vineyards. Elton is made from some of the oldest vines in the area, and they only offer one Pinot Noir and one Chardonnay. It’s also apparently just a beautiful place to taste and stroll as the owner has an amazing botanical garden filled with art
Winderlea: this winery came highly recommended by our driver Tan who is not only a trained chef (and cooks at the winery) but is also a certified sommelier. So, safe to say he knows his sh*t! It’s high on my priority list for my next trip as well
Walter Scott: Reservation only winery, right down the street from Bryn Mawr, known for their incredible Chardonnay especially
Stoller: this is another one that came highly recommended via Instagram friends, the property looks gorgeous. I’ve definitely heard the name Stoller, and would love to check this one out myself.
Bergström: Bergström is another big one from the valley that came highly recommended by a few folks, and from the looks of it I can see why. Love that they have a beautiful property, “vibrant, ready to drink wines”, and they offer virtual and in-person tastings. (by appointment only)
WHERE WE DINED
The Common Cup (Amity): this is the absolute cutest “espresso and waffle” bar on the planet. Between the great staff, friendly locals, great coffee, and fantastic waffles… this one’s a must!
Recipe (Newberg): I ended up picking this spot for dinner because I loved that it felt like nowhere I’d ever dined before, and it felt very “Oregon” in a way. First of all the restaurant is in a victorian house, we love, the menu is seasonal and farm to table, and I can confirm that the meal itself was fantastic and absolutely beautiful.
Red Hills Market (Dundee): This place came highly recommended by so many people and I am so glad we went to check it out. They’re open daily from 8am – 8pm, they specialize in wood-fired seasonal food, they do breakfast, coffee & espresso drinks, pizza, sandwiches, plates, salads, and cookies plus beer, wine, and cocktails. But it’s also a good place to pick up quick stuff if you want to take a picnic anywhere! Plus – it’s just super cute.
Private Dinner with Chef Andrew Garrison: If you’re staying at a guest house and don’t feel like leaving the homestead, I HIGHLY recommend calling chef Andrew Garrison to come over and prepare a meal. This was hands down my favorite meal of the trip, and the one thing I guarantee I’ll do again when I come back.
OTHER RESTAURANTS THAT CAME RECOMMENDED IN THE AREA
Earth and Sea (Carlton): steak and seafood focused, supposed to be amazing
Rosmarino (Newberg): supposed to be THE place to dine… if you can even get a reservation. It’s an Italian husband and wife duo who cook with a lot of love. It’s quite the experience so I’m told and apparently worth coming back to the area for alone
Epilogue Kitchen (Salem): James Beard finalist, so the food’s gotta be good
The Cozy Taberna (Salem): Spanish inspired menu, lively, casual, fun
Nick’s Italian Cafe (McMinnville): another good option for Italian, established in 1977, on the cute main street in town
El Toro Loco (Amity): right next to The Common Cup, casual Mexican food