Top 10 North American Wine Destinations…#5 – Dundee Hills, Oregon

Top 10 North American Wine Destinations

#5 – Dundee Hills, Oregon

    Over the years, I’ve driven through the little town of Dundee in Oregon’s Willamette Valley literally hundreds of times.

     Even with such frequency, I have never ceased to be strangely entertained by the sight of a small building that is painted in impossible-to-ignore purple and typically is adorned by a sign bearing some sort of political message.

     Here’s a picture of the building, shot by a Mr. Philip Williamson in 2007:

     I don’t know the story behind that building, but I do know that it – along with the town itself – serves as sort of a gateway to the Pinot Noir capital of the United States: an area known as Dundee Hills.

     Here are a few numbers associated with the area:

     * 28 — Number of miles from Oregon’s largest city, Portland.

     * 40 — Number of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

     * 6,490 — Number of acres within the Dundee Hills appellation.

     * 1,264 — Number of those acres planted to vineyards.

     * A vast majority — Vineyard acreage planted to Pinot Noir.

     Until about 10 years ago, Dundee Hills was a distant outpost even for the most adventurous of wine explorers. But as Oregon Pinot Noir grew more popular across the country and around the world, it was inevitable that “wine tourism” would engulf the area.

     Today, Dundee Hills is home not only to those aforementioned vineyards, but also to luxurious B&Bs, world-class dining destinations, and even tour guides.

     Staying in nearby McMinnville provides all the amenities of a big city, but little flavor of the region. Staying in Dundee, however, offers much more of a “wine country” feel.

     Dundee Manor was constructed more than a century ago, which explains why the adjacent trees are so massive. Guests love the gardens, the fountain area and the front porch – complete with rocking chairs.

     Red Ridge Farms is a specialty plant nursery and herb farm by day, but at night, its country inn apartment is available for guests in quest of real peace and quiet.

     Seeking quiet but not total solitude? Then check out – or check into – the Black Walnut Inn and Vineyard, which has nine suites and oozes European elegance.

     Two dining destinations that are popular with the locals are Tina’s and The Dundee Bistro.

     At Tina’s, the menu changes with the seasons and what’s available from its neighbors, who also are its ingredient suppliers.

     Here are a few selections from the restaurant’s fall/winter menu:

     * Skate Wing Fillet (pan-seared with lemon, shallots, hazelnuts and brown butter, and served with a gratin of Yukon gold potatoes)

     * Grilled Pork Chop (with bacon vinaigrette-braised red cabbage, and cheddar cheese noodle cake)

     * Grilled Cherry Smoked Quails (with carmelized onion risotto and braised greens)


     Save room for dessert, because Tina’s makes the best in the entire Willamette Valley. I suggest the nectarine-blueberry fruit cobbler, made with a buttery almond crust. I’m no nutritionist, but to my way of thinking, one cobbler should count for two of your daily fruit servings as well as one dairy serving.

     The Dundee Bistro was founded by the Ponzis, one of the pioneering families in Oregon winemaking. It specializes in “Willamette Valley Cuisine,” which means (like Tina’s) it sources a vast majority of its ingredients from local sources.

     Where appropriate, it even includes the names of its purveyors in some of its menu selections. For instance:

     * Gaining Grounds Farm Organic Green Salad (with red grapes, hazelnuts and Dijon vinaigrette)

     * Sudan Farms Shaved Leg of Lamb Ciabatta (with roasted red peppers, montchevre and tapenade)

     * Salumeria Di Carlo’s Italian Sausage (with parsnip-potato puree, chanterelles and cavolo nero)

     The by-the-glass wine list is heavy on Ponzi selections… which is not a bad thing.

     Whether you dine at Tina’s or The Dundee Bistro, you may feel the need to walk off some of those hard-earned calories. If so, consider embarking on Mark DeLong’s Oregon Dundee Hills Walking Wine Tour, which takes folks on backroads, through vineyards and to local tasting rooms.

     And speaking of tasting rooms, there are more than two dozen in the immediate area, including such famous names as Archery Summit, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, Erath, Sokol Blosser and Torii Mor.

     It’s pure Pinot paradise.

     Tomorrow: The countdown continues with #4.

Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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