A Weekend Guide to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, from a Master Winemaker

Written by: Maggie Harrison


Published on: April 18, 2024


Photo courtesy of Antica Terra

Maggie Harrison is a master winemaker and the founder of Antica Terra in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the wine region that stretches between Portland and Eugene. People say her Pinot Noir will stop you in your tracks. Her wine club’s waitlist is so long, it might as well have a waitlist of its own. And Harrison herself is an iconoclast in the wine world—which is exactly why we wanted her guide to the region she’s proudly called home for nearly 20 years.

If you’re heading to the Willamette Valley, planning your schedule around wine tasting is a given. But given that there are more than 700 wineries spread over 9,000 square miles, you should be strategic.

Our rule is simple: quality over quantity. It can be tempting to pack visits in, the way you might in other wine regions. Don’t. Here, visits are often hosted by the owner or winemaker themselves and can sometimes include a vineyard walk or an extemporaneous barrel tasting; two (or maybe three) tastings a day is plenty.

To that end, here’s our guide to getting the most out of a weekend. Most visitors drive down from Portland, so we’ll start with that in mind.


On your drive in, stop for a tasting at one of these three wineries: At Beckham Estate, winemaker and ceramist Andrew Beckham handcrafts terra-cotta amphorae in which he ages his compelling wines. Along with the region’s iconic Pinot Noir, you’ll find racy Aligoté and chiseled Syrah. Nearby, one of the valley’s most talented winegrowers, Jim Prosser, offers weekend appointments at J.K. Carriere. Or stop at Audeant for a tasting hosted by winemaker Andrew Riechers. There is nowhere I would rather spend my time than with Andrew’s warm attention and precise wines.

Then it’s time for lunch. The tacos at Tacos el Gordo are worthy of white tablecloths—never mind that they are served under an awning in the parking lot of Tequila Grill. Such is the idiosyncratic nature of the Willamette Valley: In what can pass as a strip-mall-laden suburban landscape, there’s treasure for the well-informed traveler.

Photo courtesy of Evening Land Vineyards

After lunch, plan to check in to your hotel. If you’d like to settle down among vineyards and open skies, a stay at Inn the Ground accomplishes this nicely. Tucked into the hills just outside Carlton, the rooms are large and well-appointed, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the hillside. It’s both an ideally situated home base for wine excursions to come and a place to pick up a game of pickleball. (Or, on the inevitable rainy mornings, cozy up with a book.)

If you prefer shops and restaurants over gardens and hills, head to the Atticus Hotel in McMinnville. It’s run by lifetime McMinnville residents and filled with work by local artists, including a series of cloud paintings by Zach Hixson. The space is both refined and grounded in a sense of place. It’s also directly off Third Street: the Platonic ideal of small-town charm.

If, after you drop your bags, you’d like to head to one more winery, Belle Pente is only a few minutes away. Brian and Jill O’Donnell have been farming their home vineyard thoughtfully, beautifully, and biodynamically since 1996. There is no hospitality staff here; you will be hosted by either the owners or the winemaker for an intimate look at call-and-response farming at its most humane level. Similarly, you might head north to Brian Marcy and Clare Carver’s Big Table Farm in Carlton or Kelley Fox Wines in Gaston, both of which make some of the most honest wines in the region.

Photos courtesy of Ilana Freddye (table) and HiFi Wine Bar (DJ)

Spend a post-tasting late afternoon walking Third Street, collecting reading material at Third Street Books or, if you have kids, presents from Hopscotch or the Merri Artist. If you have time, you can take a short walk to Mac Market, home to Sustainable Rituals, the James Beard–nominated Hayward, and Wellspent Market. If you need a different sort of relaxation, drop in for a class at nearby Boho Yoga.

At this point, it’s time for a drink before your dinner reservations. Take a break from wine and enjoy a cocktail at Cellar Bar in the newly built ōkta. Cypress will do nicely for dinner. And if you’re not ready to turn in, HiFi Wine Bar is in walking distance; join the winemaking locals listening to records and enjoying nightcaps.


On day two, start your day with breakfast in the room or grab a coffee and pastry from Alchemist’s Jam or Mac Market before getting outside. In McMinnville, Miller Woods is a local gem for hikes and trail running, while Carlton offers a maze of trails behind a Trappist abbey. Then head for the Eola-Amity Hills. This AVA lies a bit farther south, and the vineyards boast some of the most critically acclaimed wines in the region.

Start with a morning tasting at Bethel Heights. The views are stunning, and the atmosphere would be reason enough to visit. But it’s the warm hospitality and characterful wines that make it a can’t-miss. (Be sure to ask for Mimi Casteel’s Hope Well wines if they’re not already part of the experience.) Just down the road, Evening Land Vineyards offers a private Seven Springs Vineyard walk and tasting, one of the most immersive wine experiences in the valley.

Photo courtesy of Antica Terra

For lunch, I am going to ask you to devote a few hours to us at the Antica Terra vineyards just outside Amity. I am certainly biased, but I confidently say that our chef, Timothy Wastell, is making the most exciting food anywhere. And based on popularity, he’s doing it really well. Paired with our wines, this multicourse meal is an ever-changing seasonal ode to the gifts of the Pacific Northwest. Think: just-harvested crudités with Walla Walla onion and shiro miso, handmade pasta alla chitarra with Oregon albacore puttanesca, butter-poached sturgeon, and oak-roasted Umpqua Valley lamb.

After lunch, explore our extensive trails through acres of restored native oak savanna. In the summer, we invite you to continue your hosted experience with a tasting at 200-foot Table in the Trees, which runs like a ribbon through the oaks.

Before dinner, wind your way north, stopping either at the Eyrie Vineyards in downtown McMinnville, where winemaker Jason Lett offers a master class on Friday afternoons, or a bit farther, in the Dundee Hills, for a private tasting at Bergström’s Ekollon tasting house.

Photos courtesy of Brick Hall and Josh Chang

For dinner, Dayton is home to Brick Hall 1886, where the team behind Portland’s Tournant has opened a sweet restaurant in a converted church. Fancy toasts, luxurious pastas, and brick chicken are accompanied by a cast of market vegetables. And the wine list will fill in any gaps you missed in your tasting schedule.

One more night of good sleep and you’re on your way. If you have time, take a small detour on your way back to Portland for a stop at the just-opened tasting room at Cho Wines. If you don’t have time, make it: These newcomers have made an indelible mark on the valley in the few short years since their first vintage.