Grape Escape

A Willamette Valley road trip

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

If you need a few days break from “real life,” consider heading south to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Sandwiched between the coastal mountains and the North Cascades, the valley is the state’s burgeoning wine country, where lush, meandering hills and dales are heavily populated with wineries, the majority of them small, family-owned enterprises.

I spent the night at one of them, the Black Walnut Inn and Vineyard, a Tuscan-style inn that sits high up on a hill overlooking rows of neatly planted vineyards. The 15-acre property has expansive rooms, cozy, fireplace-lit nooks and warm decor, making it a fabulous place to breathe in the beauty of the region.

My first night I sat before an outdoor fireplace on the terrace, soaking in the quiet beauty of the wine country. At breakfast the next day my frittata came adorned with edible flowers and herbs snipped from local farms. Fueled and fortified, I set out to explore.

The valley is home to 700 wineries and tasting rooms, and within a 20-mile radius of the inn there are no less than 250 of them. The fabulous wines being produced in the valley are garnering industry awards, international attention and respect for their sophisticated notes. If you appreciate good wine, you can’t go wrong in this neck of the woods.

Our first stop was Zenith Vineyard for a tasting of pinot gris and a chat with hostess Jenn Stein. “Our winemakers received a huge confidence boost in 2016, when Wine Spectator named the Willamette Valley wine region of the year,” she told us. “It gave us the assurance that our wine profiles had validity and could hold their own.”

Over glasses of Zenith’s auxerrois, pinot noir and tempranillo, we learned about the 90-acre sustainable wine farm where no pesticides or herbicides are applied. 

Sustainability is a key word at several of Willamette Valley vineyards. At a picnic lunch at Maysara Vineyard, Mo Momtazi discussed his biodynamic farming, a series of holistic practices focused on pesticide-free, clean, conscious plantings.

“We believe this allows for a superior expression of our terroir in our wines,” he said. It’s certainly reaping results for Momtazi, who planted the vineyard in 1997 and treats his vines with a steeped tea made from stinging nettles.

Later, I spent an indulgent afternoon sauntering around McMinville. Once a hub for walnut farming, the walnut groves have been replaced with vineyards in recent years. As a result, the sleepy city of 33,000 is enjoying a renaissance as brewers and vintners become increasingly successful.

The historic downtown is lined with mom-and-pop cafes, wine-tasting rooms, gift shops and boutiques. Outdoor concerts have become a summertime staple in the Grainery District and old grain warehouses have been reincarnated into coffee shops, breweries and cellars. This is the place to hang out and people-watch on a gorgeous sunny day. With a cold drink in your hand and a farm-to-fork meal on the horizon, this is a place that makes “real life” feel far, far away.

More Outdoors...
Rough Rides
Off the rails

If a flat ride through bucolic farmland is what you think of when you picture taking your bicycle on an autumn excursion, it might be time to stop reading.

On the other hand, if what excites you is challenging trails and bringing a sense of adventure to your weekends, it’s not too late to…

more »
Wild & Scenic
By activists, for activists

Five species of salmon and three species of seagoing trout make their way through the Skagit River watershed each year and, since 1990, the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group has been working to involve communities in habitat restoration and watershed stewardship in order to enhance their…

more »
Mountain Man
In his father’s footsteps

If Leif Whittaker’s father hadn’t been the first American to reach the top of the highest mountain in the world, it’s likely the younger Whittaker’s life would’ve taken a different trajectory.

But the fact is that, in 1963, James “Big Jim” Whittaker reached the summit of Mt. Everest as a…

more »
Fall Lynden Craft and Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

My Fair Lady

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre


7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center


7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Anacortes Vintage Market's Evergreens and Icicles

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Scream Fair's Camp Fear

7:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Matilda the Musical

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre


7:30pm|Upfront Theatre


8:00pm|Old Main Theater

Community Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Blaine Senior Center

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Orca Recovery Day Work Party

9:00am|Nooksack River

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Yoga and Detox

9:00am|Community Food Co-op

Blanchard Beast Trail Race

9:00am|Blanchard Forest Lower Trailhead

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Steam Expo

10:00am|Lynden Middle School

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Your Life is a Story Writer's Group

10:30am|South Whatcom Library

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Fall Festival

11:00am|Camp Korey

Kraut-chi Ferment Class

11:00am|Chuckanut Center

Winter Warmth Drive and Pickup

11:00am|Assumption Church Gym

Art Therapy Workshop

1:30pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Telling Tough Stories

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fables and Tales Upcycle Runway Challenge

6:00pm|Settlemeyer Hall

Concrete Ghost Walk

6:00pm|Concrete Theatre

Brew on the Slough

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Civic Way Sportsplex

How I Learned I'm Old

7:00pm|Village Books

Take Me to the River Live

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Skagit Symphony presents Highland Heritage

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

My Fair Lady

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre


7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Matilda the Musical

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Trails to Taps Relay

9:00am|Depot Market Square

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Wild Mushroom Show

12:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building

Harvest Festival

1:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk

Skagit Topic

2:00pm|Skagit County Historical Museum

What If We All Bloomed?

4:00pm|Village Books

Murder Mystery Dessert Theater

6:00pm|Christ Fellowship Church

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Housing Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Northwest Paella

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op


7:00pm|Alternative Library


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »