Post Overview: Visiting Willamette Valley & Best Wineries in the Willamette Valley
Like many lifelong Oregonians, visiting Willamette Valley felt like a rite-of-passage. Oregon’s premier wine region had alluded me for years, but no longer. This past summer and fall I spent most of my weekends going wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.
I wanted to get a proper feel for the area to better understand how to set up a proper Willamette Valley wine tasting itinerary. I’ve had a lot of readers reach out about visiting the wineries in Willamette Valley but I wasn’t in a position to give advice. I decided to prioritize that this past summer and am happy to share my insights.
All told, I visited 23 wineries and narrowed down a list of the 10 best wineries in Willamette Valley. It was no easy feat, but you know the drill: not all wineries are created equal. Some excel in the wine department but don’t offer much in terms of vibes. Others are so focused on creating the perfect venue they forget to make great wine.
Some of the Willamette Valley wineries I visited were lackluster at best, so they’re not added on this list. I hope my experience is helpful in allowing you to create the perfect day trip to Willamette Valley for wine tasting.
Without further ado, let’s cover helpful tips for visiting Willamette Valley and roundup up the best wineries in Willamette Valley as well. Hope you enjoy!
How many wineries are in Oregon’s Willamette Valley?
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s premier wine-producing region. Accounting for two-thirds of the Oregon’s wineries, there are more than 500 wineries in Willamette Valley alone. Needless to say, visiting Willamette Valley will require research and prioritization (that’s where I come in!).
Tips for Visiting Willamette Valley
Book, baby, book (early)
Based on my experience visiting Willamette Valley in the summer and fall of 2022, I highly recommend booking early. Make a list of the Willamette Valley wine tastings you’re interested in and book them as soon as possible.
You can easily visit two wineries per day and have enough time to slowly enjoy the day. If you’re more interested in sampling as much wine as possible you can probably visit three wineries in Willamette Valley in a day. But heads up: you may feel rushed.
Regardless of how many wineries in Willamette Valley you plan to visit, make reservations in advance if you’re visiting in the summer. The best wineries in Willamette Valley get booked out several weeks in advance from June – September.
Local’s Tip: If your schedule is flexible, I suggest visiting Willamette Valley in the winter. Park yourself at a winery (with your best girlfriend) while catching up over pinot noirs and cozy fireplaces. Admire the moody fog outside, as it takes permanent residence over the rolling hills. It’s a great way to stave off the winter blues, but this bad boy definitely helps too.
Food options are limited
Many of the Willamette Valley wine tastings didn’t have food pairings. One of the waiters mentioned that, by law, wineries can’t offer customers full bottles without having food options, so they only offer wine by the glass instead.
Granted, most wineries in Willamette Valley offer cute little charcuterie boards that will fit perfectly into your Instagram feed. But unless you have the diet of a fresh baby lamb, you may find yourself hungry for more. Besides, it’s always good to have food on your stomach before going wine tasting in Willamette Valley.
The solution is a cute little restaurant called Red Hills Market that offers great food in a picture-perfect setting. Swing by before, during or after wine tasting.
The other spot I highly recommend is the tasty food cart (Kopitos) across the street from Red Hills Market. We ordered the chicken, shrimp and rice bowl (pictured blow) and it was SO delicious!!
Visiting Willamette Valley? Prioritize your priorities
One of the things that surprised me most about visiting Willamette Valley was the steep price tag of the wine tastings. I found it way overpriced! Is that too blunt? Am I allowed to call them out on this?
The best Willamette Valley wineries we visited offered tastings (typically three small glasses) for $35-40 per person. If you’re planning to embark on a self-guided Willamette Valley wine tasting tour, you’ll probably want to visit 2-3 wineries which means you’ll need to budget about $80-$120 per person for small tastings.
Ugh. You’ll need to prioritize the wineries you want to visit most, because this won’t be a cheap day trip.
