Some of the finest pinot noir vineyards in the world are perched on the rolling hills of the northern Willamette Valley. But the volcanic and marine soil is ideal for growing more than just grapes. Chefs here have long channeled the spirit of Oregon native James Beard by drawing inspiration from what grows in their own backyards.
The Brookside Inn has variously been a sawmill, a pot farm, and a Christian retreat center. The latest owners, Bruce and Susan Bandstra, transformed it into an enchanting nine-room country inn on 22 shaded acres that include lush gardens (edible and floral), a fire pit for roasting s’mores, and a picturesque pond full of rainbow trout and bass. (Fly-fishing encouraged.) Serious foodies themselves, the Bandstras also throw wine dinners with guest chefs from the likes of Seattle’s Crush and Portland’s Navarre. (Check the inn’s website for info.) 8243 NE Abbey Rd, Carlton; 503-852-4433; brooksideinn-oregon.com
A few miles north of the inn stands one of the valley’s sustainable-winemaking pioneers, Lemelson Vineyards. A Lewis & Clark grad in environmental law, owner Eric Lemelson oversees organically certified vineyards and uses gravity instead of pumps to move the wine from fermenter to barrel. Thu–Mon 11–4; 12020 NE Stag Hollow Rd, Carlton; 503-852-6619; lemelsonvineyards.com
Tony Soter, the former winemaker for Etude in Napa, serves some of the valley’s best pinots at the end of an unmarked gravel road. The modernist tasting room at Soter Vineyards also offers sweeping views of the Willamette Valley. By appointment only; 10880 NE Mineral Springs Rd, Carlton; 503-662-5600; sotervineyards.com; $20 tasting fee refundable with purchase
There’s no fancy tasting room at Belle Pente, but it would be a travesty to miss winemaker Brian O’Donnell’s earthy Murto Reserve pinot or his 2007 single-vineyard Estate Reserve pinot. O’Donnell and his wife, Jill, farm biodynamically, treating the soil not as dirt but as a living organism. By appointment only; 12470 NE Rowland Rd, Carlton; 503-852-9500; bellepente.com
Thistle chef Eric Bechard sources nearly everything within a 45-mile radius for a daily menu of delicacies such as light-as-air gnocchi served with fava beans, tomatoes, and shavings of sheep’s milk cheese, or albacore tuna with lobster mushrooms and peas in a crayfish broth. The bar next door serves pre-Prohibition concoctions such as the Martinez (gin, dry vermouth, Cointreau, and orange bitters). 228 N Evans St, McMinnville; 503-472-9623; thistlerestaurant.com
The Brookside Inn’s breakfast comes in stages (bring a book): strong coffee from Seattle’s Fonté Coffee Roaster and fresh blueberry scones; yogurt and buttery housemade granola with filberts, pine nuts, and, if in season, just-picked marionberries. If you haven’t been judicious, you might not have room for Bruce’s “wet” scrambled eggs with truffle salt and lardons.
At age 39, Adelsheim Vineyard is one of Oregon’s oldest wineries, with one of the valley’s newest tasting rooms. Tour the barrel caves, fermentation area, and press rooms. 11–4 daily; 16800 NE Calkins Ln, Newberg; 503-538-3652; adelsheim.com; $15 for five pours; $40 tour includes tastings
Down the lane is Bergström Wines, one of the valley’s first biodynamic wineries. Trained in Burgundy, Josh Bergström makes famously big-bodied pinots like the Cumberland Reserve but also classically structured chardonnays. Look for November’s “Epicurean Experience” lunches ($45–65). 10–4 daily; 18215 NE Calkins Ln, Newberg; 503-554-0468; bergstromwines.com; $15 tasting fee
Grab a fresh baguette sandwich at the Filling Station Deli in Carlton (305 W Main St, 503-852-6687), and drive to Lenné, just seven miles northeast (off Hwy 240). Winemaker Steve Lutz invites you to picnic on his front porch, provided you also taste. Try the pinots and you’ll know why the prime minister of Spain is a huge fan. Thu–Sun noon–5; 18760 NE Laughlin Rd, Yamhill; 503-956-2256; lenneestate.com; $5 tasting fee refundable with purchase
Kookoolan Farms is locally renowned for its vegetable CSA, creamy raw milk, and pasture-raised chicken. The farm also offers three-hour classes on truffle-making, humane chicken butchery (BYOClucker), and cheesemaking. 15713 Hwy 47, Yamhill; 503-730-7535; kookoolanfarms.com
Long a haunt of local winemakers, Red Hills Provincial Dining remains one of the valley’s top eateries. Richard and Nancy Gehrts serve meals like buttery Dungeness crab cakes with a mirepoix of vegetables, or a tender, flavorful halibut accompanied by a roasted-tomato ratatouille. Try a bottle of Gehrts Vineyard pinot, made by cult winemaker John Paul Cameron. 276 Hwy 99W, Dundee; 503-538-8224; redhills-dining.com
With its clerestory windows and views of mounts Hood and Jefferson, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars has one of the valley’s most striking tasting rooms. Try a $5 flight of viognier, pinot, syrah, and rubeo (an unusual blend of 70 percent pinot, 30 percent syrah that’s fantastic with barbecue), or do the pinot flight ($15). Wed–Sun 11–5; 15771 NE Ribbon Ridge Rd, Newberg; 503-554-5545; pennerash.com