Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley Vineyards
Willamette Valley Vineyards

The Willamette Valley is located in northwest Oregon. The Willamette River flows through the valley and travels on to meet up with the Columbia River near Portland, Oregon. This lush valley has long been the idyllic place for growing fruit of all kinds, and year after year local fruit stands can be see dotting the summer and fall roadways selling homegrown produce. Of late, the Willamette Valley has gained attention for another kind of fruit however; wine grapes. Willamette Valley wineries are making a splash in world wine market, and visitors to this special area of the Pacific Northwest are in for a big treat when planning a trip to Willamette Valley vineyards.

Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley

The Oregon cities most often associated with the Willamette Valley include Corvallis, Albany, Salem, and Eugene, though towns further out such as Clackamas and Multnomah can also be included. Eugene tends to be one of the biggest draws to tourists looking to enjoy the Willamette Valley vineyards. The Willamette Valley is thought to have been created by the Missoula Floods, which ripped through the area during the last ice age and left a wide swath of open land behind it. The result has been one of the lushest growing areas in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Though the area was inhabited by Native American tribes for many centuries, the arrival of settlers did not happen until the mid 19th century, when the Hudson's Bay Company moved in and began their fur trade in the region.

Willamette Valley Wine Tour
Willamette Valley Wine Tour  Image: Stangeland Vineyards

Today, it is not fur, but agriculture, that keeps the Willamette Valley special. Willamette Valley wineries often credit much of their success to the incredible soil found in the valley, though the weather isn't warm enough to grow the grapes responsible for merlot and cabernet. What the Willamette Valley vineyards can do, however, and are doing with increasing success, is grow incredible pinot noir and pinot gris grapes, as well as a few other varieties that do really well in the Willamette climate. Whatever your fancy, a trip through Willamette Valley wineries will not disappoint. While it is possible to book a tour of the wineries and ride along on a shuttle bus, planning your own winery tour can be plenty of fun, as well.

Willamette Valley Lodging
Willamette Valley Lodging

Most of the wineries in the Willamette Valley are small, mainly family-owned businesses looking to provide nice wine; without much pretension. This is a major attraction to the area, making wine-tasting in the valley a laidback adventure, and brings many travelers back for more again and again. It goes without saying that along with all of the wineries come some delightful places to stay. Eugene, with its weekend market and hip college-town feel has many hotels, as does Salem. Camping in the area is not unheard of, however, and can be a great way to cut down on costs during the summer and enjoy some of the best of the Willamette Valley. If you have time, be sure to head over to Mt Hood, where endless miles of hiking trails and gorgeous scenery await you.

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