Even though most of the wine was enjoyable, I couldn’t help but feel the experience was overpriced. Granted, if you’re an avid wine connoisseur who laughs at the mortals buying wine at Trader Joe’s, you can feel free to tell me I know nothing.
But for those of you that love Trader Joe’s wine selection or feel your heart beat escalate when you see a coupon for a good bottle, you may find yourself feeling like I did. Is visiting Willamette Valley fun? Hell yes! But it’s damn expensive too. So come prepared.
Is there pressure to join a wine club while going wine tasting in Willamette Valley?
I can honestly say no. As mention, I visited 23 wineries in Willamette Valley and didn’t end up joining a single one. That’s not to say they were good (there’s a handful I would have signed up for!) but I’m not at a point in my life where I can justify spending $200+ for a wine club.
It’s not a priority for me and I’m happy to report that I didn’t feel pressure to join while going wine tasting in the Willamette Valley. I had pleasant experiences are all the wineries and had no problem asking for the check without feeling guilty.
Based on my experience, I’m guessing that staff are well trained not to apply pressure. This is a huge perk and makes visiting Willamette Valley a joy!
Hiring a driver for wine tastings in Willamette Valley (Good Luck)
You know what they say, safety first. After visiting Willamette Valley on a handful of occasions, I’m still surprised by how challenging it is to figure out the driving situation. Because the entire process of hiring a driver for wine tasting in Willamette Valley was so confusing, I ended up driving myself.
I asked a few folks at the various wineries why hiring drivers was so difficult (and cost-prohibitive). They said that there’s a handful of locals that operate driving businesses, but most of them work regular jobs Monday-Friday. When they work on the weekend the demand is so high (because there aren’t many options) that prices get obnoxious.
As such, the best way to enjoy wine tasting in Willamette Valley is …
Self-Touring Willamette Valley Wineries Without a Driver
Pick someone in the group that will abstain from drinking, or go with a group of 3-4 people and have one person sit out a tasting. The wine tasting in Willamette Valley tend to last 2-3 hours and the pours aren’t very large.
If you’re going in a group, simply have one person sit out a tasting and swap that role around. This is what I ended up doing while visiting Willamette Valley last summer and fall. It worked like a charm, plus it was fun to hang out with friends I haven’t seen in a while.
Best Wineries Willamette Valley
#10. Domaine Serene
Like many of the best wineries in the Willamette Valley, Domaine Serene started with a love story. A lifelong dream of Grace and Ken Evenstad, this husband and wife duo set roots in the Dundee Hills in 1989. Hailing from Minnesota, the Evenstads were no strangers to the importance of hospitality. Using their passion for service and appreciation for the velvety rich wines of Burgundy, they started a winery that grew to become one of the best in the state.
Before Oregon’s Willamette Valley was even on the map, the Evenstads invested in a breathtaking 42-acre hilltop estate and promptly built Domaine Serene. The winery is named after their daughter and bills itself as one of the first luxury wineries in Oregon.
No detail overlooked, no expense spared. If you’re looking to impress an out of town guest (or just yourself), Domaine Serene will fit the bill. This stunning Willamette Valley winery is best known for the elegant Tuscan-inspired venue coupled with an extensive list of award winning wines.
Plus, the scenery is hard to beat. Stunning vineyards dripping grapes, sit outside and enjoy the pleasant summer breeze with a cold glass of white wine in hand.
This is one of the best wineries in Willamette Valley for those looking to gather a large group of friends together. It’s not an intimate setting, so seating space is ample. You can easily fit a large group if you made reservations early enough.
Verdict (B): If I’m being honest (as I feel inclined to be), Domaine Serene seemed like the most touristy winery in Willamette Valley. The service was top-notch, but it was missing an overall quality of charm. And even though I hate to say it, there was an air of pretension that would grate the nerves of any lifelong local. Oregonians don’t operate on labels and status, so I found the vibe a little off-putting. Plus, this ended up being one of the most expensive wine tastings in the Willamette Valley, not cool.
