In an amazingly short time the Willamette Valley in Oregon has grown into a wine region known for its high quality varietals, not least for the finest Pinot Noirs made in the U.S. Now, with 700 wineries—up from 400 in just nine years—it is third after California (with 2,843) and Washington (1,070) in numbers, but its quality levels are easily competitive with the best in the world.
This is all the more remarkable because, although some wine has been produced in Oregon since the 19th century, modern viniculture only made its mark since the 1960s, and it was the investment in Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley by the French Burgundian vigneron Joseph Drouhin that prompted others to invest in the state.
The Valley’s estate owners have been canny about marketing and have managed to establish 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) distinguishing terroirs. Just as important, the industry has been vigorous in promoting agro-tourism in the region, and to go by the news announced by Willamette Valley Wineries Association, 2024 is going to be a banner year. Here are but a few of the most exciting announcements in this, one the loveliest valleys in the Pacific Northwest.
Primary for agro-tourism are tasting rooms, which are being built as attractions that go well beyond a wooden shed in the back of the vineyard. Antica Terra is debuting a barrel hall tasting room, in May, which will feature intimate tasting bays as sipping areas for wine collectors. In June, they will also offer a tasting “in the trees,” with visitors gathered in the heart of the property, surrounded by its natural beauty. . . . Francis Ford Coppola’s Domaine de Briglie is changing its name to Domaine Lumineux with a new tasting room in Newberg. . . . Corollary Wines will serve its sparkling wines at a new tasting room with panoramic views of the estate vines, once a timber property. . . . The newly established Balsall Creek Vineyards is opening its tasting room this spring in the Chehalem Mountains nested AVA, showing off its unusual varietals of Gamay, Aligoté, and others. . . . Lingua Franca Wines will celebrate its inaugural to offer flights of its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. . . . Namaste Vineyards, which has some of the oldest vines in the AVA, is renovating an historic hay barn dating back to 1920 into a brand-new tasting room, expanding its food offerings to include an enticing array of small plates, charcuterie boards, and homemade artisanal chocolate truffles crafted using their coveted Reserve Cuvée Pinot Noir. . . . Left Coast Estates has a new Library to provide in-depth wine education, by reservation only, along with a hiking trail and wood-fired pizzas. . . . Lachini Vineyards will evoke its owners’ Mediterranean roots with a grand venue complete with an onsite chef, an open kitchen, indoor and outdoor tasting areas. . . . Chosen Family Wines will open their Road House Tasting with an exclusive setting alongside the Wilsonville River. Guests can select from three distinct tasting flights, curated by the Chosen Family team, with the option to pre-order charcuterie boards.
Other events in the Valley include the Taste Newberg Truffle Trail in February and March to forage the woodlands for truffles. . . . West Hills Vineyards has a new event space called “The Chapel” coming in June, with a capacity to accommodate up to 200 guests, ideal choice for grand occasions such as weddings. The Chapel comes complete with a well-equipped catering kitchen and antique bell. . . . Greywing Cellars has its first Native American winemaker in Brandy Grey, both Cerokee and Navajo, making Pinot Noir and sparkling Rosé across two Willamette Valley appellations, with the label used to help support fellow indigenous peoples. . . . Willamette Valley Vineyards Camping Space has introduced “Into the Woods,” an exclusive haven designed for wine-loving recreational vehicle enthusiasts. . . . Mother’s Day Sparkling Wine is being specially celebrated at many of the area’s boutique winery tasting rooms with abundantly flowing sparkling wine. . . . The Bubbles Fest will be held February 17-18, with 28 producers paired up with local seafood and special bites. Local cheeses and sweets will be on hand as well as music from DJ Jimbo. . . . The Oregon Chardonnay Celebration on February 24 will have 50 esteemed producers, while The Allison Inn’s executive chef, Jack Strong, and other Valley chefs offer bites to go with the wines. . . . And the 40th Anniversary Throwback Weekend will be held March 1-3, to commemorate four decades of viniculture, with a special focus on all things from the iconic year 1983.