One of the most beautiful places on earth is the Willamette Valley; it’s the heart of Oregon wine country. The temperate climate is the ultimate environment for Pinot noir, known as the most ancient of varietals and one of the more temperamental grapes to produce. Luckily, the seasons are kind to Pinot in Oregon wine country, and paired with the amazing talent of the winemakers and farmers in the area, we’re just surrounded by fantastic wines.
The Willamette Valley is one of the largest American Viticultural Areas or AVAs in the United States, coming in at around 3.5 million acres. Within the larger AVA of the Valley, nine smaller AVAs have been recognized as of 2020. Each of these pockets (or families) of vineyards produces unique characteristics to their wines due to elevation, soil makeup, weather, and many other environmental factors.
Our Bailey Family Vineyard is 23 acres of the McMinnville AVA in Oregon wine country, made up of 18 acres of Pinot noir, with 2.5 acres each of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. To learn more about the details of our vineyards, read here. Our 50-acre estate is also home to Youngberg Hill wines and our Willamette Valley Bed and Breakfast. A stay at our Willamette Valley Inn drops you right into the land surrounding a working winery. Book your room today for a lovely Oregon wine country adventure.
The AVAs of Oregon Wine Country
The Willamette Valley AVA was recognized in 1983 and now is home to more than 500 wineries in the Oregon wine country. The other nine nested AVAs within the Willamette Valley all have something that makes their wine unique and a visit to these special areas is the best way to taste these differences for yourself. Even a two-degree change in temperature can affect the overall outcome of a vintage.
Below we have a quick breakdown of each Willamette Valley AVA and a recommendation for where to taste some of the best wines Oregon wine country has to offer.
- Chehalem Mountains AVA: Located on the Northern end of the Willamette Valley, this 20 by 5-mile area is roughly 70,000 acres with just under 3,000 acres of planted vineyards with 70% dedicated to Pinot noir. Make a reservation at ROCO Winery for a Pinot tasting from their Wit’s End Vineyard.
- Dundee Hills AVA: This Oregon wine country AVA is renowned for having the first planted vineyards in the Willamette Valley. It’s 12,500 acres with more than 2,200 acres of vineyards, which means it’s the AVA with the most densely planted vineyards. Bergstrom Winery‘s vineyards were planted in 1999 on a South-facing slope in volcanic soils, they are offering outdoor tastings by appointment only.
- Eola-Amity Hills AVA: This area is made up of the sister hills spanning almost 40,000 acres with around 1,300 acres of planted vineyards. The soils are known to be shallow and rockier here for a natural drainage system creating smaller, more concentrated fruit on the vine. For a classic Oregon wine country Pinot, visit Brooks winery for a flight on the deck or patio. Call ahead to book your 90-minute tasting window.
- Laurelwood District AVA: Welcome the Laurelwood District as one of the newly appointed AVAs as of June 2020. Nestled inside the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the area is 33,000 acres and sits on the North and East facing slopes. One of the Valley’s oldest wineries, Ponzi Vineyards was founded in 1970 and is offering indoor and outdoor tasting experiences.
- McMinnville AVA: We may be a bit biased about this AVA, as it’s the home for our organic and biodynamic Bailey Family Wines and our sister label Youngberg Hill. This area is nearly 40,500 acres and is known for its shallow soil, lower precipitation, and protection from the Coast Range Mountains. A seated tasting by appointment at Bailey Family Wines has our newly released single varietal wines, while our tasting room at Youngberg Hill is open for walk-ins.
- Ribbon Ridge AVA: This AVA is yet another section of the Chehalem Mountains AVA and is a notably smaller area coming in at just over 3,000 acres with around 500 acres of planted vineyards in ocean sedimentary soils. Check out Brick House Vineyards for a tasting appointment of Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay noir.
- Tualatin Hills AVA: Another newcomer to the bunch, this AVA was also recognized in 2020. It’s a 15-mile swath of land in the northwest corner of the Willamette Valley and its most defining characteristic is the watershed of the Tualatin River. Enjoy an afternoon of tasting at Apolloni Vineyards for Pinot noir and Italian-style wines.
- Van Duzer Corridor AVA: This triangular area is an unusual AVA where the winds from the Coast Range filter through, cooling the area and drying the vines, creating wines with higher tannin. Left Coast Wine, a family-run winery, has some fun offerings of wine flights and dining options.
- Yamhill-Carlton AVA: This area is North of McMinnville and consists of almost 60,000 acres of diverse landscape. There are about 1,200 acres of vineyards in the rain shadow of the Coast Range and this area hosts some of the oldest soils found in the Valley. Make a reservation at the stalwart producer Elk Cove Vineyards started in 1974 and still family-owned and operated.
Stay at Our Willamette Valley B&B in the Heart of Oregon Wine Country
While out exploring the beautiful AVAs of the Willamette Valley, you’ll want to find lodging in a central area of Oregon wine country, and our luxury Bed and Breakfast is a great location (just 10 miles from downtown McMinnville) for an immersive wine tasting vacation. Surrounded by our vineyards, a breathtaking view of the valley, and high-end amenities, we would love to host you and toast you with a glass of our Pinot noir.
With only nine guest suites, our Willamette Valley Bed and Breakfast is intimate, yet spacious, with lots of open outdoor areas and balconies for a comfortable stay. We’re following every protocol to make your stay safe. Our gourmet 2-course breakfast with local ingredients can be enjoyed in your room or in one of many of our socially distanced areas.
As a special treat for our overnight guests, we offer half-off pricing for our seated wine tasting at Youngberg Hill and Bailey Family Wines. Join us today and book your next getaway in Oregon wine country!