Wine & Travel

Snooth User: JenniferT

Wine tasting in Oregon (McMinnville)

Posted by JenniferT, Aug 20, 2013.

Hi! I've been quite busy with travel for work so I've been off the radar a bit. I unexpectedly had a few days free so I took a last minute trip to Portland for a few days - I'm there now. Tomorrow we were planning on driving out of town to do some wine tasting, etc....probably McMinnville. 

I was too busy and tired to really make any plans for this trip, so I'd really appreciate if it anybody happens to see my msg before tomorrow and has any advice on some good places to check out (same goes for restaurants, etc). If not, well...I'm sure we'll find some interesting stuff anyway. I'm mostly just happy to have some time off from work. :) 




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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 20, 2013.

I've mentioned a couple times that I've been planning to go visit Big Table Farm when I make it up there. Maybe you'd have time to check it out? They have a few Pinot's, a Chard, and Syrah on their roster, all very promising stuff I hear, and one of the proprietors was cool enough to hop on Snooth and join in the conversation when we talked about them. They are about an hour west of Portland. Address: 26851 NW Williams Canyon Road - Gaston, OR 97119 - Contact: It's by appointment only so e-mail clare - clare @

Another rec would be St. Innocent - They are open daily 11-5. About an hour South/West of Oregon. 5657 Zena Road NW - Salem, OR 97304 - Tel: (503) 378-1526



Reply by EMark, Aug 20, 2013.

Not going to be able to help you with wineries, Jennifer, but here are a couple dining ideas in Portland.

I happened to be watching the Guy Fieri show, last night, and he visited a place in, I believe, the SE section of Portland.  It was a sausage place called Edelweiss (like the flower song from Sound of Music).  They make their own sausages and bolognas--as I recall well over 100.  They don't do just German sausages.  They showed the preparation of a Salami that looked awesome.  I'm guessing that they offer mostly sandwiches, but it appears that they also have some unusual wines to choose. 

When I used to travel to Portland, the sales rep. there knew that I was always ready to go to Jake's.  It's mostly seafood, but they also do steaks.  Wine list is OK, not great.  The food is better.  There are two locations, both downtown--the original and another one connected to the Governor Hotel called Jake's Grill.

We look forward to your report on the wineries.

Reply by vin0vin0, Aug 20, 2013.

We did a Portland/Salem/Eugene trip this past July.  These are the wineries we visited in the Salem and Dundee areas:

Cristom Vineyards
St. Innocent Winery
Bethel Heights Vineyard
Sokol Blosser Winery
Torii Mor Winery
ArborBrook Vineyards
Ponzi Vineyards
All are open daily except Cristom and Bethel Heights which are closed on Mondays.
They were all excellent, but We thought that Ponzi was a cut above with Bethel Heights and Cristom right on its heels.
Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 22, 2013.

This is no doubt too late but I would have to say that visiting wineries int he Willamette Valley is one of the least dangerous things one can do in the world of wine. Yes some wineries produce wines that may not be to your style but almost everyone is producing some pretty great wine and they are almost to a person thrilled to taste with you. It's one of the best regions for winos to visit, newbies and professionals alike!

Please let us know where you've visited and what you thought.

Just for future reference my short list of favorite producers includes in no specific order


De Ponte

Belle Pente


Brick House



Andrew Rich



Willamette Valley Vineyards

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 23, 2013.

stoller stoller stoller!  Go!  LOVE STOLLER!!!

I've heard good things about Yamhill, but I haven't tasted myself.  

I can recommend the rooftop bar at McMenamin's Hotel oregon, in teeny downtown McMinnville... It was a great time.  We went in july several years ago, when rain was nonexistant.  I love McMinnville.

Drouhin is somewhat overrated and overpriced, IMO.

Yes, late.  Tell us about your time there!

Reply by JenniferT, Aug 27, 2013.

Thanks all! This will have to be a quick report - I have just returned out from the states but am flying out tomorrow morning for another work trip.

So....we went to the tasting room for Willamette Valley Vineyards in McMinnville and the tasting room of the Cathedral Ridge(somewhere between McMinnville and Portland). We also drove out to the St. Innocent winery to visit their tasting room. (Thanks JD! We also tried emailing Big Table farm but no response...I also called but nobody picked up. So that will have to be another time).

I missed out on McMenamins hotel rooftop....we went to there to visit their cellar but it was closed at the time.

We liked the Willamette Valley tasting experience, but we both thought that St. Innocent was amazing! It really showed us a lot about the delicate complexity of some Oregon PN. I remember asking a question on the forum awhile ago about determining aging potential in wines...the tasting experience here really drove home some of the things that I've really only read about.

