Sunday, March 13, 2022

Tualatin Valley A Captivating Destination In Oregon Wine Country

David Hill Vineyard: Washington County Visitors Association, photo by Paul Loofburrow

Sake, crystals, wine, and amphorae – all in Tualatin Valley…

Tualatin Valley Wineries And More

The world of wine is full of valleys: Napa Valley, Rhone Valley, Barossa Valley. If you love wine, or if you just love to travel to interesting places, add another valley to your list: Oregon’s Tualatin Valley.

Amphora at Beckham Estate VineyardNever Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

Tualatin Valley is just minutes southwest of Portland. It’s located in the northwest corner of the famed Willamette Valley. Just east of the Northern Oregon Coast Range, the valley is formed by the Tualatin River.

I’ve visited Tualatin Valley twice, although at the time I didn’t know this area had an identity distinct from the larger Willamette Valley.

Tualatin is home to the amazing Alloro Vineyard. Allora is a Tuscan-inspired winery and I tasted their terroir-driven wines that showcase the purity of fruit during my first visit. During my last trip I toured Beckham Estate Vineyard where potter and winemaker Andrew Beckham creates his own handcrafted, terra cotta amphorae wine vessels. Beckham Estate is likely the only winery in the world where the production of the terra cotta vessels for fermenting and aging is on-site, and is integrated with the farming and production of the wines.

All told, Tualatin has a total of 33 estate wineries and nine tasting rooms. If you visit Tualatin Valley, you may be drinking wine in four different AVAs. Willamette Valley is a large AVA with more than 5,300 square acres. A portion of the  Chehalem Mountains AVA is in Tualatin Valley as are two of the newest Oregon AVAs. The Laurelwood District and Tualatin River AVAs were both established in 2020.

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To become an AVA, a region must prove it has unique qualities, like a geographic feature or climate that distinguishes it from surrounding and affects how grapes are grown. The Laurelwood District is located on the northern slopes of Chehalem Mountains and has Laurelwood soils, an iron-rich loess from the Missoula Flood that occurred during the Ice Age. The Tualatin River AVA aligns with the Tualatin River watershed and also features Laurelwood soils, but a much warmer climate than the Laurelwood District.

Proprietor David Nemarnik in the Alloro cellarYou can be forgiven if you think Oregon is all about the Pinot Noir. Sure, there is plenty of premium Pinot Noir in Tualatin Valley, but it also features dozens of unique varieties. On the red side you’ll also find Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Tempranillo  and Sangiovese. Pinot Gris is the biggest white grape in Oregon, but in Tualatin, you’ll also find Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Arneis, Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner. Riesling is also popular.  and Apolloni Vineyards even makes Pinot Grigio – the same grape as Pinot Gris, but with a decidedly different style.   

Diversity Beyond The Landscape

The diversity is not confined to the vineyard. Washington County (which encompasses Tualatin Valley) is the most culturally diverse county in the state of Oregon. Japanese influences can be found in abundance at culinary destinations throughout the region. Fun and tasty Japanese creations await at Beaverton’s Oyatsupan Bakers, while the city sees the emergence of chain ramen shops from Japan. Uwajimaya, an Asian grocery, sells foods and other wares from Japan. In the city of Forest Grove, many Japanese traditions of crafting premium sake can be tasted at SakeOne, the first American owned-and-operated sake brewery.

Tasting at SakeOne. Photo by Jim Shea.Lovers of natural and biodynamic wines will also enjoy the Tualatin Valley scene.   
In 1999, Cooper Mountain Vineyards was the first vineyard/winery to be Demeter-certified biodynamic in the Pacific Northwest. Montinore Estate uses the property’s meadow, lake, cover crops and “unusual” farming techniques are a part of its biodynamic farming process. Their interesting L’Orange, is made from white wine grapes that get extended skin contact, and are blended with clay amphora-fermented Gewürztraminer to add complexity.

Of course there is more to Tualatin than beverages. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the 50-mile paved Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway or try ziplining or a birding and wildlife watching walk.

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals is one of the world’s finest collections of crystals from worldwide localities. In addition you will see spectacular fossils, meteorites, petrified woods, oddities, fluorescents, lapidary arts and the best from the Northwest.

Whether you are thirsting for wine or a scenic outdoor adventure, Tualatin has something for everyone. For more information, check out the Tualatin Valley website.

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