November 18th, 2022

Tiny Travels: Domaine Willamette makes a home for sparkling

Tiny figurines sit atop a plate with an oyster, a sparkling wine cork and metal closure.
The Tiny Travelers make themselves at home amongst life’s little pleasures.

It used to be that your sparkling wine was best when it was better traveled than anyone at your holiday table. Now, if you live anywhere near the Willamette Valley, you can be the traveler and the wine a celebration of time well spent.

The past half-decade has seen a wave of new entries in the sparkling wine category in Oregon wine country, and travelers to the area who love wines made with the méthode Champenoise style will find much on offer to fuel holiday celebrations. 

The latest place to taste it near McMinnville is Domaine Willamette, from producer WIllamette Valley Vineyards, as much an epicurean destination as it is a tasting room. Set right on 99W between Dundee and Lafayette, with two giant spaces facing east to grab those Mt. Hood views, it’s the first sparkling facility in Oregon with its own on-site, underground aging cellar. 

Outside, a garden terrace grounded with large volcanic boulders around a naturalistic waterfall adds some nice ambiance to views over Bernau Estate Vineyards, the winery’s biodynamic operation (where wine grapes are grown in a farmed setting without synthetic pesticides and chemicals). Right now, the winery’s sparkling is being made from 16 acres planted with 26-year-old vines of Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, with 16 more acres being planted. 

There is much to do at Domaine Willamette. Inside, the tasting rooms are set up more like a restaurant – and with good reason. The facility hosts one of the more elaborate food pairing menus available in the area, small bites and full plates chosen by executive chef D.J. MacIntyre. Smaller sharables like regional oysters, deviled eggs, and truffle fries are a welcome update on the ubiquitous roasted hazelnuts, and dishes like chanterelle crab cakes, tarragon steelhead, and steak frites make it a full gustatory experience alongside the winery’s latest releases. And if you want to enjoy it all in private, a trio of more intimate rooms open up the options.

If you have an extra hour and a half and you’re ready for a deep dive into the how and why behind Oregon sparkling, the winery’s on-site tour is a must-visit. Quite a few area wineries now make sparkling – thanks in large part to Andrew Davis’s Radiant Wine Co. – but there aren’t a lot of places in Oregon where you can learn about the finicky process of creating it in the place where it happens. 

19255 N HWY 99W
Dayton, OR 97114
(971) 545-4200

Tiny taste or heavy pour – it’s never been a better time to raise a glass of bubbly to all we have experienced together this past year. Bring back bubbles from these McMinnville wineries:

R. Stuart Bubbly
528 NE 3rd Street
(503) 472-4477

Lundeen Wines
475 NE 17th Street
(503) 472-3215

Chris James Cellars
645 NE 3rd Street

Brittan Vineyards (by appointment)
829 NE 5th Ave, Suite 700
(971) 241-8228

Illustration of writer, Emily Grosvenor

Emily Grosvenor is Editor of Oregon Home magazine and the author of the forthcoming design book Find Yourself at Home.