Vintage Willamette

Wine-tasting day trips outside Portland

By: Kenneth Shapiro

This is the first Image
Just 30 miles from Portland, David Hill
and other Willamette Valley wineries
make for a great day trip.
On recent surveys, food and wine travel has been consistently ranked as one of the strongest interests of travelers, with numbers indicating the trend is still growing. This niche is an especially good market for the Pacific Northwest, which has become a leading region for organic, locally grown foods and small highly respected vineyards. The wineries outside Portland are no exception, and a wine-tasting day trip of the Willamette Valley would be a great suggestion for Oregon-bound visitors.

Tastings and More
The Willamette Valley is one of Oregon’s most scenic areas, with green rolling hills and small farms dotting the landscape. If your clients happen to catch it on a sunny day, they might feel like they have stumbled upon a true hidden gem perhaps a reason why this area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Washington County, in the Willamette Valley, also lays claim to being the birthplace of pinot noir wine, although Brian Harney, director of marketing and communications for the county’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, calls the claim “somewhat controversial.”

A wine-tasting day trip in the Willamette Valley should start at the venerable David Hill Vineyard & Winery, only 30 miles from Portland. This 140-acre farm is actually a designated historical landmark, with a farmhouse on the property dating back to 1883, and the oldest commercial vineyard in Oregon. The current owners have been there since 1992, and the winery has undergone a complete restoration in that time.

Visitors can sample the winery’s pinot noir, pinot gris, Riesling, chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and award-winning port wines. Additionally, the grounds feature acres of vineyards and charming gardens with stunning views of the surrounding valley, making for a great picnic spot. The winery is available for weddings and other events.

Weekends and holidays get a little busy, but on a weekday, visitors can have the grounds and the attention of the down-to-earth, friendly staff practically to themselves. The next stop on your clients’ wine-tasting outing should be the 240-acre Montinore Estate, just down the road from David Hill in the northern end of the Willamette Valley. This family-run winery was established in 1982, and there’s a good chance your clients will run into owner Rudy Marchesi or his daughter Kristin, or winemaker John Lundy, on a visit (as well as Mabel the family bull dog).

Montinore produces almost 35,000 cases of wine each year, and the winery has been recognized by everyone from Food & Wine to Wine Spectator. The vineyards planted with pinot noir, pinot gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Muller-Thurgau also make for terrific views. The estate’s low-key staff offers tours on the weekend but warn that it can get crowded. The estate is especially popular with groups, so agents should book well in advance.

Montinore also hosts a variety of special events, including wine pairings, photo contests and jazz concerts.

For something a bit different, your clients’ final stop should be SakeOne. Located close to Montinore, SakeOne is one of the only sake breweries in the United States, and the only American-owned outfit.

It’s a rare treat to be able to see how this Asian rice wine is made. The sake-making process is complicated and time consuming, and SakeOne clearly has a passion for it. Their “sakery” produces three brands: Momokawa, Moonstone and G, all of which have won a variety of awards. They are also the first brewery to make fruit-infused sake, a trend that is catching on elsewhere. Guests should be sure to ask for one of SakeOne’s “saketini” menus, featuring cocktails made with sake, such as the Scarlet Begonia, the Wasabi Mary, the Happy Sumo and the Dirty Dirty Saketini.

According to tasting room manager Jennifer Brownstein, the staff at SakeOne seeks to personalize the tasting experience for their guests.

“We see it as taking you on a journey,” she said. “We won’t give you a list of what we think you should drink, we want to customize the experience to the visitor.”

In addition to its tour, SakeOne can host groups and is always trying out new events, including its Saketini Saturdays concert series, artist receptions, sake-pairing dinners and even a kimono fashion show.

The best part of a day spent wine (or sake) tasting in the Willamette Valley is that it’s just a short drive back to the gourmet restaurants of Portland. And after all your clients’ “research,” they will no doubt have worked up an appetite.


Convention & Visitors Bureau of Washington County

David Hill Vineyard & Winery
Tasting room open noon-5 p.m.
Price: No fee for tastings

Montinore Estate
888-359-5012 (ext. 106 to schedule groups)
Tasting room open 11 a.m.-5 p.m.,
weekends; 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., weekdays.
Price: $5 for five tastings

Tasting room open 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Price: $3 for at least five tastings