Should life ever take you to Portland, I highly recommend spending a day in the Willamette Valley, tasting what I would argue is the best Pinot Noir the world has to offer.
From the Portland airport it’s just over an hour drive to the Valley. If you have a full day, you can easily get in 3-4 tastings plus lunch.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO)
Reasons you should go here: It is owned by the Drouhin family from Burgundy (as in France) and the French know what they’re doing with wine, all of the wines are good, the tasting room is casual and you don’t need a reservation for parties smaller than 8, the patio overlooks one of the best views in the Willamette Valley. And, if you join the wine club, you get a tour and tasting at Maison Domaine Drouhin in Beaune, France!
Stoller Family Estate
While sitting at Stoller, I had a heated debate with myself about whether I enjoyed their deck more or DDO’s. Maybe someday I’ll go to the Willamette Valley with someone else so I can have the debate out loud? Anyway, they had a surprisingly good rose, two good chardonnays, and many good pinots. There were a lot of groups out enjoying the patio and the grounds, so take friends!
This is the most expensive of the places I’m recommending, but it is worth it. They are by appointment only so make sure you make a reservation in advance. Happily, if you live in DC you can find their 2016 Pinot Noir at Mastro's Steakhouse (or the 2015 in my wine fridge).
After Beaux Freres, head around the bend to Utopia. It has a very casual tasting room, great staff, and great pinot noir.
My favorite wine at Bergstrom was a chardonnay although they also have a nice selection of pinots. Schedule a tasting here - the stories about the winemakers and how various wines got their names are worth it even if you don’t take any bottles home. Chris led my tasting - he’s great if he’s available.
Bergstrom, Utopia, and Beaux Freres are all fairly close to each other, but keep in mind your tastings at Bergstrom and Beaux Freres need to be scheduled in advance and will last 45 minutes to an hour.
When it’s time for lunch, head to the Dundee Bistro or the Horse Radish in Carlton. Alternatively, you can take a picnic to some vineyards (like Stoller). That’s really the best option if the weather is nice. Order a glass of wine you liked the best from the tasting and take in the scenery. You can stock up on picnic goodies at the Red Hills Market in Dundee.
Pro-tip #1: In Oregon, vineyards charge anywhere from $15-30 for a tasting of 4-7 wines, though often they’ll let you sample additional ones you’re interested in. Most will waive your tasting fee if you purchase 2 bottles or a certain dollar amount of wine. So, buy a 12 bottle shipper, buy a couple bottles you like at each stop, and tape it up and fly it home! Ask your hotel for packaging tape, they usually have it.
Pro-tip #2: Don’t get a DUI. Use those dump buckets or make sure you have a designated driver.
Ready to Go?