Two days in McMinnville: this Tuesday's Exploration

My husband, Mark, created this killer pasta pot for Nick's Italian Café, which is a must-stop for any trip to McMinnville, OR.

My husband, Mark, created this killer pasta pot for Nick's Italian Café, which is a must-stop for any trip to McMinnville, OR.

McMinnville is a fast growing hub for the Willamette Valley food and wine scene. It has been selected as a top main street by Parade Magazine as well as one of the top 20 “Dream Town Escapes” by Sunset Magazine in the past year, and it’s at a charming stage between an old (it was established in 1872) farming community to a hip wine country destination. Because of this you’ll find an eclectic mix of restaurants, antique shops, an art store, sports shop, pharmacy, record store, and clothing stores.

Because of my love and my desire to have you enjoy my home town's amazingness, I’m writing two full day’s itinerary that is based completely on wine tasting and hard core food porn with minimal driving, which is an obvious bonus.


10 AM: breakfast at Community Plate. This is just as it suggests- the breakfast meeting place for people in McMinnville. It’s very laid back having no table service, and you even get your own silverware and water. I love this laid back style. I recommend the gluten free muffin, which is the best muffin you will ever have. The mimosas are to die for because they squeeze their own OJ. I recommend a large breakfast so you can have a later lunch

11 AM: drive to Walnut City Wineworks and let Rebecca christen your day of wine tasting. WCWW was originally a walnut processing facility turned winery, hence the name. This is where I make my wine, and they have lots of different labels from all over the valley which will give you an understanding of the different AVAs. They also farm all of this land. This is also the only driving you will do the entire day, so it’s better to do it in the beginning. 

12 PM Get a quick shot of espresso at Flag and Wire Coffee

12:15 PM Brittan and Winderlea’s tasting room is literally across the parking lot from Flag and Wire. Their tasting room lady is Cat, who is funny, extremely knowledgable and lovely in every way, yet she doesn’t shove information down your throat, she just answers whatever questions you may ask. I like her style. These wines are mostly chard and pinot noir along with syrah. The Brittans are a power family in the Valley, smart as owls, and über-passionate. They do every little thing in growing grapes and producing for curiosity and pure love for wine. They never take the easy path. The Winderlea wines are owned by a couple from Boston, and they showcase their own vineyard in Dundee as well as some other hot vineyards in that area as well.

1:30 PM Dominio IV: take a break from pinot noir and enjoy biodynamic wines grown by the wife and produced by the husband team of Leigh and Patrick. They are incredible and fun, and there are jars of all kinds of spices on the wall to help sharpen your nose.

2:45 PM Have a proper French lunch at Bistro Maison. Sit outside and have a spritzer, smoke cigarettes (because it’s so French) and eat mussels and steak tartare.

4:30 PM Visit Lumos. This is guru viticulturist Dai Crisp’s wines. He is immaculate in the vineyards he farms, and it shows in his gorgeous wines. 

5:45 PM Cocktail and happy hour at Gem Creole Saloon. I recommend their hush puppies with house-made remoulade and a New Orleans gin fizz while you listen to New Orleans jazz and relax.

7 PM Dinner at Nick’s Italian Café back room. I’ve written a blog post about them, as they are my favorite go to restaurant for dinner in McMinnville



10 AM Breakfast at Crescent Café. Great food, wonderful service, just don’t be alarmed when they give you the bill right after your entrees drop, it’s done on purpose. You have a lot to do today anyways. 

11 AM Drive to Evergreen Space Museum to see the Howard Hughe’s incredible “Spruce Goose” and satisfy your history bone.

12:30 PM Lunch at Valley Commissary. This industrial spot is operated by a few cool cats. It's in between self service and full service. The food is damn good. I recommend the pork belly sandwich, some kind of salad, and brussel sprouts.

1:30 PM Eyrie Vineyards tasting room is the history of Oregon Wine Country. This is a place to be revered for all Oregon Wine buffs. Notice the blown up newspaper article saying that David Lett believes he found an fantastic spot for pinot noir in the Dundee hills. What an understatement that was. If they only knew then… Anyways, you MUST splurge for the library tasting. Non-negotiable. And, I think Jason Lett makes one of the best pinot gris and chardonnays in the valley.

2:30 PM Walk down the street to Remy’s BaR (pronounced R Bar). This is a cool chick who has created a cool space with wines that from mostly Italian varietals. 

3:45 PM Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is housed in the original power station for McMinnville, which makes it the coolest winery in MAC. Trivia fact, Ken Wright was the one to purchase it originally and turn it into a winery. Current owner Elizabeth Chambers with the guidance of GM Sunny Miller has transformed it into a gorgeous tasting room as well. Winemaker Michael Stevenson makes beautiful wines from a few choice vineyards in the valley. He, on a side note, is a believer in Aliens. 

5 PM Happy hour at Pura Vida, which is a great, authentic Latin American restaurant with fresh, local ingredients.

6 PM Explore the shelves of Peirano and Daughters and taste the best American-made sweet vermouth at Ransom Spirits, housed under the same roof.

6:30 PM Cocktails with Patrick in the bar of Thistle before your 7PM reservation at Thistle. Patrick makes the best cocktails in the Valley, and Thistle is unlike any other restaurant. It's tiny, so make sure you make reservations well in advance. Another word of advice- the bathroom is behind the door that says Yes.

9 PM Nightcap at the McMenamin's Hotel Oregon roof top bar. Get a view of the city from up above. 


*Obviously there is a chance you will not make every appointment, but that is of no matter. The point is to destressand enjoy yourself immensely through a frivolous escapade. 

*Plans are made for a Friday & Saturday.

If you are planning to come during the week, email me for different suggestions