While you can find wine made throughout the state of Oregon, the wines grown and produced in the Willamette Valley are the state's best-known and most highly acclaimed wines. The Willamette Valley is prime Pinot country; the area's climate and soil conditions are perfect for growing Burgundy style wine grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. There are about 500 wineries in Willamette Valley out of 700 in the entire state, and several rise above others as the best of the best Willamette Valley wineries.
Argyle has recently built a new tasting room made of glass, steel, and wood, and it's the perfect place to stop, taste, and sip with indoor and outdoor seating. Their wines are highly rated by wine experts, and they're especially well-known for their world-class sparkling wine. For example, the Extended Tirage vintage sparkling wine frequently scores higher than 95 points from Wine Spectator. Of course, the Pinot Noir wines are excellent as well. Try the Nuthouse Pinot Noir, named to honor the winery's heritage as a former hazelnut processing plant, which frequently scores ratings in the mid 90 point range.
When visiting Argyle for a tasting, you have your choice of four flights (the POP flight features some really good bubbly, while the Red Diamond flight focuses on Pinot Noir), and servers bring the wines already poured to you so you can taste each glass side-by-side. Argyle is open 7 days a week (11-5 Monday through Thursday and 10-5 Friday through Sunday). It's located in Dundee at 691 Highway 99. Flight tastings range from $20 to $30.
Located high in the Dundee Hills amidst picturesque vineyards, Archery Summit is a beautiful winery making gorgeous Pinot Noir wines. The acclaimed wines from Archery Summit are often highly rated by wine experts from Wine Spectator and other wine rating agencies (usually in the 91 to 94 point range), and they're excellent examples of just how good Pinot Noir from Oregon can be. The single-vineyard estate Pinot Noirs are especially delicious; and even their whites such as Ab Ovo Pinot Gris and Chardonnay win acclaim.
The winery is located at 18599 NE Archery Summit Road in Dayton, and it's open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. You can drop in for a casual tasting in the tasting room or on the patio, or enjoy a private tasting and tour by appointment by calling 503-714-2030. Tastings start at $30.
Domain Drouhin is a family-run winery established by the Drouhin family from Burgundy, France. With a Burgundian approach to Pinot Noir, Domaine Drouhin makes beautiful, nuanced, Old World style Pinot Noir wines that have won critical acclaim. Several of the single vineyard wines are named for family members including the lucious and intense Cuvée Laurène Pinot Noir (usually receiving low to mid-90s ratings and costing around $65) and the Chardonnay Arthur (which garners monster ratings for a $40 bottle of wine).
The winery and tasting room is beautiful and sits high in the hills with a stunning view of vineyards and the valley below. The tasting room, located at 6750 NE Breyman Orchards Road in Dayton, is open daily from 11 AM to 4 PM, and the 6-wine flight of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir costs $25. Reservations are required for large groups by calling (503) 864-2700.
Domaine Serene is a beautiful winery that makes gorgeous wines. Like other Dundee Hills wineries, Domaine Serene focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with spectacular results. Wine such as the Grace Hills Vineyard (around $120 per bottle) and Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir (about $80 per bottle) are often considered collectible wines with ratings above 95 points. Here, you'll find the winemakers have a deft touch with Burgundy-style wines; their Chardonnays are also highly acclaimed and delcious examples of just how good wines from Dundee Hills can be.
The picturesque winery is set in the rolling Dundee Hills surrounded by vineyards and lushly landscaped grounds. The clubhouse is open for tastings daily from 11 AM to 5 PM, and tasting experiences start at $25 for walk-ins and work their way up from there. Large groups and private tastings can book experiences by emailing the winery. The winery is located at 6555 NE Hilltop Lane in Dayton.
The Eyrie Vineyards
Making beautiful and balanced wine at an affordable price is what The Eyrie Vineyards specializes in. Primarily making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, you'll also find Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc here. Wines are usually around $25 to $50 a bottle, and they often receive high ratings in the low to mid 90s.
The winery is located at 935 NE 10th Ave in McMinnville, The Eyrie Vineyards offers tours and tastings every Thursday through Monday by calling 503-472-6315. You'll need to make an appointment for the seated tasting and tour, a personalized experience that costs $40. You'll taste six or seven of the winery's wines such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
Bethel Heights Vineyard
Located in the Amity-Eola Hills AVA at 6060 Bethel Heights Road NW in Salem, the Bethel Heights Vineyard remarkable estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, as well as Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. In 2017, Robert Parker 's Wine Advocate awarded Bethel Heights with an Extraordinary Winery Award, making it well worth the visit. The tasting room is open daily from 11 AM to 5 PM, and it pours tasting flights for $20. You can also schedule private or group tastings by calling 503-581-2262.
Located at 6905 Spring Valley Road NW in Salem, Cristom Vineyards produces sustainably farmed wines in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The wines have received great acclaim; Wine & Spirits Magazine recognized Cristom as one of the "Most Popular Wines in America's Restaurants," and the winery produces top notch Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Syrah. The tasting room is open daily from 11 AM to 7 PM, and a seasonal tasting flight is $15. You can also book group and private tastings by calling 503-375-3068.
Willamette Valley AVAs
As of 2019, Willamette Valley is home to eight American Viticultural Areas (AVAs - essentially, distinct wine-growing regions), all which have wineries you can visit to taste some of their delicious wines. The AVAs of the Willamette Valley include:
- Chehalem Mountains: A mountainous 20-mile by 5-mile AVA located in the northern region of the Willamette Valley AVA, Chehalem Mountains is located southwest of Portland and south of the Dundee Hills AVA.
- Dundee Hills: Oregon's oldest and most distinguished AVA with old-vine vineyards, rolling hills, and plenty of Pinot Noir, the Dundee Hills AVA is located 30 miles southwest of Portland and about 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.
- Eola-Amity Hills: The Eola Hills run past the 45th parallel, the approximate halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator. This area has shallow volcanic soil and receives cooling fogs and winds from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
- McMinnville: One of Willamette Valley's most western AVAs, McMinnville AVA is just west of the city of McMinnville located in Yamhill County.
- Ribbon Ridge: A subregion of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, Ribbon Ridge sits as a 5 square mile area at the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains.
- Van Duzer Corridor: Located in a valley of the Coast Range, the Van Duzer Corridor receives cooling breezes funneled through the Coast Range mountains from the ocean, creating a cooling effect that allows for cultivation of cooler weather grapes.
- Willamette Valley: This AVA covers over 5,300 square miles from Portland to Eugene. All of the other AVAs are subregions of the Willamette Valley AVA.
- Yamhill-Carlton: This AVA is surrounded by hills, which provides protection from the weather. It's located in Northwestern Oregon near the towns of Yamhill and Carlton north of McMinnville.
Enjoy the Best of the Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley is pretty as a picture when you drive through the rolling hills and river valley's of Oregon's premier wine country. So whether you visit a natural wine bar in Portland or take a drive through the verdant river valley, the wines that come from the region stand up as some of the best not just in Oregon, but in the entire world.