The Inns & Dining Outs of Oregon’s Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley has long been a favored destination of the hungry and thirsty. Lured by visions of agricultural riches, nearly half a million 19th century pioneers journeyed west. Reaching the end of the Oregon Trail, they spread across the valley to fill it with some of the earliest farms, orchards, vineyards—even a distillery—in the Northwest. Today, the Willamette Valley remains a grail for travelers wanting to experience the alimentary affluence of one of America’s greatest agrarian regions.
The 21st century culinary tourist will find much to explore in the Willamette Valley, from nearly 200 wineries and more than a dozen breweries, to innumerable roadside farm stands, farmers markets, and U-pick farms. And thanks to a variety of both old and new visitor resources, experiencing these riches has never been easier or more pleasurable.
The Allison Inn & Spa, for instance, epitomizes the renascent pioneer spirit. Newly opened, The Allison offers amenities galore, making it the first destination resort in the valley and an ideal launching pad for exploring the area’s epicurean attractions.
Here are some suggestions for getting around the Willamette Valley.
Make a Reservation for Relaxation
Though it is possible to arrive at The Allison Inn & Spa by private helicopter (it has been done), most people drive from Portland, often after a long flight to The City of Roses. Hardly arduous, you still might be ready to wind down after the drive in your spacious and remarkably quiet room. The Allison’s 85 guest rooms provide a sleek, modern decor, softened by the use of earth tones and original local art. Every room features a gas fireplace, large soaking tub, and an individual balcony with views that range from hazelnut orchards and pine trees to The Allison’s own vineyard.
Once settled in, the comforts of your room make it easy to forget there’s a full-service resort at your disposal—but further exploration is handsomely rewarded.
While the capacious indoor pool and hot tub are tempting, if it is stress you need relieving, the spectacular spa is the place to unwind. With 15,000 square feet dedicated to pampering, it is one of the largest in the Northwest. Twelve high-ceilinged yet cozy treatment rooms and an expert staff deliver an impressive range of services. Massage therapy, body wraps and scrubs, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, facials, manicures, pedicures, plus haircuts and styling are available in a variety of packages and prices.
All that relaxing can make a body hungry. The Allison’s Jory Restaurant will slake your appetite. Start off with a glass of wine from the bar, and then settle into a cozy spot around the fireplace or on the outdoor patio in warmer weather. When you are ready to eat, choose from a seat at the kitchen-side counter, where you can follow the energy of the chefs as they prepare the evening’s meals, or select a more private dining room table.
Jory’s menu changes daily to reflect Executive Chef Nathan Lockwood’s choice of seasonal ingredients, many of which are grown in The Allison’s own organic gardens. The focus is “Oregon Wine Country Cuisine,” creatively prepared local delicacies such as salmon, wild mushrooms, game birds, and berries paired with the Willamette Valley’s fine wines (eventually to include The Allison’s own estate-grown Pinot Noir). Both the menu and wine choices are extensive, making it easy to explore the region’s culinary bounty without leaving your table.
After a leisurely meal, retire to the fireplace with an after-dinner drink and mingle with fellow guests (a local winemaker or two is often in the midst), then return to your room for a good night’s slumber—and you’ll need it! Tomorrow the activities begin.
An Oasis of Comfort
For those who prefer more intimate lodgings, the newly opened Inn at Red Hills also serves as a great base for exploring the Willamette Valley. A boutique hotel with premier dining, the property is located at the edge of the Dundee Hills appellation.
Each of the Inn’s 20 rooms has a unique floor plan and view. All are luxuriously appointed and just paces away from the Inn’s fine dining restaurant, Farm to Fork. Exemplifying the region’s culinary ethos, Farm to Fork is at once a restaurant, delicatessen, and food artisan market.
Overseen by Executive Chef Paul Bachand, everything at Farm to Fork emphasizes local seasonal ingredients (many sourced from the owners’ nearby farm), with finely prepared meals and products that embody the terroir of the surrounding countryside.
And since the Inn is in the heart of Oregon’s Pinot country, it is only appropriate that they offer an unusually deep selection of local wines at Press, their inviting wine bar. Paul de Lancellotti, a biodynamic vintner himself, offers expert advice as Director of Education and Sustainability, and Director of Wine Mark Bosko is on hand to enhance your tasting experience. Together, their deep knowledge of the local wine scene gives visitors a deliciously rich taste of Willamette Valley’s wine country.
Photos: Doreen L Wynja