Oregon’s Willamette Valley, home to more than 500 wineries, is recognized as one of the “premier pinot noir producing areas in the world!” With boutique accommodations, a delicious culinary scene, outdoor activities, a craft beer trail, and wine tastings, you can enjoy a long weekend exploring the area. Fall is a great time to visit during the grape harvest season.
Introduction To Willamette Valley And Tualatin Valley
The Willamette Valley is a large area that stretches from Portland down to Eugene — over 100 miles. I suggest you visit the northern section (Tualatin Valley) in one 3-day visit and the southern section in a second 3-day visit.
The Tualatin Valley is located just 20 miles west of Portland, on the northern edge of the Willamette Valley, halfway between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The rich Laurelwood soil in Tualatin Valley is unique to this area and results in fabulous pinot noir Wines.
This article focuses on the Tualatin Valley portion of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The Tualatin Valley includes more than a dozen cities, towns, and neighborhoods, including Forest Grove, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Sherwood, and Cornelius.
A digital visitors guide is available through this link.
Although just a short distance from Portland, traffic can be very slow. I always prefer to stay a night or two in the Tualatin Valley and enjoy all that the valley offers. I have made some suggestions for accommodations and dining.
My visit was sponsored by Tualatin Valley, the Washington County Visitors Association, and the vineyards listed here. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Here are my 13 fantastic experiences in the premier pinot noir producing area in the world.
1. Enjoy Wines From Some Of Oregon’s Oldest Vines At David Hill Vineyard & Winery (Forest Grove)
David Hill Vineyard & Winery has a claim to some of the oldest vines in the Willamette Valley. Three flights are available: “Estate Tasting,” featuring whites and a pinot noir. “Discovery Series Tasting” showcases the old varietals. The “Reserve Tasting” features reds and includes the 2019 Estate Blackjack pinot noir. There is also a food menu with charcuterie plates, crackers, and hummus.
The tasting room is in a restored 1883 farmhouse. Outdoor seating is also available.
During spring and summer, hikers can enjoy the Vineyard Hike. You can download the information at the link. Recommended time for the hike is at least 1 hour.
David Hill Vineyard & Winery is also very proud of its B-Corp Certification, balancing purpose and profit.
2. Sip Award Winning Wines At Tualatin Estate Vineyard (Forest Grove)
Tualatin Estate is one of the vineyard sites of Willamette Valley Vineyards. Owner Jim Bernau has garnered various honors and awards, including Industry Founders Award and Governor’s Gold. Wine Spectator named Willamette Valley Vineyards as one of the “Top 100 Wines In The World.” It’s recognized as one of the best wineries for Oregon pinot noir.
Two flights are offered for tasting. The “Daily Flight” includes both red and white wines. The “Reserve Flight” features small-batch pinot noir and Griffin Creek wines. Both inside and outside tastings are available. Charcuterie plates are available.
The winery is proud to utilize environmentally sustainable farming practices and was involved in founding the LIVE Program (Low Input Viticulture & Enology).
Tualatin Estate was established by two Oregon wine pioneers, Bill Fuller and Bill Malkmus, in 1973. Tualatin Estate also has a history of awards and honors, including Best Of Show for both red and white wines in the same year at the London International Wine Competition and Oregon’s Governor’s Trophy two years in a row.
I was delighted to have Bill Fuller join me at my tasting!
3. Enjoy World-Class Pinot Noir At Ponzi Vineyards (Sherwood)
Ponzi Vineyards is another of the pioneering vineyards in Oregon. Now at the helm are two second-generation Ponzi women: Louisa and Anna Marie. Ponzi is one of the few sister-run wineries in America. Noted for producing world-class pinot noir, Ponzi Vineyards was one of the first Oregon wineries awarded LIVE Certification. Its facility is a four-level gravity-flow facility.
Two tasting flights are offered. The “Signature Flight” offers four current release wines, while the “Specialty Flight” offers chardonnay and pinot noir. Also provided are “Chef’s Pairings,” which team seasonal fresh dishes with Ponzi wines. The pairings change monthly.
