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Vineyard Hotels: Black Walnut Inn, Oregon

By Tom Colligan

Jan 13, 2012

From the September/October 2011 issue

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Photo by Tom Bodley

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Book now: Black Walnut Inn, Dundee, Oregon (503) 429-4114. From $295. 

At the first hint of daylight, I jump from bed to see the view I’ve been anticipating all night. I swing wide the double doors of my spacious, antiques-appointed room, and the cool morning air drifts in from grapevines just steps away. Beyond I can see the patchwork of vineyards and vegetable farms that forms the Willamette River Valley, the heart of Oregon’s wine country. Green buds are beginning to break on the vines. Come October, these leaves will blaze yellow above clusters of dusky fruit. For now, I watch from my patio as acrobatic swifts dart above the vineyard’s trellis wires. 

It is blissfully quiet. I’d better get started. Down in the dining room, a stately, deaf West Highland white terrier named Bailey patrols the mahogany floors as I work through a neat row of silver-dollar-size pancakes. At an elegant desk nearby, Karol Kirby, one of the innkeepers, books my tasting appointments.

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I begin at Anderson Family Vineyard just over the ridge. Owner Cliff Anderson, bespectacled and slouched in diligent focus, explains the superlative growing conditions in the Dundee Hills. He puts a clod of reddish soil in my hand. It is soft, crushable, and bluish gray inside. Cliff explains that it lends the wines of the area a unique mineral character. Allison Anderson, tall and tan from working among the vines, walks me through the winery, from the grape-sorting table to the press to the barrels in the dark cellar. Then she pours one of their recent chardonnays. “You can taste the sun on this one,” she says, smiling. To me, it tastes of flint and flowers.

I return to the inn, visit the cookie jar by the front door, and set out again, this time on foot. Following the tractor track beside the vineyard, I pass through a grove of hazelnut trees to arrive at Torii Mor Winery, which specializes in single-vineyard wines. There, I taste a viognier bright with honeysuckle and a pinot noir bursting with plum and licorice. At Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards, another half mile up the gravel road, I taste another pinot noir grown on the vines just outside the door. Its earthiness, light color, and bright red cherry and raspberry flavors are the trademarks of Dundee Hills pinot. This is what I came for.

Back at the Black Walnut, I look down at the boot prints of red clay trailing behind me on the stone patio. If wine is, as the French maintain, the expression of a place, the bottles I am taking home with me carry not just wine, but a hint of that rare earth and a gorgeous hilltop awash in fresh Oregon air.

More vineyard hotels around the world

Spend the night at La Casona in Santiago, Chile.

La Casona, Santiago, Chile

Book nowLa Casona. From $370. 56/(0) 2-585-8197

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Century-old La Casona estancia lies on the expansive estate of Matetic Vineyards, known for its syrah, about 60 miles west of Santiago. Spacious rooms feature wooden floors, cozy reading chairs, and French doors that open onto the organically farmed property. Bike between the vines, take a horseback ride through the surrounding Rosario Valley with a huaso (cowboy) guide, or visit Pablo Neruda’s house in nearby Isla Negra.

Maison des Rêves Romaneira, Portugal

Book nowMaison des Rêves Romaneira. From $691. 351/254-732-432

Set amid terraced vineyards along the banks of the Douro River, the guest rooms at the Romaneira have no phones, TVs, or cell reception. Visitors spend their days hiking the 1,000-acre property, drinking the region’s famous port wines, and enjoying picnics by the river. The all-inclusive resort’s rooms feature such comforts as clawfoot tubs, sling-back chairs, and fireplaces. Before you leave, be sure to indulge in the homemade chocolate cakes and hot cocoa in the tasting room.

Château des Fines Roches, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France

Book nowChâteau des Fines Roches. From $154. 33/(0) 4-90-83-70-23

Every guest room in this 19th-century castle (whose name means “small rocks”) overlooks the vineyards of France’s famous wine region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, just outside Avignon. The kingly decor includes canopied beds, and bathrooms built into the turrets. Cypress and olive trees circle the hotel’s terrace restaurant, where guests can sip regional wines and try Provençal dishes such as crunchy cod à la nîmoise.

>> 6 of the Best Wineries in Washington State

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