Photo: Résonance

For Wine Lovers, Résonance Offers an Unparalleled Look at What Makes Willamette Valley So Incredible

Oregon Wine Insider Guides
by Layne Randolph Nov 6, 2023

The Willamette Valley is one of the world’s premier wine regions and can be found between Oregon’s Cascade Range and Coastal Range. Here, you’ll find vineyards and winemakers producing bottles comparable to Burgundy, France, the undisputed kingdom of pinot noir.

Furthermore, Oregon offers a refreshing juxtaposition to the bustling flow of travelers that constantly come in and out of popular wine regions, making it easier to unwind, connect, and immerse oneself in a genuinely laid-back experience. The relaxed pace and smaller crowds make this a region to learn more about wine: you will get more attention here, and the friendly local wine experts are thrilled to educate you. These aren’t wine snobs, and this wine region is the opposite of intimidating.

As you step into these welcoming spaces, don’t be surprised to find winemakers themselves pouring your tastings, eager to share their passion and knowledge. That was my experience on a recent stop at Résonance, owned by Burgundy-based Maison Louis Jadot. The French wine house exported one of its top winemakers, Guillaume Large, to Willamette Valley to help establish a foundation for its first winemaking venture on American terroir. It’s worked: Résonance Winery has become one of the area’s top estates in less than a decade.

winemaker at resonance vineyards willamette valley oregon

Photo: Résonance

Its success is likely attributable to Large, a Burgundian himself. Large’s conversations are unhurried, his knowledge generously shared, and his wines crafted with an artisanal touch reflecting his Burgundian savoir-faire. In both the vineyard and the tasting room, he shares details about all aspects of the wine, adapted to the listeners’ level of wine knowledge.

Anchoring a visit to the region around Résonance offers the chance to explore the Willamette Valley in full. With a host of new additions that let travelers see different parts of production, one can get a deep sense of what makes the area such a great place to make wine — especially when visiting in the fall. Harvest season typically begins in September and runs through late November, allowing visitors more opportunities to watch the picking and collection process, meet winemakers, and participate in crush events throughout the valley. Brightly colored fall vineyard shots are almost iconic symbols of the season.

Tasting terroir

RÈsonance harvest & crush 2018, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willametete Valley, Oregon

Photo: Résonance

The newest addition to the Résonance guest offerings as of 2023 is a tasting room in Dundee Hills, the Résonance Tasting Room at the Découverte Vineyard estate. The estate, named for the French word for discovery, grows 12.5 acres of pinot noir and 2.5 acres of chardonnay. A visit to walk through the vines brings to life the influence the vineyard’s location has on the final wines, whether sipping at the indoor tasting bar or the outdoor patio that has panoramic views of the valley, mountains, and Willamette River.

RÈsonance Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Photo: Résonance

Découverte is just one facet of Résonance. Travelers can also tour and go winetasting at Résonance’s estate vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA to learn about the winery’s origins at its flagship facility. The vines are organically dry farmed and grow in some of the oldest soil — submarine basalt sediment — in the Willamette Valley. First planted in 1981, the 20 acres of vineyards are focused entirely on pinot noir. The Résonance Winery operations and impressive tasting room in Yamhill-Carlton are a must-visit with an outside tasting area that provides one of the most picturesque views in the valley.

Another of Résonance’s vineyards, Koosah (meaning “heavenly sky”), is just south in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Here, steep rocky slopes covering an elevation range of 700 to 1,100 feet are covered in chardonnay and pinot noir vines. The vines were first planted in 2016, and now cover nearly 45 acres.

Experiencing the Willamette Valley

It’s hard to beat the experience of drinking a wine within an arm’s distance of the vine the grapes came from. The same can be said, however, of seeing the Willamette Valley from above. Weather permitting, Vista Balloons Adventures takes visitors on balloon rides 3000 feet over the vineyards to give a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking and lush hills and valleys. Serene and tranquil, it’s a magical and unforgettable experience.

Back on the ground, great wine is best when it comes alongside great food. And while many wine lovers are familiar with the world-class pinot noir grown in this region, the valley’s other locally grown crops that highlight farm-to-table dishes are also worthy of fawning over. The valley is a cornucopia where peaches, apples, and berries galore steal center stage in dishes like blackberry cobbler, blueberry salad of fresh greens with crushed hazelnuts (a local delicacy), feta, blueberries, saba vinaigrette, and refreshingly delicious breakfast “parfaits” of fresh yogurt, locally made granola and seasonal fruit.

For a taste, stop by Jory Cafeé at the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Cypress in McMinnville, and Trellis in Dundee.

Where to stay when visiting Willamette Valley

The Atticus Hotel in downtown McMinnville is a small, independently owned luxury hotel in a historic district with friendly, top-notch service and amenities. Rooms offer fireplaces, coffee bars, refrigerators, lounge areas, and spacious, updated bathrooms. At the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg, you’ll find that plus an onsite spa.

How to get to the Willamette Valley

The Portland airport is the easiest way for most domestic and international travelers to reach the region, though private and small aircraft fly to McMinnville Municipal Airport, three miles southeast of McMinnville.
Once there, you’ll need a car or driver if you plan to tour wine country. McMinnville has centralized shops and restaurants, so you can walk or bike if you plan to spend a day in town. Car rentals are available at the airport, and drivers for hire can be arranged ahead of arrival through Black Tie Tours in Newberg or Embrace Oregon Tours in McMinnville.

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