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harvey steiman at large

Inns and Outs of Willamette Valley's Future

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Oct 12, 2007 12:29pm ET

Planning a visit to Oregon's Willamette Valley to hobnob with the top Pinot Noir producers and their wineries? To date, finding a place to stay has been a challenge. The area lacks the kind of accommodation infrastructure familiar to visitors to California's notable regions. Many people I know stay in Portland and drive 45 minutes to the nearest winery.

Here's a quick update on various plans for upscale inns. None of them will be open before 2009, but at least it's encouraging that something looms on the horizon.

The issue first jumped into the news when a developer announced plans last year for a wine country resort adjacent to Domaine Drouhin and Domaine Serene in the Dundee Hills. That ran into vociferous objections from locals, especially wineries on the two-lane road that provides access, not to mention those who hated the idea of building something on potential vineyardland.

That project is stalled, but two others seem to have clearer sailing because they lie within town limits.

Just this month, developers broke ground on what they're going to call the Allison Inn and Spa. It's part of a large residential and commercial development called Springbrook, on the northeast edge of Newberg. Lots of vineyards and wineries surround Newberg and, for now, the only places to stay there (other than a few small bed-and-breakfasts) are chain motels. The Allison will overlook rolling hills and vineyards, but being within the Newberg city limits, it won't put any pressure on vineyard resources. It's scheduled to open in 2009.

There are also plans for a country inn in Dundee from another developer, who is currently building a pair of commercial buildings at the west end of town, where doctors and real-estate agents will occupy some of the space, and a couple of restaurants will occupy the rest. The new project, still awaiting approvals, is a 4-acre parcel. The developer intends to turn into an inn with an organic farm that will provide some of the food for the inn and its restaurant. The model is Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, the developers say.

I'll be surprised if they can get that open before 2010, but it shows that things are happening that can move Willamette Valley in the right direction.

Ron Zimmerman
Woodinville, WA —  October 13, 2007 5:42pm ET
Doesn't sound like the developers have actually been to Blackberry Farm. 4 acres versus Blackberry's 4,200 for starters. And then, owner Sam Beall leaves no detail unnoticed. 160,000 bottle wine cellar. Wine Spectator Grand Award. Terrific restaurant and staff. The most-passionate farmer/seed saver, John Coykendall, I've ever met. Orvis Fly Fishing school. Make own cheeses, cured meats. Hey, that's just for starters . . .
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  October 16, 2007 7:25pm ET
Harvey, I've traveled to Willamette Valley on several occasions in the past few years to taste and buy their pinot noirs and found it necessary to stay in Portland in order to get decent accomadations. The locals in Willamette have to let up a little if they expect to become a first class destination. That does not mean that they have to become Napa-like, but they do need to provide something decent.
Don Young
Calgary, Alberta —  October 18, 2007 11:56am ET
Large style accommodations may be lacking in the valley, but don't discount the B&B's in the area. I had a great stay at Youngberg Hill Vineyards and Inn last January, and got to sample an up and coming Pinot producer to boot!

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