(Above: who doesn’t love a town with a bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin?)
Don’t you love how people compare places this way? Bruges is the Venice of the North, Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America, Turkey is damn good eatin’, and so on (ok, well that last example is just my November-inspired opinion).
After spending a few weeks in Oregon wine country we might be inclined to characterize the tiny little town of McMinnville as “The Sonoma of Oregon Wine Country”. Insofar as they make wine nearby and it’s a town, then the metaphor sticks. But then again, the same is true of thousands of towns with winemaking nearby.
So why did McMinnville leave me with the impression that I liked it the same way I like Sonoma?
Well, I’ll tell you why. Both McMinnville and Sonoma are unpretentious. That’s right, they don’t strive to impress and they don’t care what you or I think about them. Some might say that Sonoma sits in neighboring Napa’s tourist shadow. Sonoma says, “whatever”. Sonoma gets on with the business of being Sonoma. For example, just like in Napa there are great fine dining restaurants in Sonoma, but you might be dining next to a wine grape farmer fresh out of the vineyard still in muddy boots; in Napa you’ll likely be dining next to Buffy the Merlot Slayer and her posse.
McMinnville sits conveniently 15 miles or so southwest of Portland and 10 miles or so northwest of Salem. If you’re in Portland and you’re a wine lover, put a side trip to McMinnville on your schedule. It’s surrounded by unpretentious wineries and vineyards, and the charming downtown is packed with tasting rooms, wine bars, and restaurants (of the unpretentious variety)
We ate at Pura Vida Cocina and Arte, selected solely by it’s ranking on TripAdvisor (number 1 of 99 restaurants listed). TripAdvisor was spot on. It was one of the best meals we’ve had this year.
Among the tasting rooms in McMinnville you’ll find The Eyrie Vineyards, Walnut City Wineworks, Stone Wolf Vineyards, Remy Wines, and (probably the most nationally recognizable) Willamette Valley Vineyards. The local varietal is mainly Pinot Noir, so expect to find lots of it. If you’re into more of a hardy red, like us, you might be surprised with a few of the Pinots (be sure to tell your tasting host you prefer more full-bodied reds), and many of the wineries have vineyards of other varietals in eastern Oregon. In the whites, Riesling is common around McMinnville and likely won’t disappoint most Riesling lovers (like Lori).
And if you don’t like the local Pinots or Rieslings, well they really don’t give a damn.