• Nicole Leonetti

Wonderful Willamette Valley

Our trip to Willamette Valley was interesting to say the least! Oregon was dealing with insane fires and the smoke in the Valley was less than ideal. There were multiple road closures that made heading back to California difficult, so we decided to make the best of it. I’m so grateful that we did because we were able to experience the warm hospitality of Willamette Valley and we also had the opportunity to have delicious wine and food along the way. The suggestions below do not include everything we experienced in Willamette; rather, it highlights our favorites from the trip. I also wanted to preface this list by saying that there were quite a few wineries and restaurants that were closed due to the smoke/fires while we were there – a return trip is needed!


HOTELS:

Atticus Hotel (McMinnville): I LOVE THIS HOTEL! Sorry – didn’t mean to shout, but I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about the Atticus. My love for the hotel started before we arrived when we called to see how to get there from the coast since many of the roads were closed. They were so lovely to us over the phone and, after a harrowing drive, I literally felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Upon arrival, the valet couldn’t have been nicer, and we were promptly given sparkling wine as soon as we approached the front desk – heavenly! However, it was our room that really blew us away! We stayed in the Howard Hughes room and I wanted to move in! The décor was so chic! There was the snazziest bar area and ample living space separate from the bedroom. We also had a lovely patio that you could sit out on while enjoying wine. They also had easy access to Netflix, which I’m a big fan of. We didn’t get to go to their restaurant during our trip, but they had a convenient little shop with local wines, cheeses, and snacks that we certainly made good use of. I would return to the Atticus in a heartbeat – 10/10 loved!


The Allison Inn & Spa (Newberg): The Allison is what you would call a proper luxury resort! Superb customer service, beautiful grounds, a spa, and an acclaimed restaurant (Jory). Sign me up! We so enjoyed our time at The Allison. The location was perfect! Even though the resort is tucked away, you are still so close to the restaurants and wineries in the region. Our room was lovely and featured a charming patio with beautiful views of the area. While I didn’t take advantage of their spa services, I certainly enjoyed their indoor pool! It was perfect during this smoky time! I also highly recommend dining at their restaurant, which I will go into more detail about in the restaurant section.



RESTAURANTS:

The Horseradish (Carlton): I believe The Horseradish is the perfect lunch spot: quick and friendly service, great local wine list, and yummy food! I had a Sparkling Rosé and the Pastrami Sandwich. I’m not sure if those are an ideal pairing, but I thought it was delicious! Also, their homemade chips were amazing! The town of Carlton is very charming, and it was nice to walk around after our meal.


Jory (Newberg): Located in The Allison Inn & Spa, the Jory provided a top-notch meal. Our dinner was perfect from start to finish. I started with the Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad with Burrata that was mouthwatering! Then, I had the marvelous Iberico Pork Loin with Semolina Gnocchi, Grilled Peach, House Pancetta, and Pork Jus. Paired with a bottle of the Gran Moraine Pinot Noir, this meal was perfection! Service at Jory was flawless, and our table offered lovely views of the grounds of The Allison.


Trellis Wine Bar & Kitchen (Dundee): I must be honest: I was feeling a little down when we walked into Trellis for lunch. We had just found out that the Crater Lake portion of our Oregon journey was officially cancelled, and it didn’t look like the smoke was any closer to leaving the Valley. However, this place seriously turned my frown upside down – and fast! We ordered a bottle of the Penner-Ash Syrah to change it up from all the Pinot we had been drinking and it was delightful. To start, we ordered the Shishito Peppers which were served with the most amazing aioli. My husband was outside on a call when the order arrived, and it was quite difficult to save him a few. I had the French Dip for my entrée, and it was ridiculous! It had roast beef, Havarti cheese, horseradish aioli, Pinot Noir onions (!), and Mama Lil’s peppers – perfection!!! Not to mention the phenomenal fries it came with! Everything about our lunch at Trellis contributed to putting me in the best mood!


