With city cellars and valley vineyards, McMinnville is the perfect weekend destination for wine enthusiasts
You’ve just ordered fried chicken and waffles at McMinnville’s most popular breakfast spot and as you wait for your name to be called, you bop your head to the '90s hit song blaring from the restaurant’s speakers. It feels as though everyone is there together, chatting as they sit shoulder-to-shoulder at long wooden tables—like they’re all part of one big party.
On your left, a local tomato farmer and his wife are chatting up the owner of an award-winning vineyard. On your right, three young children are dancing to the music while their parents laugh about the events that took place the night before. You don’t know anyone there, yet you feel like you know everyone.
This is the overall vibe of McMinnville, a 1900s throwback town bursting with personality—and great Pinot.
Nestled in the heart of Oregon wine country, McMinnville is home to over 35,000 warmhearted characters from all walks of life, and over 200 award-winning wineries that line the rolling hills of the agriculturally rich region.
Here’s how to enjoy a taste of McMinnville as you tour through the town’s top wineries and favourite food spots...
1. Elizabeth Chambers Cellar
Bianca BujanElizabeth Chambers Cellar is the best place to start your wine tour, located just steps away from Third Street (recognized as one of America’s favourite Main Streets), and housed in a brick building built in 1923. When you step through the doors, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the old-school-industrial-meets-modern-chic space that sits before you. As you gaze at the vaulted ceilings, worn brick walls, and bright blue accents that match the colour of the butterfly that marks the labels of this well-known wine brand, you’ll be treated to some of the best wines that the valley has to offer. See, swirl, sniff, sip and savour as you learn about the story behind the brand, and the marriage of elegance and style that creates such a delicious blend of flavours in their quality wines.
Must-try wine: Be sure to try the 2014 Winemaker's Cuvee Pinot Noir, a smooth red bursting with dark cherry, bright strawberry and rhubarb notes.
2. Yamhill Valley Vineyards
Bianca BujanYamhill Valley Vineyards is the oldest winery in the McMinnville area, and has won top honours in tastings across the nation. Perched above a 150-acre estate, the unique property features a large patio, where you can sit and take in the sweeping views of the rolling foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains while sipping on a variety of wines made on-site. Bring your own lunch, or order charcuterie, as you taste wines from the valley that put Pinot on the map.
Must-try wine: The 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve expresses notes of cigar box, anise, vanilla, clove and underlying fruit, the perfect pairing with a juicy steak.
3. Coeur de Terre Vineyard
Bianca BujanThe people behind Coeur de Terre Vineyard are as full of heart as their wines are full of delicious and sophisticated flavours. Founded in 1998 by a husband-wife duo, this family-run estate plants, grows and produces some expressive Pinots that reflect the unique land on which their grapes are grown. Be sure to set aside some time with “Mr. Passionate” Jacques, who will give you the dirt on how the land’s soils have created such distinctive notes in the wines produced on site.
Must-try wine: The 2016 Rosé Rustique is a deliciously dry rosé, featuring an alluring blend of cranberry, raspberry, cherry and grape notes.
4. R. Stuart & Co.
R. Stuart & Co.R. Stuart & Co.’s Wine Bar is located right in the heart of the Third Street strip in downtown McMinnville, where you can sip on wines produced using the fruits of over a dozen local growers. This production winery (sans vineyard) is run by four owners, each with an impressive background in the wine industry, creating Pinots with passion from the production house located only blocks away from the Wine Bar. Try a bubbles tasting as you nosh on a cheese plate and watch passers-by stroll past the window of the quaint space.
Must-try wine: The Rosé d'Or (pictured) is an elegant sparkling wine, featuring toasty aromas and notes of nutmeg, honey, thyme and crisp apple.
5. Brittan Vineyards
Bianca BujanLocated in the Granary District of McMinnville—only steps from the town’s main strip—is the tasting room of Brittan Vineyards, which offers an open, modern space where you can sample wines from both Brittan Vineyards and Winderlea Winery. After 16 years as a winemaker in Napa, and over 40 years of experience growing grapes and making wine, the founder of Brittan Vineyards (and winemaker for several other local brands including Winderlea) has planted his roots in McMinnville soil. The shared tasting room is the perfect spot to sip on a variety of Pinot Noirs made with prestige.
Must-try wine: The 2013 Basalt Block Pinot Noir by Brittan Vineyards reveals red-fruited notes of black cherry, red plum skin, black raspberry and red licorice.
6. Community Plate
Bianca BujanFor breakfast, Community Plate is a must. Featuring loud music, communal dining, classic American fare and a casual and welcoming feel, this local haunt is a favourite for locals and visitors alike. The dishes are made using the freshest local ingredients, and the wide range of breakfast offerings—from fried chicken and waffles (pictured), to quiche and greens—make it easy to return to daily during your visit.
7. Valley Commissary
Bianca Bujan is a great local lunch spot, offering upscale dishes featuring local, in-season ingredients. Everything is made fresh in-house, and the menu offers a wide range of healthy lunch options that are perfect for a quick dine-in, or a pack-it-up lunch to go.
8. Pura Vida Cocina
Bianca BujanIf you’re craving lunch with a little spice, head to Pura Vida Cocina for a mouth-watering Latin American meal. Using ingredients sourced locally, Pura Vida creates a wide range of flavourful dishes, like the Enchiladas de Mole, and Aguacate Frito (you have to try these fried avocados!).
9. Thistle Restaurant and McMenamins Rooftop Patio
Bianca BujanYour stay in McMinnville would not be complete without a dinner at Thistle Restaurant, a shabby chic bistro featuring a rotating menu that is based on farm-supplied and in-season ingredients. The quaint 22-seater may be small, but it’s bursting with personality—its walls lined with thistle wallpaper and naturally distressed wood, and the bar serving up classic cocktails from the late 1800s in antique mismatched glassware. If rabbit is on the menu, it’s a must-try dish.
After-dinner drinks on the rooftop patio of McMenamins, located in the Hotel Oregon in downtown McMinnville, is the perfect way to wrap up your day. Named one of the top 10 rooftop bars on the West Coast, the patio offers unobstructed views of Oregon’s lush wine country. Watch the sunset, sip on cocktails and reflect on your favourite moments from your wine tour through McMinnville.
10. Where to stay
Bianca BujanThe Victorian on 10th is an out-of-the-box boutique bed and breakfast, located only a few blocks from downtown McMinnville. Enjoy a peaceful stay in a suite that marries classic decor from the Victorian era with the modern-day comforts of home (free WiFi, and dogs welcome!), and includes a private, fully-equipped kitchen so you can enjoy your stay without the presence of hosts. Not your typical B&B, guests arrive to a fridge full of freshly-baked goods and fully-stocked cupboards. This quaint Inn is the perfect retreat, where you’ll feel like you’re living in your very own apartment, located in a historic building that’s brimming with character.
11. Getting there
Doug RiddellWhether you take a plane, train or automobile, you can get to McMinnville from Vancouver in less than a day. For around $100 each way, you can take the Amtrak Cascades, an eight-hour train ride from Vancouver to Portland along the coastal shores, where you can enjoy the scenery while sipping on wine and noshing on nibblies. For just over $550 return, you can fly to Portland in under two hours. Whether you arrive by air or rail, you’ll have to rent a car and drive an hour inland to reach the town of McMinnville—and you’ll want a car so you can access all the outlying vineyards during your stay. If you’re up for a road trip, hop in your car and you can be parked on the streets of McMinnville in just over six hours from Vancouver.