America’s hipster haven, Portland, might be best known for its love of locally sourced food and craft beer, but the wine at its doorstep is some of the finest in the US. Oregon is America’s home of pinot noir; its cold, marginal climate makes it the perfect place for pinot’s delicate grapes to ripen.
In much the same way that Melbourne is surrounded by world-class wine regions, there are wine appellations to Portland’s south, east and west.
The Willamette Valley, directly south of Portland, was first planted with pinot in the 1960s, about the same time as the Yarra Valley. Home to 500 of Oregon’s 700-odd wineries, it’s an easy day trip from Portland.
Stretching out 240 kilometres along the Willamette River through Oregon’s capital, Salem, and down to university town, Eugene, the region is home to grand cellar doors and wineries that charge hundreds of dollars for a bottle of pinot noir. It’s also a fertile breeding ground for young, edgy winemakers.
Further afield, Hood River is about 90 minutes east of Portland along the Columbia River and the perfect place for an overnight stay. Surrounded by vineyards, the Columbia Gorge region is packed with craft breweries – perfect at the end of a day exploring the nearby national parks.
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Soter Vineyards, Willamette Valley \ There’s no sign and a reservation is required to visit Soter’s tasting room. But the effort is worth it to try the sustainably farmed pinot noir and chardonnay.
Hiyu Wine Farm, Hood River \ Hiyu is a mixed farm with livestock and interesting grape varieties. Its wines are made in an old fruit-packing shed, which hosts dinners on Saturday nights.
Strict planning laws have preserved Portland’s industrial past and Society Hotel, on the edge of downtown, occupies the site of the the former Seaman’s Friends Society’s Mariners Hotel, built in 1881. Rooms start at $150.
Start the day at Olympia Provisions, which has two branches in Portland and specialises in American charcuterie. For lunch, the only thing better than the stacked subs at Lardo Sandwiches are the crispy fried pigs’ ears that go so well with a pint of craft beer on tap. Finish the day with French food in a fine setting at Little Bird Bistro.
Budget won’t stretch to tickets to the US? Pinot Now has been importing Oregon pinot noir for more than 15 years and stocks the widest range in Australia.