What Should You Do in the Willamette Valley, Oregon? Visit a Winery!


5 minutes reading

Nestled between the Oregon Coast Range and the expansive Cascades, the Willamette Valley is renowned as one of the premier wine regions in the world. Its picturesque landscapes, rolling hills, and temperate climate offer an idyllic backdrop for seasoned oenophiles and casual wine enthusiasts. If you are planning a visit, here is a 5-step guide to ensure you experience the best of what Willamette Valley and its wineries have to offer.

Start with the Basics: Understanding Willamette Valley Wine

Before diving into the winery visits, it is beneficial to understand what makes Willamette Valley wines unique. Predominantly known for Pinot Noir, the cool-climate region also produces exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The alternating hills of volcanic and marine sedimentary soil combined with the valley’s microclimates contribute to the distinctive terroir of the wines. Identifying which grape varieties and wine styles you are most excited to taste is helpful before planning your visit. 

A hand grasps recently harvested Riesling grapes in a bin next to vine clippers.

Choose Your Adventure: Diverse Wineries Await

With over 500 wineries scattered throughout the region, Willamette Valley offers a diverse range of winery experiences with something for everyone.

  • Estate Wineries: These are larger properties that tend to boast expansive vineyards and state-of-the-art facilities. Each step of the winemaking process, from vineyard management to bottling, is controlled by the winery. Many estate wineries offer guided tours, food pairings, and educational opportunities.
  • Boutique Wineries: Consider visiting boutique wineries for a more intimate experience. Typically, a winery is considered “boutique” when it produces fewer than 10,000 cases of wine each year. These smaller wineries tend to be family-run, and you often meet the winemakers themselves while gaining insights into their craft and passion. Some boutique wineries also include a vineyard, but most work in partnership with local growers for their fruit.

Plan Your Route: Must-Visit Wineries

While every winery in Willamette Valley has its charm, a few stand out for their exceptional wines and ambiance. Below is a list of the 2023 Best Fan-Favorite Oregon wineries from a year’s worth of reviews on Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor.

  • Brooks Wine (Amity): Celebrating 25 years of making wine and 50 years of growing vines, Brooks is a family-owned, biodynamic winery in the heart of Willamette Valley. As one of the most awarded wineries in Oregon, Brooks offers renowned Pinot Noir, Riesling, and other aromatic white varieties alongside a 180-degree panoramic view and a monthly pairings menu.
  • Dobbes Family Estate (Dundee): Founded in 2002, Dobbes is dedicated to consistently crafting wines that exude the best of Oregon. That includes traditionally made Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir and other varietals from Oregon’s Willamette and Rogue Valleys.
  • ENSO Winery (Portland): An urban winery in SE Portland crafting old-world style wines focusing on Washington-grown varieties boasting big, bold personalities, including Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel.
  • Dominio IV Winery (Carlton): With a tasting room situated inside a 100-year-old barn, the Dominio IV team prides themselves on assisting guests with discovering new perspectives. Their focus is bold varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier.
  • Willamette Valley Vineyards (Turner): As one of Oregon’s most recognized wineries, Willamette Valley Vineyards produces a wide range of varietals, from Pinot Noir to Riesling. Their dedication to sustainability and community involvement has solidified their reputation in the industry.
  • Abacela (Roseburg): Established in 1995, a family of Spanish scientists founded this Southern Oregon winery determined to introduce fine Tempranillo to American palates. Abacela now boasts multiple awards for their Old World style wines and sustainable farming practices. (Not located within Willamette Valley, but with a list that highlights the best fan-favorite wineries in all of Oregon, we would be remiss if we didn’t share this one with you!).
Friends enjoying a Willamette Valley winery.

Beyond Wine: Other Activities in Willamette Valley

While wine is undeniably the star of the show, Willamette Valley offers a plethora of activities to complement your wine-tasting journey:

Tips for a Memorable Visit

  • Reservations: Due to Willamette Valley’s popularity, many wineries require reservations, especially during peak seasons like the summer and holidays. Always check before your visit and plan accordingly.
  • Dress for Comfort: Oregon wine country has no fashion do’s and don’ts. Tasters in jeans and hoodies are just as welcome as tasters in sundresses or blazers. Pay special attention to footwear if participating in a tour or walking the grounds. The wineries can be slick, and the vineyards are full of mud and molehills. Layers are also advised. Oregon weather can change within a matter of minutes. Be prepared so a surprise rainshower doesn’t dampen your visit.
  • Designated Driver or Tours: Ensure safe travels by either appointing a designated driver or opting for guided tours that provide transportation. Call the wineries on your list for their top recommendations.
  • Taste Responsibly: With numerous tasting opportunities, it is essential to pace yourself. Savor each sip, hydrate, and perhaps indulge in some palate-cleansing snacks.
  • Stay the Night: Extend your trip and stay at one of the many unique accommodations offered in the Willamette Valley. Whether you prefer the indulgence of spa resorts, the charm of bed and breakfasts, the coziness of cabins and flats, or the nostalgic allure of vintage trailers, there’s a perfect lodging option to cater to every taste and style.

More Than Just a Wine Region

Willamette Valley, Oregon, is a sensory experience offering a journey through lush landscapes, award-winning wines, and warm hospitality. Whether you are a wine enthusiast or a curious traveler, the valley promises memories that will linger long after the last sip. Plan your visit, explore with an open heart, and let the magic of Willamette Valley enchant you.