The have some amazing pinot that is just starting to show a hint of what it can become with would be hard for me to put into words, but both of us recognized the elegance and complexity of several of their pinots and it was clear they have the potential to be something amazing with age. The man at the tasting room was fantastic (whose name I really ought to remember, but don't). He was more than happy to tell us so much about the wines. I look forward to returning in the future and tasting some other vintages.

I would say that our experience at the Cathedral Ridge tasting room was our least favorite, compared to our experiences elsewhere.

I really liked the focus on geology and terroir at the Willamette Valley tasting room. I took a lot of notes that I look forward to returning to and reading up on when I have some time. They have a lot of information on the origins of the different soil types, etc. Clearly someone there is a big believer in the influences of the soils upon the wines. So I'm planning on visiting again.

As far as tasting experiences, I would be remiss not to talk about our brewery tastings. We went to 3-4. For the most part, I have never understood people that equate beer tasting/complexity to that of wine. I mean sure: there is a huge spectrum of beer, but I was fairly confident that I would never taste the same balanced complexity in a beer that I have already tasted in some wines. A visit to Elysian brewery in Seattle changed my whole view of beer. They even had a beer (Mortis, I think) that they treat with brettanomyces! I don't think I will ever forget tasting so much elegant balance and compelexity in beer. Life changing, lol! 

As far as restaurants in portland we did Veritable Quandry (really only because they serve food quite late and I like having dinner late), and also a fantastic Peruvian restaurant called Andina. Neither one of us had ever had Peruvian food and that experience was really a great treat. 

Oh, Emark. It's going to be hard to tell my other half about Edelweiss. Maybe I shouldn't. I will have to take him there another time. Unfortunately I didn't clearly see your post about them until now - my phone died on this trip so I had limited of opportunity to see messages (or anything) until it died for good.  

I would like to go to Drouhin because of their ties to Burgundian PN...apparently they have a tasting where they highlight the differences between Drouhin PN from Oregon and that from Burgundy. 

To echo GdP: All the tasting room experiences were warm and personal: especially St. Innocent and Willamette Valley tasting rooms. One of my favorite things about travelling in Washington and Oregon wine country (and the Anderson Valley in California, etc) really seems like less foot traffic translates to a much warmer, more authentic, personal experience. It seems to be par for the course in the tasting rooms I've been in in most of Washington and Oregon. The interaction really makes the experience for me.

Tonight I just posted my notes on the Willamette Valley wines. I'll add the others as soon as time permits, but for now I must go and pack to leave on another trip for work early tomorrow! 

Thanks again for all your feedback, MUCH appreciated! 

Reply by EMark, Aug 27, 2013.

Very interesting, Jennifer.  Thank you, very much.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 28, 2013.

Woohoo, glad it all worked out Jen..,hopefully you can make the Pinot Noir event and help us represent Oregon. Weird about Big Table...maybe they just took a little Pre-labor day break.

Reply by outthere, Aug 28, 2013.

Nice report Jen! I've never done the Oregon Wine Trail but have always wanted to. 

Reply by jamessulis, Aug 28, 2013.

Jennifer, as you know there are quite a few wineries in Oregon and it's neighboring state Washington. Wish I would have checked your post prior to you visiting. If you ever come back again, while in McMinnville just on the skirts of town is a very large aviation building open to the public and it houses Howard Hughes Spruce Goose the mega sized airplane he built when he was an established Hollywood producer and entrepreneur.

Oregon does have Limo tours (great for tasting and not driving, and the driver's are quite knowledgeable about the wineries and the surrounding history of the land ) that pick you up and take you to as many wineries as will fit in an 8 hour day. That would be about 4 to 5 being their close proximity in Oregon. I visited 4 different wineries, some great, others of no consequence. Barefoot Cellars, Andrew Rich, Fox Farm Vineyards and Apollonia. Most of the wines of Oregon are either Chardonnay's, Pinot Gris or Pinot Noirs. About 30% of the wineries in Oregon do however have Cabernet's, Sangioveses, Syrah's and Merlots and Zins but I believe they outsource their grapes from their neighbors in Washington where areas like Walla Walla, Columbia River Valley, Horse Heaven Hills and other world famous spots have the great weather for the richer reds. Here's a great website to help put together your next visit. it lists by regions within Oregon, then alphabetical wineries within that region.  Thanks for visiting -- The Great Pacific Northwest


Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 28, 2013.

