A Rendezvous with Willamette Valley

May is Oregon Wine Month and in celebration I will be sharing stories all month long about my recent trip to the Willamette Valley Wine Country.

Late April is typical for bud break in much of the Willamette Valley, but each vineyard varies due to sun exposure, altitude and several other factors.

When traveling through the wide open meadows, rolling hills and acres of vineyards in each unique seven appellation of the Willamette Valley you get a sense of how the early pioneers, after months traveling on the Oregon Trail, felt when they finally reached this fertile valley. The promise of a comfortable climate, plenty of water and rich soil ideal for growing healthy crops, continues to draw people to this land today.

The Willamette Valley is much larger than you think.

In April I had the opportunity to travel to the Northern part of the Willamette Valley. Although I was born in Oregon, I had yet had the chance to experience Willamette Valley as a Wine Loving adult. Experiencing the beauty of the land, and talking to winemakers and wine professionals made this visit feel like a welcoming trip home. There are many reasons to visit the Willamette Valley that go beyond wine tasting and vineyards. The area is home to a number of farms, from small boutique farms, to large agricultural productions. Many of which offer opportunities to tour the making of, and enjoy tastings of the local cheese, nuts, fruits, and honeys. In addition to wine making there is a strong number of unique producers of craft cider and beers. Fine dining and farm to table restaurants are a perfect way to end the day after exploring one of the regions hiking trails.
Willamette Valley is the largest and most important wine-growing region in Oregon. Since the mid 1800’s wine grapes have been grown in Oregon, however, it was not until 1966 that an organized movement started to grow grapes and produce wine in the Valley. Some people say that without Pinot Noir there might not be an Oregon wine industry as we know it today. Rewind back to 1966 and we have David Lett and his wife Diana to thank for this introduction. The Lett’s planted their 3,000 Pinot Noir vines, along with a few Pinot Gris vines on a well chosen, south-facing slope in the Dundee Hills. The rest as they say is history and now the The Willamette Valley Oregon Wine country has over 500 wineries and over 1100 vineyards.

Bells Up Winery and Vineyard

Digging deeper into the success of the Willamette Valley wine industry and one word is always spoken, Dirt. Some call it Dirt and some call it Soil but what it always comes down to it what is in that handful of earth and how it affects the crops that are planted there. The name of one soil was repeated time and time again during our visit, and that was Jory Soil. Named after Jory Hill, Marion County, Oregon, which is named for the Jory family, who after traveling along the Oregon Trail settled in the area in 1852.
Why does this dirt matter so much? The climate of the Willamette Valley and the Jory soils provide a picture perfect combination for the production of many different crops, to include Christmas trees, various berries, and the famous filberts (hazelnuts). The Jory soils are perfectly suitable for grapes because of the deep, well-drained layers of soils that formed in basic igneous rock and is easily distinguishable by its strikingly red color. For those who wish to deep dive into the extensive information about the soils and the terroir of the Willamette Valley, I have provided a link to the Willamette Valley Wineries Association for you to read more about the in-depth growing factors found in the Valley. https://willamettewines.com/about-the-valley/

Soter Winery

A Taste of Willamette Valley

One of the best ways to end a day of wine tasting in the Willamette Valley is with a relaxing and delicious dinner. Chefs in the Valley are striving to entice diners by sourcing the freshest local produce, meats and seafood to complement local vintages. Two locations, both in Newberg, had everything I love about dining in a new town. The setting is welcoming, the food and beverage selections are unique and you get the feeling that this is were “the locals eat”. Both Barley & Vine Tavern and The Newbergundian Bistro are both relatively new, and both are making a big impact on the food scene in Newberg.

Barley & Vine Tavern

Imagining a place that patrons would feel like they were enjoying a meal in a friends living room, Owner Emily Weichold envisioned Barley & Vine as being a cozy spot for any mood or occasion.

Owner of Barley & Vine Tavern, Emily Weichold.

Opening its doors in June of 2017 Barley & Vine features local and domestic beers and wines from around the around the Willamette Valley and around the world. Beers and ciders consist of a rotating list of 16 taps, with growlers and bottles available to fill up and to go.

A tasting flight is always a great way to taste some of the 16 on tap beers and ciders, and that is exactly how we began our night after a day of wine tasting.

The wine selection both by the glass and bottle is just as impressive at Barley & Vine Tavern.

The night that we visited Barley & Vine was a Wednesday which means Burger Night for the locals and tourists.

A delicious burger and a glass of red wine is just the perfect way to spend a Wednesday.

Don’t feel like a Burger? No worries, Barley and Vine Tavern has you covered with a selection of upscale bar bites.

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread with Crostini, Chicken Liver Pate with Crostini and Pickled Veggies, Ham and Brie Sandwich, Nachos and more can all be found on the menu.

Now that I have been there I feel like a trip to Newberg in the Willamette Valley wouldn’t be complete without a night at Barley & Vine Tavern.

The Newbergundian Bistro

Not yet open for a year The Newbergundian Bistro is creating quite a buzz in the Newberg community.

During our first full day of wine tasting in the Valley we were often asked that familiar question, “Where are you having dinner tonight?” When the name The Newbergundian Bistro was spoken, unanimous accolades were provided. The only disagreement, was which menu item was the favorite.

Serving the food and beverages that they love, Owners Sean and Noelle McKee are plating up meals with a French-inspired American flare like salads, fish and chips as well as a few things with a more European influence.

The thriving Newbergundian Bistro combines Sean’s 18 years experience as a Chef who trained in France, and Noelle’s two decades working in the restaurant business. With an open view of the kitchen it was a pleasure to watch Sean and his staff seamlessly assemble their creations, plating traditional and self-styled dishes.

The dinner began with two appetizers.
Frisée, goat cheese, candied filberts, balsamic vinaigrette
A Seasonal Spring Special:
Charred Broccoli Rabe

Newbergundian Bistro has an impressive wine by the glass menu, with my meal I enjoyed a 2017 J. Christopher Sauvignon Blanc.

On the salad menu, Croque Monsieur wowed with spinach, smoked ham hock, gruyere cheese, and stone ground mustard vinaigrette .

Dining with my husband is always a pleasure and we have an ongoing agreement to always order something that we both want so that we can experience two dishes. On this night we just couldn’t resist the Coq Au Vin, and the Lamb Chops.

Coq Au Vin
Braised Chicken with whipped potatoes and a beautiful mushroom gravy.

Don’t even get me started on how simply amazing the Lamb Chops were! Served with Merguez sausage, French lentils, braised endive, and a tahini vinaigrette, I really wanted to go back the next night for another plate.

Quiet frankly both of these dishes exceeded my expectations, simply amazing.

I want to thank both Barley & Vine Tavern and The Newbergundian Bistro for their hospitality. These two dining experiences really made our first trip to the Willamette Valley something to remember.

Throughout the month I will continue the Willamette Valley series with in depth posts of some outstanding Oregon wineries.

For more information about these two establishments visit: https://www.newbergundian.com/ https://www.barleyandvinetavern.com/

All images copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

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