Helpful Advice: Where to stay while visiting the Willamette Valley
There’s three main city hubs in the Willamette Valley: McMinnville, Dundee and Newberg, here’s the best hotel options in the areas.
- McMinnville: Here’s my favorite hotel in the area
- Dundee: Best Hotel in Dundee
- Newberg: Here’s where I usually stay.
The family behind Bergstrom winery in Willamette Valley has been working magic since 1999. They strive to create responsible wine by being good stewards of the land they’re entrusted with. Every decision is made with sustainability in mind, fully embracing the natural terroirs that best represent the Willamette Valley.
This beloved Willamette Valley winery is best known for Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs. To get a fair shake at the variety offered, book one of the personalized tours and allow your taste buds a chance to sing. In my experience, these Willamette Valley wines are pleasantly sharp, a testament to the rich volcanic soil and marine sedimentary hillsides.
In any case, Bergstrom offers one of the best wine tastings in Willamette Valley and is worth a stop for wine lovers.
#8. Domaine Roy & fils
Domaine Roy & fils is billed as one of the chicest wineries in Willamette Valley and it’s not hard to see why. The experience starts before you even step food inside. Visitors are greeted by four ancient olive trees, transporting the mind from the fragrant pines of the Pacific Northwest to the calming bliss of a dreamy Mediterranean climate.
Once you pass the monolithic olive trees (shipped in from California!) you’ll find yourself in a stunning dinning setting. Massive floor-to-ceiling windows give way to unparalleled views of the vineyards below.
Vines growing in all directions, towering olive trees still fresh in your mind, it’s a very fun experience. If you’re visiting the Willamette Valley in Oregon’s blissful summer months, ask to be seated outside. The outdoor deck is well designed and has a great vibe.
My mom and I visited in October and the chilly temperatures made the indoor table an easy choice. We were placed at the table near the large window (perks of being the earliest reservation during the off-season) and started our wine tasting experience in Willamette Valley.
Verdict (B): The wine was good, but like some of the other wineries in Willamette Valley, it didn’t hit the exact spot. Likewise, it was on the more expensive side (we paid $35 per person and got 3-4 ounces of wine each). My mom and I rated the winery the day after our visit and landed on B. We’d revisit if invited by friends, but would prefer to explore new wineries before returning to this one.
#7. Stoller Family Estate
Stoller Family Estate was the first wine tasting in Willamette Valley my mom and I did together. Waking up to a warm September day was the only excuse we need to get in the car and take a day trip to wine country.
We weren’t quite sure where to start (we hadn’t explored the area before) and after doing some research, landed on Stoller Family Estate.
They have two seating areas — a beautiful indoor/outdoor patio area (by reservation only) and a massive outdoor lawn full of adorandak chairs and a few large picnic tables. We didn’t make reservations (lesson learned) but since we arrived very early in the day, they sat us at the restaurant.
We had a great time tasting the various wines on offer and munching our way through a well-curated charcuterie board of locals cheeses and meats. Stoller Family Estate was a great intro to the exciting wineries in the Willamette Valley.
Verdict (B): The setting was beautiful, we loved having the panoramic views of the scenic vineyards at our feet. As for the wine? It was good but not great. After our visit, we acknowledged that Stoller Family Estate is great for the vibe (and view!) but it’s not necessarily worth going out of the way for the wine alone. Just our two cents.
#6. Sokol Blosser Vineyards
Situated on 89-acres in the Dundee Hills, Sokol Blosser Vineyards is a certified organic, B Corp winery that strives to capture the terroir of the region and express it through wines.
Crafting exceptional award-winning wines in the Willamette Valley using sustainable methods, the story of Sokol Blosser Vineyards dates back to 1971. Two puppy-eyed youths, Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser decided to invest in a dream.
When they planted their first vines in the Dundee Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area), they were running on youthful enthusiasm and frantic prayers. The reason? There was no wine industry in Oregon at the time.
Not easily deterred, they ended up establishing themselves as one of the oldest wineries in Willamette Valley. In 2021, Sokol Blosser Vineyards celebrated 50 years and doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon.