I'm disappointed no one mentioned Amity, down at the southern end of the Valley.  Myron Redford is a pioneer and quite a character.  Even if he's not around (I think he probably isn't around as much as he once was), his spirit permeates the place.  The tasting room is a part of the barn that houses the winery, outside the part with temperature control.  The bathroom is across the barnyard in a trailer, which is also where the office is.  Not corporate at all.  His wines are very reasonably priced, with a basic PN in the $20 range that's really good, and some very terroir-inflected SVDs for $35, which is what most of the others are charging for their appellation wines.  I didn't love them all, but a few stunned me.  I was sorry I couldn't transport them back to California, but I have purchased them here.  Redford is also one of the very few who made true Gamay in the States. (Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John is the other one who comes to mind.) Not my favorite grape, but you have to love the willingness to make wine from all the Burgundian grapes, including the ones that sell for nothing and aren't taken that seriously.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 29, 2013.

Cameron is another pretty big name in Oregon Pinot, at least with the wine geeks. Don't think he provides tours or tastings, but in reading the website that saignee of Pinot noir has me salivating. Very reasonable pricing too.

Reply by Really Big Al, Mar 6, 2016.

This topic is about 2.5 years old and my wife Sandra and I will be able to visit some Oregon wineries on our upcoming trip to Corvallis in a few weeks.  We'll fly to Portland and definitely visit one that we belong to (J. K. Carriere), but we would like to visit about 4 more on this trip.  Another one we are going to is Soter Vineyards, as that's already been scheduled with one of my sisters and her husband.  Here is a link to 20 'Best' Oregon wineries from a recent review.  I see that Drouhin is in this review, and it was mentioned by Jennifer up above.  

Does anyone have current recommendations for a few of these 20 wineries or another favorite that we must absolutely visit?  



Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 6, 2016.

Here are a couple in that area that we've really enjoyed:

Belle Pente
Torii Mor
Domaine Serene
Domaine Drouhin
Sokol Blosser
Reply by Really Big Al, Mar 6, 2016.

V V - Thanks for the recommendations.  We used to belong to the Domaine Serene wine club, but it became too high of an expense.  Very fancy place though and we enjoyed one of their big food / wine tastings a few years ago.  Domaine Drouhin is on our list.  We'll look into the other four you mentioned.

Reply by dmcker, Mar 6, 2016.

Soter's good, Al, and spend as much time there as you can. See if you can't talk with the owner and winemaker, assuming they're on premises.

Drouhin is also a must-visit.

How many time slots do you have?

Reply by Really Big Al, Mar 6, 2016.

I think we have 4-5 slots available over 3 days, allowing for other activities on those days and the traveling we'll be doing between Corvallis and Portland.  It looks like three places are definite - J. K. Carriere, Drouhin and Soter.  One or two more are possible.  Is Stoller a good one to visit like V V suggests?  It appears so.  Belle Pente sounds good too.  This should be a fun trip....

Reply by dmcker, Mar 6, 2016.

Stoller also deserves a slot. You can either further winnow the remaining candidates for the final slot (Torii Mor has nice gardens, Serene and Sokiol Blosser each have a solid place in the hall of fame of market pioneers; Fox's recco of Amity down south and JD's of Cameron are also worthy), or save it for something you discover during winetasting at various venues in McMinnville (the rooftop bar at McMenamin's Hotel Oregon is only one example, though it's even better for craft beer than wine--sometimes a welcome break; plenty of other tasting rooms around the neighborhood), or from further recommendations from locals when you're boots on ground over there. Be sure to work those into the schedule, too. As you might guess, I'd do the latter and keep the final time availability open for now. Go ahead and book the first four, as required, of course.

Reply by Really Big Al, Mar 6, 2016.

I think Sandra plans to cancel our dinner reservations one of the nights in Portland and reserve something at McMenamin's Hotel, based on your suggestions.  Craft beers are good too.  Thank you.

We could squeeze another winery in, since Soter will be on the last day of our visit.  Basically we have a few days in the Portland area before we head down to Corvallis; then we see some Shakespeare plays and go to the coast for a bit.  

Reply by dmcker, Mar 6, 2016.

You going to the Shakespeare Festival down in Ashland? Great venue and great 'event' if nowadays' nearly ongoing year round activity can be consider an event (Feb~Oct season is not a short one). Took my dad there back in the early '90s after he was down in the dumps over a failed business and burned down house, and that road trip did the trick.

Lots of good craft beer down in the Rogue River Valley, too. Tasty cheeses there and along the coast, as well.

That Oregon Coast ain't too shabby, either. Have spent a number of family or romantic trips along it. Austere, mist-enshrouded or windswept, often exotic beauty. Certainly different from VA scenery...

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