Small towns slay the sweaty summer doldrums. Don’t believe me? In Oregon wine country, it’s actually possible to fill all those late sunsets with every kind of party and none of the hassle.
With a scene set for late-night strolls, nightlife that is just happening enough, and spaces meant to maximize the easy living of the wine country lifestyle, McMinnville might be just the right place to go big on summer.
- The wine country lifestyle actually relaxes.
The Barberry, McMinnville’s newest fine dining locale, starts the weekend on Wednesday nights with live music served alongside an inventive menu of Pacific Northwest-inspired dishes. Think truffle fondue, halibut, local produce, foraged mushrooms and tasting flights featuring the best of the area’s 300+ wineries. Just try not to live in the moment when you’re slurping an oyster, sipping a cool Pinot gris and jamming out in a space made for loving on wine.
- Local farms are in high season.
Summer nosh has an allure like no other. McMinnville, in the heart of Willamette Valley agricultural production, is ground zero for summer foodie culture. If your party style includes sweet farm stalls, artisan cheesemakers, jam purveyors, crafters, and produce worthy of an Instagram feed, head to the McMinnville Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoons. Missed it? Locals flood the smaller, produce-forward market at the McMinnville Grange on Saturdays, a secret worth scoping out.
- The crowds are barely that.
Anywhere you go in Oregon wine country’s small towns you’ll find a crowd, but just barely. Convivial gatherings in open spaces without the terrible parking, long lines and that guy with the personal space issue — that’s small town summer in a nutshell. Before dinner, try the free Thursday evening open air concerts right on U.S. Bank Plaza.
- Wine pairs with everything.
Sipping a glass of Pinot noir while gazing at a wine country vista is one thing. Doing it while gazing at the world’s largest wooden airplane (at the Evergreen Museum) is another. Wineries pair culture with cuvees all summer long. Vineyard Vinyasa is a thing at Vista Hills. R. Stuart Winery and Nick’s Italian Cafe party off-site at the Lazy River Vineyard. If you can imagine it, it probably pairs with wine.
- The acoustics are intimate.
Every Thursday evening in McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon Cellar Bar, a 1920s-style speakeasy, the mic stands open for closet troubadours, passion players and all manner of local talent. Lost your nerve? It’s fine to just grab a signature cocktail and admire how the sound resonates in the hotel’s century-old brick walls.
- The nightlife is walkable.
With 12 downtown wineries and 25 restaurants, McMinnville is a walker’s paradise, even after dark. Saturday brings a lineup of music events at Elizabeth Chambers all summer long, with a nonstop taco line from award-winning area restaurants.
- Beer is also on tap.
Wine is quite fine, but some cheer for beer. The Bitter Monk pours from 16 regularly rotating taps and 50 bottle pours with outdoor seating right on Third Street. Sunset views with an ale atop McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon are legendary, and The Grain Station pulls pints in a refurbished granary. The Grain Station’s outdoor plaza hosts events like the Walnut City Music Festival.
Follow Emily Grosvenor on Twitter @emilygrosvenor or visit her at her online home at www.beathomeintheworld.com.