The Willamette Valley is known for its top-notch wines and beautiful natural scenery, and all of that style is infused into one of North America’s most exciting culinary scenes. Here are 10 of the best places to explore the flavors, ingredients and talents of the culinary wonderland that is Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Get your hands on the picking
Picking in the river and in the forest with Antica Terra Winery — Photo credited to the Antica Terra winery
Inspired by an ancient Burgundian tradition, the team of winemakers at Cave Antica Terra in Dundee offer customers the unique experience of gathering river rocks to ‘top off’ a version for which the harvest is so limited that it cannot not fill a single barrel on its own. Guests also forage for chanterelle mushrooms, fiddleheads, oxalis and other edibles, followed by lunch in the forest.
For those who prefer to enjoy the produce without congregating, visit Sokol Blosser Winery. The chef prepares unique dinners with items grown or found on the winery in the Farm and Forage dinner series.
Explore fire farm food
The Turning Point Team — Photo credited to Josh Chang
Tournant’s culinary team creates seasonal meals in the tradition of slow food, and guests can experience everything – from open-fire cooking classes to nature-immersion adventures and lifestyle retreats. Full moon dinners in partnership with local wineries and a four-day feast and rafting trip on the Rogue River are some of the current offerings, which change with the season.
Discover the South Willamette Wine Country
King Estate Winery — Photo credited by Jill Barth
Surrounding the town of Eugene, the southern part of the Willamette Valley wine region offers more than 20 tasting rooms – some of them in town, while others are scattered throughout rural and natural settings. You’ll find everything from royal ownership at Domaine du Roi (home to the largest Biodynamic® certified vineyard in North America) to family hospitality on the terrace at Sweet Cheeks Wine Estate and Vineyard.
Also enjoy unique food producers such as Camas Country Mill Store & Bakery which uses local crops and also provides Thinking Tree Spirits with its grains for distillation.
Dinner at Newberg
The Chef’s Table at Jory’s at The Allison Inn & Spa — Photo credited to Allison Inn & Spa
USA Today’s Top 10 readers voted Newberg one of their favorite small-town food scenes, “sitting squarely between the farm and your table,” according to its motto. The city attracts some of the most talented chefs in North America, including many of the James Beard nominees. And for social proof, check out the reservation and review apps to choose from a slew of restaurants that are top-rated by discerning diners.
For accommodations, book a room at The Allison Inn & Spa and enjoy superb farm-to-table meals at Jory’s Restaurant, where local vendors and produce are showcased.
McMinnville’s Food Scene
A dish at the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic — Photo credited to ©2019 by McMinnville Wine + Food Classic
This town is known as the “Heart of Oregon Wine Country,” thanks to its location in Yamhill County, between Portland and Salem. There are more than enough top-notch restaurants, and many of them host some of the most coveted winemaker dinners in the country. Once a year, McMinnville Wine + Food Classic is the place to meet dozens of Oregon’s wineries, chefs, bakers and breweries.
Slip into Salem
Wine at group dinner at Territory restaurant — Photo credited by Joshua Rainey
Salem calls itself “the most Oregon part of Oregon,” where quirky restaurants meet taps and tasting rooms with personality. According to a Travel Salem report, 90% of visitors have participated in the culinary scene while in the area.
For a sweet treat made from local fruit, head to Willamette Valley Pie Company, just east of town. Enjoy tacos and beer at Brasserie Xichala, Oregon’s only Latinx brewery.
Top Chef: Portland Experience
Willamette Valley Vineyards — Photo credit to Willamette Valley Vineyards
Bravo TV positioned the 18th season of “Top Chef” in Portland, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most sacred food towns. Even if you haven’t seen the show, the farm, markets, and restaurants featured here make for a delightful Oregon road trip. Highlights include Bauman Farm and Garden, Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Gathering Farm. These were all filming locations, but some didn’t make the final cut, so you can get an insider’s look at some interesting locations.
Eat local in Eugene
Eugene’s collection of murals and street art — Photo credited by Jill Barth
Located in the South Willamette Valley, Eugene is known for its innovation and varsity sports. But any visit there will prove that this city also has agricultural and culinary action. Check Lane County Farmer’s Market every Tuesday and Saturday to get an idea of what’s in season. Take advantage of the bustling downtown scene for a selection of international and Pacific Northwest restaurants, many of which are local or family-run.
To see the artistic side of the city, grab a coffee and pastry from Cuisine Pâtisserie Noisette and Eugene’s collection of murals and street art.
Vineyards that exceed expectations
Hilltop Experience at Stoller Family Estate – Photo credit to Stoller Family Estate
Sometimes the best place to try new culinary experiences is at a local winery, and one of the Willamette Valley’s finest resources is its deep winemaking history. There’s everything from the award-winning tasting room at Stoller Family Estate with small plates and wine education on view, to Elk Cove Winery’s multi-day food and wine rafting trip. If you want to soak up multiple wineries, book a Willamette Valley Wine Tasting Tour with America’s Hub World Tours.
Discover Willamette Valley Truffles
Black Tie Tours Custom Truffle Hunt — Photo courtesy of Lucas Cook
Take part in the only event of its kind in North America, the Oregon Truffle Festival. Based in Eugene, the experience includes chef dinners, tastings, classes and educational opportunities. The Willamette Valley is also home to the Joriad North American Truffle Dog Championship, in which dogs of all breeds show off their truffle hunting skills.
Want to try it for yourself? Black Tie Tours offers a personalized truffle hunting experience, complete with a picnic lunch and local wines to top off the afternoon.