4. Team Stunning Views With Wine Tasting At Ardiri Winery And Vineyards (Cornelius)
Marvel at the stunning view of Mt. Hood as you enjoy a tasting at Ardiri Winery and Vineyard, one of Oregon’s “Top 10 Wineries With Panoramic Views.” There are two tasting flights available. The “Classic Flight” offers white, rosé, and red wines. The “Sunshine in a Glass Flight” offers white wines and rosé. One of its most popular wines is the Oregon/California Blend with grapes from both its vineyards in Napa Valley and Willamette Valley.
The beautiful open tasting room features floor-to-ceiling panels and firepits. Outside seating is also available. There is a charcuterie board available, or you are welcome to bring your own food.
Winery events include trivia nights and pizza nights. Check the link for more information.
5. Watch For Annual Tualatin Valley Wine Events
Click this link for more information about Tualatin Valley events and festivals.
Watch for Valentine’s Wine Loop (February), Memorial Day Wine Weekend (May),
Sherwood Wine Festival and Artisans Fair (June), Drink Pink Rosé Festival (July), Canines Uncorked (August), Forest Grove Uncorked (August), and Thanksgiving Weekend in Wine Country (November).
6. Enjoy Craft Beer On The Craft Beer Ale Trail
Oregon is known as the land of craft microbeers. Order the Ale Trail Passport or pick one up at any of the 22 participating breweries.
Stop by Ex Novo Brewing in Beaverton to sample some of its 16 craft beer taps made at its Portland brewery. Team this with delicious Detroit-style pizza, and you have a winning pair! Seating is available both inside and outside.
Another local favorite is Vertigo Brewing & Taproom in Hillsboro, brewing innovative and creative craft beers since 2008. Tastings are available in the taproom located next door to the brewery. Although it doesn’t serve food, you are welcome to bring your own. Look for trivia nights, weekly themes, and special events.
7. Visit The Beaverton Farmers Market
Located in the heart of downtown, the Beaverton Farmers Market is recognized as one of Oregon’s largest and best farmers’ markets. Take time to stroll through the stands, enjoy great food, and live entertainment. For a vendor list, click this link.
8. Stroll The Beaverton Downtown Historic District
To the north of the Farmers Market, stroll the historic downtown area and look for the plaques on historic buildings. There are eight plaques which provide interesting information about the history. Here is the plaque on the 1914 Cady Building. Notice the detail on the architecture as well as information on the family and business.
Are you interested in historic Beaverton homes and vintage trees? Here is a link to a walking guide.
9. Explore History Driving Through The Quilt Barn Trail
Drive through the rural areas of the Quilt Barn Trail to discover history via quilt art. Each block has some significance to the family. Four trails range from 1.5 hours driving time to 2.5 hours driving time. You may download a map and directions at this site. You may find a list of the 59 barns here.
10. Enjoy Nature At Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve (Hillsboro)
Enjoy nature as you stroll the trails around the 635-acre Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. Choose from eight trails ranging from 0.11 miles to 1.43 miles. The Upland Trail is ADA Accessible. Over 150 species of birds are sighted here annually. Also, enjoy the native plants and flowers.
Download the trail map here or pick up a hard copy onsite.
11. Watch For The Annual Oregon International Air Show (Hillsboro and McMinnville)
Held annually since 1988, the Oregon International Air Show is Oregon’s largest aviation event. The mission of the air show is to provide a family event that promotes aviation, honors the military and veterans, involves the community, and contributes to Oregon charities. Check this link for details on past performers.
12. Enjoy Dining At Area Restaurants
Looking for Thai Food, Thai Bloom in Beaverton is a local favorite I often visit. Thai Bloom enjoys a reputation as one of the best Thai restaurants in the area.
Stop in at Saigon Bowl, a Vietnamese eatery in Beaverton. I enjoyed the Saigon Combination: a winning combination of vegetables and grilled meats.
Another restaurant I recommend is Reedville Cafe, also in Beaverton. Reedville Cafe is another local favorite serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Look for monthly specials such as the October German and apple pancakes served with bratwurst.
13. Sleep In Delightful Accommodations
Aloft Hillsboro-Beaverton is a boutique Marriott Hotel conveniently located in Beaverton.
I have also enjoyed staying at the Holiday Inn in Hillsboro.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Tualatin Valley offer many fantastic experiences: explore the countryside, agriculture, winemaking, craft beer trails, and nature preserves, making the area one of Oregon’s must-visit destinations. Plan a visit soon. You will be delighted you did!