Oregon’s Dundee Hills in the central Willamette Valley is ground zero for the states famous pinot noir. With over thirty wineries and vineyards located across 2,000 acres, the area offers well-known producers like Erath and Argyle, cult wineries like Cameron and lots more offering stellar wines and all of this comes with phenomenal vineyard views.
Just 30 miles from Portland, a wine tasting day trip is a must visit for any Pinot Noir connoisseur or those who want to visit the area where David Lett also known as Papa Pinot of Eyrie Vineyards planted the first successful commercial pinot noir vineyard in 1965.
As you head from Portland, through Newberg and up into the Dundee Hills the city is quickly left behind as the roads go from paved to dirt and the trees fill in and begin to become denser. Driving some of the roads up into hills where the wineries are situated can be intimidating to us city dwellers used to well paved roads and street signs. There is no need to worry, because luckily, there are so many wineries speckling the hills, even if you think you have taken a wrong turn, you’ll end up at a tasting room one way or another. And who knows that may be a very welcome addition to your tour of this wine tasting region.
The best way to avoid the crowds plan for the first tasting to begin around 11am, when most tasting rooms open. This also allows for more one on one time with the tasting room managers or winemakers. Begin your wine tasting at the top of the Dundee Hills at Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards. Don Lange has been producing top-quality pinot noir since 1987 and these days, son Jesse is also lending his talents as co-winemaker. Make sure to taste the pinot noir reserves, tempranillo, pinot gris reserve and Freedom Hill chardonnay.
Before heading off take a moment and enjoy the scenery. On a clear day the view of the valley is spectacular.
Next, head to nearby Torii Mor Winery. The intended translated meaning of their winery name is “beautiful gateway to the earth”. The grounds, garden and back deck are truly beautiful and worth exploring rain or shine. Torii Mor is a popular stop so be prepared for crowds in the tasting room no matter what time you arrive. Tastings are offered as a white flight with a highlight on the pinot gris and a red flight ending in an earthy and delicious port. Head to the back deck and enjoy the view of the vineyards below.
A last stop at one of the new kids on the block, Winderlea Vineyard and Winery, showcases the wines of Donna Morris and Bill Sweat. This boutique winery specializes in limited productions of pinot noir in a modern, industrial setting with an open air deck offering expanding views of the valley vineyards. With famed winemaker Robert Brittan, previously at Stagg’s Leap Winery on board,
Winderlea is producing some very nice chardonnay and pinot noir. The $10 tasting fee is donated to ¡Salud! – an alliance between Oregon winemakers, Tuality Healthcare and medical professionals that provide education and access to healthcare services for Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers and their families.
After tasting some of the regions renowned wines a lunch of equal caliber is in order and the Dundee Bistro is an excellent choice. Executive chef, Jason Stoller Smith focuses on local, organic and seasonal ingredients. Selections at the bistro will delight a true foodie with a menu that is printed twice daily offering appetizer selections like the Totten Inlet blue mussels with house made sausage simmered in a tomato, sherry paprika, oregano and garlic sauce. Soups like saffron cream of Oregon corn soup are creamy and satisfying or try the Belgian endive, blackberry and Oregon bay shrimp salad.
Entrees range from simple standards such as hand tossed pizza, handmade pasta and Oregon black cod and chips to more technically executed dishes like pan-seared wild pacific Coho salmon with fingerlings, grape tomatoes, summer squash and sweet corn puree to tandoori smoked breast of Draper Valley chicken with lobster mushroom risotto, yellow wax beans and Applewood bacon.
Of course the bistro also offers an extensive wine list including a large selection from Oregon as well as wines from around the world.
Make sure to finish with one of the bistro’s house made ice cream or sorbet in one of their delicious flavors. Another wonderful end to a meal is the artisan cheese plate.
After a day exploring the Dundee Hills tasting rooms you’ll most likely be thinking about returning soon. With at least 27 more vineyards to visit, the hardest decision will be which tasting rooms to put on the top of your list.
What & Where:
Lange Estate (18380 NE Buena Vista Dr, Dundee; 503-538-6476; www.langewinery.com/)
Torii Mor (18323 NE Fairview Dr, Dundee;503-538-2279; www.toriimorwinery.com/)
Winderlea Vineyard & Winery (8905 NE Worden Hill Rd, Dundee; 503-554-5900; www.winderlea.com)
Dundee Bistro (100-A SW 7th St, Dundee; 503-554-1650; www.dundeebistro.com/)