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Discover Willamette Valley

Wine Country

Our Willamette Valley Wine Travel Guide shares a brief history of the region, terroir, where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines.

WHERE IS WILLAMETTE VALLEY?

The Willamette Valley is a huge and varied appellation, stretching 150 miles lengthwise from south of Eugene all the way up to Portland and spanning 60 miles at its widest point. Within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, there are nine nested AVAs that have been designated unique growing regions due to the specific and unique conditions of each of these areas.

To get to Willamette Valley, fly into Portland International (PDX), rent a car and drive about an hour into the Valley.

BEST TIMES TO VISIT

Most prefer to visit the Willamette Valley during summer months as this is the time of year the region sees the least rain/the most sun. However, the weather is also mild in Spring and Fall. For the shoulder season between Spring and the peak of Summer try visiting in May or June. Prefer to visit wine country during harvest season? Keep in mind that most wineries will be crushing grapes in September, making it the period during which you’re most likely to catch harvest in-action. It’s also still very warm in September.

Willamette Valley wine map

TERROIR

There are 25,452 acres of planted vineyards and close to 700 wineries in the Willamette Valley. The region accounts for 70% of the state of Oregon’s wine production, and 83% of the state’s Pinot Noir production.

As with so many wine regions, it’s tricky to try to describe the entire Willamette Valley’s terroir.

The Willamette Valley is a huge and varied appellation, stretching 150 miles lengthwise from south of Eugene all the way up to Portland and spanning 60 miles at its widest point. Within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, there are nine nested AVAs that have been designated unique growing regions due to the specific and unique conditions of each of these areas.

Lange Winery in Willamette Valley
Lange Winery in Willamette Valley

The Valley is currently classified as a Region 1 Cool Climate region, which means it qualifies as one of the coolest wine growing regions (on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the coolest) but the climate and conditions of the different AVAs vary relatively widely. In addition, temperatures have been rising in this region like so many others, due to climate change.

Overall, the Willamette Valley has a long and mild growing season with warm summers, cool evenings, long Autumns, and mild winters followed by long Springs. It is protected from the coldest air blowing from the Pacific and most heavy rainstorms by the Coast Range Mountains on the West side and from the dry, desert climate of Eastern Oregon by the Cascade Range, to the east.

The predominant soil types found here are Marine Sedimentary (Willakenzie), Volcanic (Jory, Nekia), and Windblown Loess or Silts (Laurelwood).

The conditions in the Willamette Valley are particularly well suited for growing Burgundy varietals, such as Pinot Noir, which is the primary focus of the region. It’s not just the topography and weather that bear similarities to Burgundy, the Willamette Valley is actually situated at 45° North latitude, parallel with Burgundy. It is these combined factors that have motivated winemakers and winery founders from not just the U.S. but also from France to invest in planting Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley.

TOP GRAPE VARIETIES IN WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Willamette Valley has traditionally focused primarily on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris but in recent years the region has seen an increase in the diversity of other plantings. Today, you can find a wide variety of unique (if not downright obscure in the New World) grape varieties being grown.

WHITE WINE GRAPES

RED WINE GRAPES

WHERE TO SIP

With nearly 700 wineries in the Willamette Valley it can be hard to narrow down where to sip for your grape escape. To help make your wine vacation truly great, we’ve pulled seven of our favorite Willamette Valley wineries to sip, with our top three being…

Cristom
Vineyards

Adelsheim
Vineyards

Domaine
Serene

TOP WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINERIES TO SIP IN

Plan Your Willamette Valley Wine Vacation

Photo provided by Macari Vineyards

WILLAMETTE WINE TRAILS

Oregon’s Seven WondersThis trail is for both beer and wine lovers. For wine lovers, you have seven Willamette Valley wineries to explore and beer lovers are offer four craft breweries along the route.

East of Eden Wine TrailThe emphasis of this Willamette Valley wine trail is on boutique wineries in the eastern portion of the valley.

Eugene Wine TrailThe southern portion of the Willamette Valley, just outside the town of Eugene is the Pedaling for Pinot – Eugene Wine Trail. This is the perfect trail for those of you who are into biking and wine tasting. The country roads will take you to both large and elegant to small and intimate wineries, and all of them make amazing Pinot Noir.

Salem Wine TrailTwelve wineries and five historic places along the route, including Oregon’s State Capitol, makes for a history and wine lovers perfect wine country getaway.

BEYOND THE VINES

The Willamette Valley spans some 150 miles and is one of the richest wine-producing regions in the United States. You can easily spend weeks exploring the sprawling vineyards but there are so many things to do in Willamette Valley when you venture beyond the vines.

Spend a Full Day at Silver Falls State Park

Ride the Willamette River Bike Trail

Shop at Fifth Street Public Market

Things to do in Willamette Valley Wine Country that go beyond the vines
Things to do in Willamette Valley Wine Country that go beyond the vines

Top 10 Things to do in Willamette Valley Besides Wine Tasting


Sip in More Oregon Wine Country…


Brooke Herron

A 19-year wine industry veteran and marketing strategy consultant, Brooke returned home to Sonoma County in late 2019 after four years of living and working abroad. When she’s not working on marketing projects for clients you can find Brooke hiking, enjoying a good glass of wine, or sitting somewhere with an ocean view.