While planning my one day wine tasting itinerary in the Willamette Valley, I knew a tasting at Sokol Blosser was non-negotiable. Mostly because I’d seen photos of the breathtaking winery and had to see it for myself. My husband and I made reservations for wine tasting and promptly made our way over at opening.
The setting was stunning, even more beautiful in person. I felt like I was living in an issue of Architectural Digest (and there’s no way I’d rush that moment). Our wine tasting included a red, white and sparkling wine.
Everything was good, but the sparkling wine stole the show by a mile. We liked it so much we bought a bottle for the house (hey, New Years Eve was a mere 5 months away!).
We create wines of world class quality that are produced sustainably, mindful of the environment, that express the distinctive flavors of our hillside vineyards. Sokol Blosser wines reflect who we are – our values and our sense of place. We hope you enjoy them.Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser
Verdict (B+): All told, this is one of the most beautiful wineries in Willamette Valley but the wines (apart from the sparkling), while enjoyably, weren’t easily memorable. Would I return? Yes, but mostly for the dreamy setting, it’s not to be missed.
#5. Soter Vineyards
Founded in 1998 by a husband and wife, Soter Vineyards is the passion project of Tony and Michelle Soter. Producing high quality Pinot Noirs and sparkling wines, this is a great Willamette Valley winery for those that love a little sparkle in their lives.
The best things about this charming Willamette Valley winery is undoubtedly the epic provisions tastings. If you have an occasion to celebrate, or want to feel like a million bucks, make a beeline to Soter.
There’s a handful of fun tasting experiences to choose from, but we opted for the classic tasting during our first visit because it was the most affordable option. The tasting comes with five current release wines presented by a professional specialize in a private format.
You get to learn about the winery, the storied history of the valley and get a better appreciation for the skill that goes into the industry. All told, this was one of the best wine tastings in the Willamette Valley because it was so comprehensive. Even at $45 per person, it was worth every penny.
“We focus on biodynamic grape growing as the key to creating rich flavor and substance in our wines. Our cellar techniques look to the wisdom of past generations, and our approach is to trust these natural processes to best evoke the voice and character of each vineyard we work with. “Soter Vineyards
Verdict (A-): Epic winery, some of the best wines in the Willamette Valley, but damn — with a price tag of $45, I reserve it for special occasions. Granted, the price is fair for the quality of wine and the overall “private” experience. However, I’m a mere mortal and price matters to me but it may not matter so much for you (way to go you!).
#4. Trisaetum Winery
Opened in 2003 by James and Andrea Frey, Trisaetum (tris-say-tum) is one of the most unique wineries in Willamette Valley. As unique as the name itself. Named after the couple’s two children (Tristen and Tatum), this Willamette Valley winery specializes in Pinot noirs and Resling wines.
The Frey family is dedicated to sustainable practices, using organic and bio-dynamic practices exclusively. They rely on the mild climate and acidic soil of the Willamette Valley to produce some of the most unique wines in the Willamette Valley.
The tasting room serves as an art gallery featuring James’ paintings, which is a cool touch. The tasting fee is $30 per person but is waived with the purchase of 2 bottles of wine per taster.
Verdict (A): Top notch wines served in a relaxed setting. This is one of the coziest wine tastings in the Willamette Valley and worth the drive. The entire experience was very warm and friendly, for lack of better words — supporting this local winery simply feels good. The passion and entrepreneurial spirit of the Frey family shines through.
#3. Knudsen Vineyards
Knudsen Vineyards in Willamette Valley was an accidental find. I was exploring the area with my mom and decided to find small local gem by using Google Maps. Knudsen Vineyards popped us as one of the closest nearby, so we decided to pay them a visit. Little did we know what a pleasant experience awaited us.
We came without reservations but were promptly seated. This is a perk I cannot overstate when you opt to visit small wineries in Willamette Valley over the larger ones (which seem to have never-ending waiting lists).
Details aside, of all the best wineries in the Willamette Valley, none surprised me more than Knudsen Vineyards.
