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