Sip and Spin

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley vineyards     Photo: Chris Leschinsky

I grew up in Bend, Oregon, but these days when I visit my home state, I head west of the mountains to pedal the narrow blacktop of the Willamette Valley or suck my way to the bottom of a bottle at one of its many wineries. It’s Napa without the Botox, the prices, or the boat shoes. It’s blackberry brambles and alfalfa fields and mist-shrouded hills. It’s 120 miles long and 60 miles wide, with low traffic, moderate to technical climbs and descents, and 15,000 acres of grapes. It’s best accessed from the porch of Tommy’s Bicycle Shop in McMinnville, which offers rentals, maps, and repairs (503-472-2010). About the wine: the region is best known for its ­pinot noir, but you’d be a fool to pass up the pinot gris and Dijon clone chardonnay. Willamette Valley Vineyards (wvv.com) pours heavy in the tasting room. Domaine Serene Vineyards and Winery (domaineserene.com) has the sprawl and ­splendor of an Italian villa and offers the best (and priciest) selection of pinots in the valley. Sokol Blosser (sokolblosser.com) is chill and inexpensive (try its Evolution and Meditrina blends). I’ve biked from winery to winery and clomped through the tours in my road shoes and spandex, but that gets to be a long, wobbly day. I much prefer hammering hard—pedaling out of McMinnville on the East Salmon River Highway for a 25-mile loop of Walnut Hill, or out of Newberg on Bald Peak Road and back on NE Hendricks Road for a 35-miler—and then closing out the day spent and ragged, collapsed in an Adiron­dack chair at Sokol Blosser, goblet in hand, rows and rows of grapevines marching into the distance.

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