I recently spent a long and exceedingly pleasant weekend in the wine region of the north Willamette Valley.
First and foremost, the Black Walnut Inn (http://www.blackwalnut-inn.com/) in Dundee, OR was fabulous. It has only nine distinct rooms, each with its own character, but all wonderful. It looks like a Tuscan villa that overlooks the red-hilled vineyards.
My favorite restaurant was the Joel Palmer House (http://www.joelpalmerhouse.com) in Dayton, OR. Make a reservation, but only if you like wild mushrooms. The executive chef and owner is Chris Czarnecki, a fourt-generation restaurateur, who comes from a family of mycologists. Joe’s Wild Mushroom Soup, a homage to Chris’ dad, and Heidi’s Three Mushroom Tart, a homage to his mother, are both wonderful. Great wine list and great sommelier (who also recommended a number of the vineyards we later visited). If the weather is nice (as it was for us), eat outside in the yard, under the stars.
I wasn’t a Pinot Noir fan until this trip. I had thought of Pinot’s as too earthy for my taste, but learned of the huge variety of tastes from this varietal. My absolute favorite vineyard (the one recommended by the sommelier) was Witness Tree Vineyards (http://www.witnesstreevineyard.com/). Their wines are less expensive than many, but quality was excellent. Not only great Pinot’s (e.g. the Vintage Select and particularly the Claim No. 51), but also a surprisingly wonderful Dolcetto “Remari”, and not-to-be-missed Sweet Signe. Also visited several others: Bethel Heights, Christom, etc.
And, lastly, for a great quick lunch visit the Blue Goat in Amity. It’s a tiny place, with its own brick oven and a goat meat empanada that shouldn’t be missed.
What a great way to spend a long weekend away from Seattle, especially during a sunny weekend!