The Willamette Valley in Oregon is a wine lover’s destination, especially if you love Pinot Noir. Most of the wineries and vineyards in Oregon are in this 150-mile valley. It stretches from Portland south of Eugene with the Willamette River flowing through the length of the valley. Filled with fertile alluvial soils, the valley is an agricultural heartland. Known as one of the top Pinot Noir regions in the world, the Willamette Valley has over 700 wineries. Many of the region’s wineries are pet-friendly and have wine dogs or cats that love to hang out in the tasting rooms greeting visitors. I love driving on the country roads through charming small towns to visit these wineries. You won’t find chain restaurants or hotels in the valley, just small, local businesses and friendly locals.
Thank you to Travel Salem, who hosted me on a press trip to learn about the area. All opinions are my own.
1. Keeler Estate Vineyards
I arrived at the Keeler Estate Vineyards after a lovely drive along a country lane. It was early spring, and the property was beginning to blossom again after winter. It is just beautiful with gardens, lakes, streams, and a thriving Biodynamic vineyard in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Take some time to explore their restored white oak savannah with hiking trails. The Keeler family worked to preserve these trees by removing invasive species and planting native grasses. Take a hike with your pet before wine tasting and enjoy sweeping views of the vineyards and valley.
The tasting room has outdoor spaces you can enjoy with your pet while sipping Keeler’s excellent wines. You can taste a variety of their wines or do a Pinot Noir tasting of four of their best. One wine I really enjoyed was the 2019 Field Blend, which is an unusual mix of 50% Carbonic Pinot Noir, 25% Carbonic Pinot Gris, 15% destemmed Chardonnay, and 10% destemmed Riesling. It is unique and quite good. For a special experience, take their Vineyard Adventure Tour. You’ll go on a guided tour on an all-terrain vehicle to explore the different blocks in the vineyard and learn about biodynamic farming. You will taste wines from the grapes that surround you. Upon return, enjoy a glass of wine with charcuterie and cheese.
2. Coelho Winery
The Coelho Winery tasting room is located in what was once the Amity Hardware Store, which was damaged by fire. The owners, Dave and Deolinda Coelho, restored this historic building into an anchor for the revitalized downtown area. Their philosophy is “We are farmers who make wine.” This translates into a hands-on deep connection to the soil from farm to bottle. All fruit from their vineyards is kept to make their wines; none is sold. This ensures the quality of the wine from the vineyard to your table. Coelho is Portuguese and means “rabbit,” which inspired the rabbit logo on their wine labels. They produce a variety of reds and whites. In addition to their high-end wines, they produce an affordable Bunny Series — four wines that retail for under $25.
One unique wine produced here is Port, a style of wine developed in Portugal. The Portuguese varietals used to make this flavorful dessert wine come from Silvaspoons Vineyard in Galt, California, which has the heat necessary for these types of grapes to ripen. These varietals are fermented and then blended with grape brandy aged in new American oak barrels. This blend is then put into French oak barrels and aged for years. The current wine, NV Dessert Wine Aventure, is a blend of the 2011 through 2017 vintages.
3. Left Coast Estate
A vineyard, winery, and working farm, the Left Coast Estate is not your typical tasting room experience. The Larsons, the owners, are committed to sustainability. The vineyards and winery are LIVE certified sustainable. Whether it is the 100 acres of old-growth white oak savannah being restored or the solar power, this is one family that has a deep connection to the land.
You can enjoy a basic wine tasting here, but I recommend splurging on one of their experiences, which really highlight the food and wine of the Willamette Valley. The 45 North pairs seasonal food and wine from the estate’s gardens, greenhouse, and edible landscape as well as from local purveyors. Five of the estate wines are paired with small plates. If you want to get out and explore, take the Left Coast Estate experience, which puts you on the back of their 1950 Chevy vineyard truck for a vineyard tour and tasting.
4. Eola Hills Winery
The Eola Hills Winery is the first winery I visited where I really learned about terroir. The tasting room hostess was very knowledgeable about how the soil, climate, and correct vines contribute to the unique flavor of Eola Hills’ wines. In this area, the mineral-rich, volcanic, marine sedimentary soils really impart an Oregon character to the Eola Hills Classic Wines. These wines are made from their estate-grown grapes, which are dry farmed. This is just one of the many steps the owners take to commit to sustainable growing. Dry farming helps to protect groundwater. Selecting biological methods to control pests and disease and planting a tree for every vine planted are other ecologically friendly farm methods used.
Eola Hills tastings are now offered at the beautiful new Legacy Estate Tasting Room a short drive from Salem, Oregon. All tastings are currently served outdoors. They accept walk-ins, but reservations are recommended. The outdoor patio overlooks the vineyard and provides spectacular views of the valley. Make sure to try one of their variety of sparkling wines. I just love a good bubbly. Another wine I really enjoyed is the Patriot Red Blend, which combines Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, with the grapes coming from Oregon, Washington, and California. A portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold goes to supporting nonprofits that serve veterans and first responders.
5. Salt Creek Cider House
You may wonder why I included a cidery on this list of pet-friendly wineries. Well, a semi-dry or dry cider is remarkably similar to a white wine. The unique flavor terroir imparts on a wine can also have the same effect on apples and pears, and Salt Creek Cider House owners Carter and Lindy Rickert handcraft their small-batch ciders with fruit from Willamette Valley, some from their orchard as well as neighboring orchards. I just love these two. They are creating a viable business on what was an original homestead property. Their home was built in 1903, and they are committed to raising their family on this beautiful land.
Guests are invited to enjoy the front lawn and legacy orchard, where they can picnic and enjoy orchard-fresh cider. The tasting room and production facility are in a large barn which overlooks a lovely pond. Carter is a highly creative cidermaker. Try his Rebel, which blends apples and pears, which are usually made into another beverage called Perry. It is unique and their flagship cider. Rose lovers will enjoy Rebel Rose which blends heirloom apples, pears, Oregon blackberries, and marionberries into a cider that is a dusty rose color. Carter also makes his version of a classic apple hard cider as it was made by farmers. Freedom is a cider made from apples harvested from their 100-year-old legacy orchard and from other local homestead orchards. Some snacks are available, but if you want to picnic, bring your own lunch.
Many of these wineries are included on The Great Oaks Food Trail. This trail takes a culinary journey through the Willamette Valley. Darling small towns, family farms, and lots of Pinot Noir abound as you traverse this region. The trail is named for the native great white oak savannah that local farms are working hard to restore.
Stay in the quaint town of Independence, Oregon, at The Independence Hotel. The new hotel overlooks the Willamette River and is an easy walk to the revitalized main street. There are cute shops, restaurants, and breweries. The town is centrally located to all the wineries in this article and is pet friendly. The nearby walking trails and dog parks offer outdoor activity your pet will love. If you love to bike, this is the hotel for you. They have in-room storage for bikes as well as a bike maintenance room off the lobby with benches and tools. The Willamette Valley is a lovely place to ride.
For more Oregon winery inspiration, consider 7 Oregon Wineries To Try Outside Of The Willamette Valley. Or, if you want to enjoy more of the West Coast with Fido, see which trails made 5 Best Pet-Friendly Hikes In California.