It’s always easy to follow the crowd—but here in the Willamette Valley it’s surprisingly easy to blaze your own trail, too. As a region with a dazzling list of established, cult-status and brand-new wine destinations scattered across a vast and beautiful land, we love and reward the adventurous because, well, that's who we are.
Here are the top five things that make the Willamette Valley a unique wine destination.
5. Oregon hospitality.
Enjoying wine served to you by the winery owner, a member of the ownership family, or even the winemaker is a thing of the past in the country’s most tourist-packed wine regions. In the Willamette Valley, it’s just another day. And even if your host isn’t a winemaker or owner, in this tight-knit community, it’s a good bet you’re talking to someone who regularly helps with harvest. Getting our hands dirty is still a strong tradition here.
4. From "Tuesday night" to "once in a lifetime," a bottle for everyone.
Running the gamut from everyday affordability to library gems and single-vineyard exclusives worthy of a decade or two in the cellar, the Willamette Valley offers an incredible spectrum of wine styles that accommodates a range of budgets. You don’t have to splurge to enjoy Willamette Valley wine, but if you want to, we won’t stop you.
3. Off the beaten path.
Who doesn’t love being the first of their friends to discover a new winery, new wine style, or new region making great things? The Willamette Valley’s two newest nested AVAs, Laurelwood District and Tualatin Hills, were founded just last year. New wineries are popping up every year and new wines––think grapes like Trousseau and Gamay, interesting spins on sparkling wines, elegant and balanced Chardonnay, and skin-contact whites, not to mention a Pinot noir style for just about everyone––can be found across this diverse region. A visit here means the chance to be a pioneer, just like our founding winery families.
2. Natural beauty—and opportunities to help preserve it.
We’ll go ahead and brag for a moment: Oregon is drop-dead gorgeous. Our wild and unspoiled coast, snowy mountains, peaceful rivers and green valleys, accented by the haunting silhouettes of Douglas fir trees, all make for some pretty spectacular scenery. The Willamette Valley wine community takes stewardship of this bounty very seriously, and throughout the region you’ll find an impressive number of certified organic, biodynamic and sustainable businesses (including a certification we developed ourselves, LIVE), B Corporations, and members of organizations like the Deep Roots Coalition and the Oak Accord, all committed to preserving our natural landscape. When you support these wineries, you are a part of this commitment, too.
1. We’re all friends here.
In some wine regions, competition is fierce and tensions can be high. But in the Willamette Valley, you’re much more likely to find winemakers and wine country folks collaborating on a technical tasting or special event, sharing equipment and know-how during one of Oregon’s “surprise weather” situations, and dressing up in Halloween costumes to surprise each other during harvest. Expect your tasting room and lodging hosts to have great recommendations for other places to visit, and don’t be surprised if you hear many of the same people’s names turn up in everyone’s stories. We’re a vast region, but we’re also a close community, and we take care of each other. And when you visit, we’ll take care of you.
Don't just take our word for it. These kind folks in the media all agree: the Willamette Valley is your chance to be original.
"Willamette Valley is a more diverse landscape, more fun to travel and drive about, less expensive, and is devoted to Pinot Noir. On a final note, you will find that the Willamette Valley is less crowded than Napa, even during its high season between April and September."
– The Wine Vacation: Napa Valley vs. Willamette Valley (Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog)
"You can bring along the kids: Many wineries allow outdoor picnics which provide a great opportunity to bring the kids along and let them play on the vineyard grounds while you sip your tasting (Minors are allowed in Oregon wineries and wine bars until 9pm). Penner Ash has a gorgeous oak grove the kids can play in while you enjoy lunch at a nearby picnic table, Beaux Frères has a resident pig and sweet lab you can visit, and Four Graces has a demonstration vineyard where you can look at the different varietals on the vine and sample a few! We thought we might get some stares for bringing our four month old along, but more often than not, winery staff came around the bar to play with her. She even was given a toy to take home from the owner of Natalie’s Estate Wines."
– Skip Napa. 8 Reasons to Tour Oregon’s Willamette Valley Instead (Life on Beacon)
"[The Willamette Valley] has become synonymous with great Pinot Noirs, so you’re going to find more traffic here than you will in some of the other regions we’ve presented, but the wine is so good that it’s worth the crowds (though, it should be noted, those masses are still much, much smaller than what you’ll find in Napa/Sonoma). You’ve also got over 500 wineries in the 150-mile valley to explore. While Pinot Noir is, indeed, the main attraction, don’t overlook the Pinot Gris while you’re there. Willamette Valley is responsible for some of the best in the country."
– Six Great Wine Trips That Are Cheaper Than Napa Valley (Money)
"While Napa Valley is still viewed as the Holy Grail of wine destinations for the majority of American wine lovers, the Willamette wineries have been growing in both popularity and prominence in the last decade or so.
However, given the state of today’s less-than-ideal economy, married with the typically astronomical price tags dangling from Napa bottles, tastings and hotels, visiting the Northwest to get your vineyard (and vino) fix is an economical and convenient way to do a wine tasting vacation.Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been wine tasting in Napa many times, and there’s no denying that some of the most fantastic fermented grape juice in the world is produced there.
So what gets me hot for Oregon wine? Well, as a big lover of pinot noirs (a temperamental grape that grows well in Oregon’s cooler temperatures), the proximity of these vineyards to my home certainly do it for me."
– Willamette Valley Wineries Closer than France, Better than Napa (The Local Dish)
"Chardonnays from the Willamette Valley tend to be leaner and more acidic than those from Napa and Sonoma Valleys. We find them a better pairing to delicate fish dishes that can be overwhelmed by fat and buttery chardonnay.
While most consumers think of this region for its pinot noir, it’s about time to think of it for its chardonnays."
– Wine, etc.: Chardonnays from Willamette Valley are a wine worth exploring (Capital Gazette)