Red Hills Market (Dundee): Red Hills is the ideal lunch spot for a day of wine tasting! You order at the counter and then they have outdoor seating set up for al fresco dining. We kept it relatively simple and shared a Margherita Pizza and their Famous Roast Beef Sandwich! Their pizza crust was delectable and I loved the roast beef sandwich! The latter was divine – the caramelized onions were the star! But don’t forget about the wine! They have an incredible wine selection filled with all the local Willamette Valley wine you could imagine. I must return to try every pizza on their menu and work my way through the wine selection!


Rosmarino Osteria Italiana (Newberg): I loved this restaurant!! It was just a quick ride from the Allison to Rosmarino. Service was spectacular! The owner and his wife took such great care of us throughout our dinner. We started with the Burrata and Prosciutto and – holy sh$t – it was some serious burrata and the portion size was huge and an incredible value for the price. Since I could tell this place was legit, I was comfortable ordering the Bucatini Carbonara (which I typically only eat at home) and it did not disappoint! It was so decadent and delicious, and I was a little sad when it was all gone. We washed our meal down with some beautiful Barolo. Then, since we didn’t want our meal to end, we ordered the Pistachio Gelato and this fantastic Walnut and Cream Cake. I don’t typically order dessert, but I am so thankful that we did! From start to finish, it was an extraordinary meal at Rosemarino!

WINERIES:

Argyle (Dundee): I love bubbles! Argyle certainly satisfied my need for bubbles during this trip and we had a great tasting experience there. I opted for the Pop Flight which is a tasting of four of their best sparkling options. Their tasting room certainly has a fun atmosphere, and everyone was so hospitable. I could have sipped on bubbles there all afternoon.


Domaine Roy & fils (Dundee): Domaine Roy was the knight in shining armor of our Oregon wine trip. Many of the wineries and tasting rooms were closed our first full day in Willamette, but Domaine Roy was open and treated us so well upon our arrival that we didn’t want to leave! We tasted through some of the most amazing wines they have and even got a brief tour of the winery. The views from the tasting room are breathtaking! They are a low production, organically farmed winery and the wines blew us away. Among my favorites were the Yamhill Carlton Incline Pinot Noir and the Quartz Acorn Vineyard Pinot Noir. Just beautiful wines that you can treasure for a few years to come.


Domaine Serene (Dayton): I must admit that I was a bit hesitant to go to Domaine Serene since I thought it would be too corporate and pretentious, but – like every place we visited in Willamette – everyone was just so hospitable and kind. They just happen to have a beautiful winery and make some award-winning wines. Our tasting experience was marvelous and I highly recommend getting some cheese and charcuterie when you are there since they know their way around a cheese board! We loved the wines and my favorites included the Jerusalem Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Grand Cheval Oregon Red Wine (Syrah & Pinot Noir).


Durant Vineyards (Dayton): We had such a fun time at Durant! The staff were super friendly, and they just added so much to our experience! Their wine was perfect – we enjoyed the Lark Rosé and the Cardinal Pinot Noir the most. It was so interesting to learn about the history of Durant Vineyards. They have been growing fruit for many of the wineries in Oregon for years and they just created their own vintage starting in 2018. Their grounds were beautiful, and they had lovely outdoor space.


Knudsen Vineyards (Dundee): Ok – I know I say this a lot – but we had a blast at Knudsen! We were actually able to meet Paige Knudsen – one of the owners of Knudsen Vineyards. We talked with her about the history of the vineyard for awhile and it was fascinating! Their tasting room just opened in June 2020 and it was such a beautiful space. It felt high-end yet very comfortable. We enjoyed their wines immensely and naturally took home some of their Chardonnays and Pinots.

ACTIVITY:

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (McMinnville): Typically, on a wine country trip I am only doing two things: eating and drinking. However, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum provided us with such a fun afternoon in McMinnville. Initially, I only visited the museum to catch a glimpse of the Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose”. I’ve always been intrigued by Hughes and I thought seeing this massive airplane would be pretty cool. Turns out, it was extremely cool and there were so many other exhibits to see. Seeing the SR-71 Blackbird – one of the world’s fastest aircraft – was a highlight. But my favorite part of the museum was the people there. There were knowledgeable gentlemen at the entrance and at many of the exhibits telling us the highlights of the museum. I loved hearing their stories and their genuine passion for these aircraft. We weren’t even able to see everything we wanted to on one visit – so I believe a return trip will be in our future.

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