She shared some quick history and explained that Knudsen Vineyards produces Burgundian wines, representative of the Burgundy region of France.
I later learned that their vineyards are highly desirable to many of the wineries in Willamette Valley, but Knudsen prefers to keep their production minimal.
As such, you won’t find these wines in the stores, so stock up while visiting the Willamette Valley if any make your palate sing. Both my mom and I were blown away from the rich and complex notes of this wines. We found ourselves quickly falling in love with the Willamette Valley simply because of the wine tasting experience at Knudsen Vineyards.
If you visit, don’t sleep on the well curated charcuterie board. The cheeses are divine and pair with the German inspired Willamette Valley wines flawlessly.
Verdict (A): I’d give them A+ for wines (some of the best wines in Willamette Valley), but the venue doesn’t wow like some of the other Willamette Valley wineries on this list. As such, we’re landed at an A. Would I return? In a heartbeat, and I’d be running, not walking.
#2. Domaine Drouhin
When it comes to producing the best wine in Willamette Valley, Domaine Drouhin is the apple (grape?) of my eye.
Focused on traditional French winemaking methods, the Drouhin Family creates some of the most elegant and fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. But that’s not surprising, considering the Drouhin’s are an established powerhouse in France’s revered wine industry.
Helmed by Véronique Boss-Drouhin (born and raised in Burgandy), Domaine Drouhin was established in 1987. Véronique moved to Oregon from France with a clear mission in mind: produce the best pinot noirs in Willamette Valley. Effectively making this one of the original woman-founded wineries in Willamette Valley.
She exceeded expectations and has been globally-recognized for her skill. In 2019, she was awarded France’s highest award for merit, the Légion d’Honneur, for her wine making skills in Burgandy.
I could go on, but you’d probably enjoy the story more with a glass of wine in hand. So let’s keep it moving. In terms of the wine, I would bathe in the velvety pinot noirs, swim through oceans of the Pinot gris and run marathons to do it all again.
Okay, the marathon part is made up but the other stuff is true. Hell, I enjoyed this Willamette Valley wine tasting so much I returned two times.
I especially love the fact that Véronique names her award winning wines after her kids. The pinot noir is named after her red-headed daughter (clever) and the Chardonnay is named in honor of her blonde son. And you know I can’t resist the cheesiness of that.
Skills get more refined, methods evolve, but what’s important is what is transmitted from generation to generation: The search for excellence, the intellectual curiosity, the sense of values, passion, the respect for terroir.”— Robert J. Drouhi
Verdict (A+): This is one of the best wineries in the Willamette Valley because it excels in all three departments. The wine, the setting, the service — it’s all *chef’s kiss. If I were to join a wine club, it’d be this one. But I have to marry someone rich (I married for love the first time and that’s going pretty well, so I’ll keep you posted on the wine club updates). I’ve been dreaming of this wine since visiting their winery in Willamette Valley and would buy bottles of the pinot in bulk.
#1. White Rose Estate
No list outlining the best wineries in the Willamette Valley would be complete with mentioning White Rose Estate. In the hot summer days of 2000, Greg Sanders knocked on an old farm house door with a proposition to buy. The farmhouse sat atop a hill surrounded by a small vineyard rooted in 1980, renowned in the area for its fruit.
Impressed by the quality of the fruit, Greg sought to buy the land and peruse his dream of owning a vineyard in the Willamette Valley. But not just any vineyard, no, Greg wanted to make something special. He embarked on a mission to produce artisanal hand-made wines using the best fruits available in the valley.
The end result? The best wine tasting experience in the Willamette Valley.
What makes this winery unique is the whole cluster fermentation method employed. This method entails fermenting whole clusters of grapes (vines, stems and all) — which amplifies aromatics and produces an earthy wine that spoils the senses.
Even the most ardent sommelier can’t help but love these beloved wines. White Rose Estate is pepper with awards that span the gamut. The wines are earth, complex, velvety and structured, you don’t need to be a professional to see why these are considered some of the best wines in the Willamette Valley.
