Published July 2020
This summer, travel looks much different than years past. People are eager to leave their homes and make memories with loved ones, but they want to do so safely. And for most, this means skipping crowded bars, forgoing long lines outside of popular museums, and picking a vacation destination close to home.
If this sounds like your pandemic travel style, you’re in good company. During Fourth of July weekend alone, the average number of miles a guest traveled to their destination was down 22% compared to last year.
Fortunately, Oregon wine country is a reasonable drive for most Pacific Northwest residents. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or a gathering with friends—it is bachelorette season, after all—you can enjoy wide open spaces, scenic views, and a bottle (or two, or three) of award-winning Pinot Noir.
Well within reach for Portlanders, the North Willamette Valley is made up of quaint towns like Carlton, Dundee, McMinnville, and Newberg. And, it has hundreds of tasting rooms, ranging from obscure to utterly famous. In 2018, 50-year-old Stoller Family Estate ranked number one as USA Today’s Best Tasting Room in the Nation, and its bright, upscale atmosphere makes it a favorite among many. If “wine, hip-hop, and chill” is more your style, don’t miss Abbey Creek Vineyard, owned by the state’s first recorded Black winemaker, Bertony Faustin.
Arguably one of the most stunning wine tasting regions in the U.S., the Columbia Gorge is decidedly worth the drive—no matter where you’re coming from. You’ll enjoy unbeatable views of snow-capped Mt. Hood, roaring waterfalls, and basalt cliffs. The Dutch Colonial Gorge White House is a solid choice if you have beer and cider drinkers in your crew, or little ones who want to pick berries. For a truly novel experience, order a glass of Viognier at the restored Sunshine Mill, where sparkling lights and ornate chandeliers hang from century-old rafters and pulley systems.
Oregon’s high desert region is known for its craft breweries, dog-friendly businesses, and mountainous outdoor adventure, but it also has an emerging wine scene that makes it an excellent destination for those who love rich Malbecs and Zinfandels. After summiting Smith Rock, sprawl out on the lush lawn at Maragas Winery and replenish your energy with a Mediterranean appetizer plate. Then, head to Faith, Hope & Charity Vineyard to gaze at the Three Sisters mountain peaks, and even meet a few friendly llamas.
The Southern region of the Willamette Valley is bordered by the Cascade Mountains in the heart of free-spirited Eugene, also known as “TrackTown USA.” Explore the vibrant town and stop by the historic Hayward Field before winding through country roads to reach wine country. King Estate Winery, the self-proclaimed “Kings of Pinot since ’91,” is essential to cross off your list, and it has a full restaurant in case you work up an appetite. With a glass of chilled Pinot Gris in hand, watch the sunset from the lesser-known Sarver Winery, perched atop a hillside above rolling hills of emerald estate vines as far as the eye can see.