1. EVESHAM WOOD VINEYARD & WINERY If you can get an appointment to taste Evesham Wood’s silky, complex pinot noir with owner and winemaker Russ Raney, expect to sample it in the basement of his family’s home, where every nook is filled with barrels—all part of the appeal of visiting. Thanks to Raney’s quiet, contagious enthusiasm for meticulous winemaking and Evesham Wood’s small production, its wines can be difficult to find. A visit to the winery might turn up that rare bottle you’ve been looking for. 3795 Wallace Rd, Salem; 503-371-8478; by appointment only
2. CRISTOM VINEYARDS It was difficult for our wine critic to choose between Cristom’s Jessie Vineyard pinot noir and its Eileen Vineyard pinot for our list of the top 10 Pacific Northwest bottlings. Why? Because both are among North America’s very best. One need not get caught up in such quibbling when visiting the winery, however, because whoever’s behind the tasting room counter will happily let you compare either with Cristom’s other single-vineyard bottlings. 6905 Spring Valley Rd, Salem; 503-375-3068; Sat-Sun 11-5, Mon-Fri by appointment only (Mar), Tue-Sun 11-5 (April-Nov), by appointment only (Dec-Feb)
3. ST INNOCENT WINERY Located on the southern end of the Eola Hills, St Innocent’s brand-new, 30,000-square-foot facility is located in the middle of the 133-acre Zenith Vineyard. Winemaker Mark Vlossak makes his pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc and chardonnay using grapes from the surrounding area as well as from fruit grown in the other parts of the valley, including the Dundee Hills, where the winery’s White Rose Vineyard pinot noir, one of our picks for the top 10 Pacific Northwest wines, hails from. 5657 Zena Rd, Salem; 503-378-1526; Sat-Sun 11-4 (Jan-Mar), Wed-Sun 11-4 (Apr-Dec)
4. BETHEL HEIGHTS VINEYARD Framed by tall east-facing windows on three sides, the Bethel Heights tasting room lightens the soul with spectacular views, even on a gray, rainy day. Perched on a bluff that overlooks their immaculately cared-for vines, this family-run winery owns one of the first pinot vineyards to be planted in the AVA. Its estate-grown pinot noir and Eola-Amity cuvée are two of the best-valued pinot noir in the area. 6060 Bethel Heights Rd, Salem; 503-581-2262; Sat-Sun 11-5 (Mar-May), Tue-Sun 11-5 (June-Aug), Sat-Sun 11-5 (Sept-Nov), and by appointment only (Dec-Feb)
ALSO WORTH A VISIT
5. EYRIE VINEYARDS 935 NE 10th Ave, McMinnville; 888-440-4970; Wed-Sun 12-5
The Lowdown: Although all of its vineyards are in the Dundee Hills, the winery and new tasting room are in McMinnville. Eyrie’s wines become even more remarkable with age.
6. PANTHER CREEK CELLARS 455 NE Irvine Ave, McMinnville; 503-472-8080; daily 12-5
The Lowdown: Set in McMinnville’s former power plant, the winery was recently remodeled to include a tasting room; sample pinot noir while standing among stainless-steel tanks and barrels.
SALEM AND BEYOND
Although fewer winemakers have set up shop in the southern tip of the Willamette Valley AVA, several noteworthy wineries between Salem and Eugene are worth seeking out. Just south of Corvallis, right off of Hwy 99W, BROADLEY VINEYARDS (265 S 5th St, Monroe; 541-847-5934; by appointment only) produces distinctive pinot noir—most notably their two estate—vineyard block selections, Claudia’s Choice and Marcile Lorraine. Broadley’s Willamette Valley bottling also represents one of the best values among Oregon pinot ($20). Down the road, BENTON-LANE (23924 Territorial Hwy, Monroe; 541-847-5792; daily 11-4:30) also produces a Willamette Valley pinot noir that’s great for the price (about $26), as well as a bright pinot gris, among other varietals. South of Eugene, KING ESTATE (80854 Territorial Rd, Eugene; 800-884-4441; daily 9-5) is home to the world’s largest contiguous organic vineyard, with over 465 acres planted mostly with pinot noir and pinot gris. Its equally sprawling facilities include a tasting room and a full-service restaurant whose fruits and vegetables are picked fresh from 30 acres of orchards and gardens.