Seems like these days, the world has discovered Oregon’s Willamette Valley and its wine, but the epicenter always seems to be McMinnville. There are so many other little outposts around the region. We decided to focus our tour in Newberg and Chehalem and see what the rest of the world might be missing.
Most tasting rooms open at 11 a.m., so that’s when it’s apparently OK to start drinking wine. Get acquainted with the town of Newberg by enjoying wine right in the downtown core—you can get to the views tomorrow. Start in an industrial district a few minutes from downtown Newberg, and since it’s early, you can grab a coffee from Caravan Coffee’s roastery. The shop is a longtime favorite in Newberg, ethically sourcing its beans and making a great cup of coffee. You can tour the roastery and try out coffees in the tasting room.
Then hop across the street to Owen Roe’s tasting room. This winery has two locations—here in Newberg and in the Yakima Valley, and sources its grapes from both regions. The result is some very special Oregon pinot noir, as well as deep, rich Washington reds. You’ll taste wines from both these terroirs in the tiny, unassuming tasting room.
For lunch, it’s time to head downtown and try Ruddick/Wood. This dark-wood, hip spot could easily fit in as part of a swanky neighborhood in Portland or another big city. There’s a tavern in the rear of the establishment, and up front are small tables that look out through wide windows onto First Street. Lunch offers a small menu of sandwiches and a few other options, and a decent wine list if you want to continue tasting through the meal. Dinner and brunch options are good here, too.
Take a stroll through downtown after lunch. The Newberg downtown is small but rich in its offerings. I like to judge towns by their independent bookstores, and Newberg has the charming, if small, Chapters Books and Coffee. The store has a curated selection of used and new books, and a lovely coffee area. The day I visited, there were at least a dozen college-age students drinking coffee and studying.
Velour would fit right in dropped intact on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, with its mix of thrift-store chic and hipster options—I’m talking prairie dresses, worn leather boots and band T-shirts galore. It gives Newberg a level of cool I didn’t know it had. Next, swing through Nikki Jane’s Boutique, a sweet boutique with accessibly priced accessories and fashion.
Uflora, just off the main drag on College Street, has an impressive array of houseplants in its storefront, and Lineage has neat homegoods options you won’t see elsewhere. All in all, the town’s stores are much more interesting and vibrant than most small communities, and it was a fun afternoon browsing.
Once you’ve gotten your shopping done, have a few more tastes of local wine. Et Fille Wines has an adorable tasting room on First Street. The space is modern with clean lines and bright white walls, and that allows the wine to shine. Et Fille started in 2003 as a father-daughter project. After Howard Mezeico died in 2017, his daughter, Jessica Mezeico, kept the winery going. The whites are as bright as the tasting room.
Next, stop in at Chehalem Winery’s tasting room. This spot has a fun industrial feel, and the winery makes an interesting variety of wines. It makes tasting interesting, because often in the Willamette Valley you can start to feel bogged down by so many delicious pinot noirs.
There are several other options for wine tasting in the downtown core. Bravuro Cellars features big, bold reds with distinct flavors. Artisanal Wine Cellars offers flights of its wines and changes them up each month. Plus, this spot is open until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Finish up with a plate of homemade pasta at Rosmarino Osteria Italiana. This downtown delight flies under the radar, but the authentic Northern Italian food will leave you with a smile. Dario and Sheena Pisoni make food from grandma’s recipe book. Be sure to make a reservation, and know that different days mean different menus (including a five-course wine pairing dinner on Saturday nights—$95 per person).
When it’s time to call it a night, there really isn’t a better spot to land than The Allison Inn & Spa. Every room has a fireplace, the resort features expansive gardens just right for strolling, and the spa has treatments such as the “mimosa,” a massage using champagne oil.
Today is a day for the backroads of Newberg and Chehalem, checking out far-flung wineries.
After breakfast at The Allison’s farm-to-table restaurant, JORY, strike out for that lucky 11 a.m. hour to start the wine tasting.
The winner for best views may just go to Colene Clemens Vineyards. Depending which way you get there, it involves several miles on a gravel road, but it’s worth it. A large patio offers killer views of the rolling hills below, with a perfectly worn barn to fit in the background of your selfies. Tasters will try four pinot noirs, all named for family members, as well as a rosé of pinot noir that tasting room employees call “summer in a bottle.”
After you’ve Instagrammed the perfection of this spot, head down to ROCO Winery. What this tasting room lacks in views it makes up for in delicious wine and a modern aesthetic filled with glass art. ROCO, started by Rollin and Corby Soles, is a newer member of the rich heritage of Willamette Valley wine. Rollin Soles co-founded Argyle, one of the OG wineries in the area, and his expertise in wine shows in each bottle.
In a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way, you can go any number of directions from ROCO, and no matter what you’ll find great wine. There’s Adelsheim Vineyard, with a huge tasting room and tremendous views. Penner-Ash Wine Cellars has a terrific outdoor area and is dog-friendly, while REX HILL offers fun tours of the property. Rain Dance Vineyards has a couple of friendly llamas to entertain you while you taste.
Whatever path you choose, treat yourself to a fine-dining dinner experience at The Painted Lady. This restaurant, set in a Victorian home, changes menu by the season, and the food is presented beautifully. The tasting menu features fresh ingredients in unusual combinations—think seared diver scallop with spring vegetables and a grapefruit hollandaise. Add a wine pairing to the tasting menu if you like.
Finally, Newberg has a special treat for movie lovers—a working drive-in. The 99W Drive-In is open Friday through Sunday nights, shows classics such as The Goonies as well as new releases, and sound is delivered through a FM radio channel. The perfect end to a perfect day.
If you’re all wined out, there are other options in Newberg. The childhood home of Herbert Hoover sits in the middle of Newberg, now the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum. The house was built in 1881 and is the oldest standing home in what was the original township of Newberg. Hoover, who was taken in by his aunt and uncle after his parents died, lived in the home for three years before moving to Salem and eventually on to be in the first class of students at Stanford University. The museum features much of the original furnishings of the home, including the furniture in a young Herbert Hoover’s room. The museum, a nice slice of history, is open Wednesday through Sunday from March to November, only on weekends in December and February and closed in January.
Do yourself a favor, too, by exploring the grounds of George Fox University. The 108-acre campus was founded as a Quaker school called Friends Pacific Academy in 1885. It’s a pretty campus with a rose garden, amphitheater and a picturesque bridge over a small canyon.
Finally, this is Oregon so there is also beer to taste, and Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery is the perfect place to stop on your way out of town.
When I pulled up to Wolves & People, I did a quick check of my phone to make sure I’d made all the correct turns. There wasn’t much in the way of signage, and I wasn’t quite sure how best to enter. I walked to the side, where the farmhouse door had been thrown open, leading right into the room holding the beer tanks. Inside this unassuming setup was a small bar with a bowl of pretzel sticks sitting on one end. I’d had a lot of wine that day, so I opted for a small pour of a New England IPA called Honeycone. It was wonderful, and I wished I’d saved room for more beer tastings. I left with a promise to return.
The Painted Lady
Rosmarino Osteria Italiana
The Allison Inn & Spa
Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery
99W Drive In