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Exploring Oregon's Willamette Valley

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Home to nearly 250 producers, with verdant rolling hills that recall the South of France, the Willamette Valley—the heart of Oregon wine country—is a soul-stirringly beautiful place to explore. About an hour southwest of Portland along the banks of the Willamette River, the region is centered around the towns of Newberg, Dundee, Dayton, McMinnville and Carlton. Within the valley, several sub-appellations have sprung up, from the Chehalem Mountains in the north to the Dundee Hills a bit farther south. In a good year, the wines—especially Pinot Noirs—are dangerously drinkable; in a great one, like the current-release vintage of 2008, they rival the best of Burgundy, with lashings of mushroom and earth amid incandescent fruit. Best of all is the valley’s genuine lack of pretense, even as it has blossomed into a world-class destination, with accomplished farm-to-table eateries, a new spa hotel and a nascent truffle industry. Those once-in-a-decade 2008s are almost entirely spoken for, but the best way to find out for sure is to search in person.

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