All told, this ended up being our favorite wine tasting in Willamette Valley. Between the top-notch customer service, epic setting and wine (the wine was SO good!) we’d come back in a heartbeat. Anyone visiting Willamette Valley for the first time should prioritize a tasting at White Rose Estate.
The objective of our winemaking is to present the terroir of our vineyards in a pure, focused style, enabling an expression of elegance and clarity that only great vineyards can achieve. Aromatic complexity and depth of flavors that demonstrate varietal typicality are the fundamental goals for all our wines.White Rose Estates
Verdict (A+): This place is a gem! My friend visited this Willamette Valley winery after I raved about it and ended up signing up for their wine club. She brought a bottle of pinot noir for a girl’s trip at the Oregon coast and I was in heaven! White Rose Estate’s Pinot noir is one of the best wines in Willamette Valley and is not to be missed!
Best Wine Willamette Valley (FAQs)
Where is Willamette Valley?
Located in western Oregon, Willamette Valley is bordered by the Cascade Range to the east and Oregon coast to the west. The valley is divided by the Willamette River. The scenic drive to the Willamette Valley from Portland takes about 1.5 hours, making this a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.
What is Willamette Valley Known For?
Sitting at the same latitude as France’s notable wine regions, Willamette Valley is known for producing producing award-winning pinot noir wines that can hold their own in worldwide competitions. And do.
It’d be a mistake to sleep on the other varietals though. The best wineries in Willamette Valley also produce memorable Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines as well.
The rule of thumb while doing wine tastings in Willamette Valley is to ask about the winery’s award winners. Sometimes it’s not a pinot noir, but a pinot gris (or the like) that puts them on the map. You never know!
Facts about Oregon Wine
|If you’re interested, here’s some fun facts about Oregon wine:|
|Oregon produces around 1% of the country’s wine yet earned 20% of Wine Spectator’s domestic 90+ ratings in 2015 and 2016. In “regular people speech” this simply means our state makes some knock-out wines! Quality over quantity.|
|Home to more than 908 wineries (not a typo), Oregon is the 4th-most wine producing state in the country.|
|Oregon has 19 certified wine growing regions that span the length of the state from north to south. Featuring more than 700 wineries, the impressive Willamette Valley is undoubtedly the gold standard in terms of wine producing regions.|
|But don’t just take my word for it, acclaimed New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov called Willamette Valley “the country’s most exciting wine area.”|
|In terms of grapes, Oregon’s flagship varietal is the Pinot noir, followed by Pinot gris and Chardonnay. Worth mention, Oregon is regarded as one of the premier Pinot-producing regions in the world. Have a glass and see what all the fuss is about.|
Visiting Willamette Valley + Best Wine Tastings Willamette Valley (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the best Willamette Valley wineries that offer the best wine tastings in Willamette Valley Oregon. I hope you enjoyed!
- White Rose Estate
- Domaine Drouhin
- Knudsen Vineyards
- Trisaetum Winery
- Soter Vineyards
- Sokol Blosser Vineyards
- Stoller Family Estate
- Domaine Roy & fils
- Domaine Serene
Map of the best Willamette Valley wineries
Growing up in Oregon it didn’t take long for me to realized we are spoiled for choice when it comes to good wine. Of course, I had to come of age, so gaining this knowledge took longer than I wanted. Indeed, for most of my formative Oregon years, I was seen as nothing more than a designated driver but you know what?
Life is all about connections and some people had debts to pay (looking at you, mom). Over the past ten years I’ve extensively explored this breathtaking region in search of the best wineries in Willamette Valley.
This is no easy task, mind you, as there’s more than 500 wineries in this famous Oregon wine region. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, but regardless — I don’t want this firsthand knowledge to go to waste.
I’ve weeded through commercialized successes to glean the worthwhile ones and paired them with some hidden gems I’ve found in the list below. I hope you enjoyed this list of the best Willamette Valley wineries worth the drive.