Stretching some 100 miles long from Portland south past Eugene to the Calapooya Mountains and 60 miles at its widest point between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a verdant and fertile region best known as Oregon Wine Country. More than 500 wineries are located here, along with farms growing everything from vegetables, cranberries and hazelnuts to flowers, Christmas trees, hops, herbs and grasses.
Willamette (which rhymes with dammit, by the way) Valley is also a densely populated region, home to the state’s second- and third-largest cities of Eugene and Salem as well as Woodburn, Springfield, Cottage Grove, Eugene, Corvallis, Albany, Dallas, McMinnville, Newberg, Oregon City and many more. Geographically, the cities of Portland, Gresham, Hillsboro and Beaverton are in the valley, but generally those urban areas are not considered part of the Willamette Valley Wine Country. The Willamette River winds its way through the entire region, and Interstate 5 runs the length of the valley, linking the cities and towns.
Savoring Oregon Wine Country
Willamette Valley is one of the top wine-growing regions in the United States. The Mediterranean-like climate and latitude are perfect for Oregon vineyards to grow pinot noir and Chardonnay grapes, among more than 70 other varietals, notably pinot gris, Riesling and Gamay. Touring Oregon wineries and their tasting rooms, which span the gamut from upscale to rustic, is a popular pastime.
Paralleling the top-quality wines of Oregon Wine Country are local breweries, cideries, distilleries and such a wide array of dining options that the area has become known as a foodie Mecca. Restaurateurs in the Willamette Valley lean toward handcrafted, farm-to-table cuisine focusing on the abundance of the valley – including the famous locally harvested Oregon black and white truffles.
The region is also known for outdoor recreation such as hiking, biking, hot-air ballooning and horseback riding and river adventures like fishing, paddling and rafting. Add in an abundance of accommodations options, charming towns full of locally owned shops, a slow-paced lifestyle and friendly people, and Willamette Valley is a tourist destination for slowing down and savoring the good things in life. Use this site to find what you need to know to enjoy Willamette Valley and Oregon Wine Country.
Visiting Salem, Oregon, Eugene, Oregon Corvallis, Oregon
Three of the largest Willamette Valley cities, Salem, Eugene and Corvallis, are located along the Willamette River. Salem, the state capital, offers century-old architecture, a walkable downtown and the beautiful Riverfront Park. Just across the Willamette River from Salem are 1,300 acres of parkland and 20 miles of walking trails. Consistently ranked on lists of the top places to live in the United States and home to University of Oregon, Eugene is known for its progressive attitudes, for its artsy and outdoorsy pursuits and for having more of a hippie than hipster vibe. Nearby Corvallis, Oregon, is home to Oregon State University. All three cities offer diverse options for eating, drinking, nightlife, shopping, overnight stays and outdoor and indoor recreation, and you’ll find what you need to know on this site.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big are the cities in the Willamette Valley?
Salem and Eugene are similar in population, around 160,000, with Salem being the larger of the two. Corvallis has a population of around 55,000, while McMinnville has around 33,000 and Newberg has about 23,000.
What is the climate like in the Willamette Valley?
The climate of the Willamette Valley is described as Mediterranean. Summers are dry and hot followed by cool, rainy and consistently cloudy winters. There’s little to no rainfall occurring during the summer months, and more than half of the annual precipitation falls between November and February.
How many wineries and vineyards are there in the Willamette Valley?
According to willamettewines.com, there are 554 wineries and 719 vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The state of Oregon has 725 wineries. The total number of vineyard acres planted is 21,793. For comparison’s sake, California’s Napa Valley has 400 wineries and 45,000 acres of vineyards planted. Sonoma County, California, has 260 wineries.
What types of grapes are grown in Willamette Valley?
The valley is recognized as one of the premier regions for pinot noir, so the vast majority of vineyards concentrate on that grape. However, vintners grow more than 70 other varietals here, including pinot gris, pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
What are the sub-appellations of the Willamette Valley?
Willamette Valley is a huge growing appellation (a.k.a., a formal wine region) that includes six sub-appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton.
When is truffle season in Oregon?
Oregon has four native truffle species, and the forests around Willamette Valley are good places to find them. The season for harvesting Oregon Winter White Truffles is from January through April. For Oregon Spring White Truffles, the best season is June and July. Oregon Black Truffle season is October through July, and the Oregon Brown Truffle Season is from September through January. French Black Truffles are not native to the area, but they’re cultivated here and harvested from December through April. The famous Oregon Truffle Festival is held in Eugene in January and Yamhill Valley in February.
What is the Willamette meteorite?
The Willamette meteorite is the largest meteorite ever found in the United States. It is 84 square feet and weighs 34,000 pounds. It was found in Oregon but is not on display in the Willamette Valley; it's now housed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.