Oregon is known for its wine and love of dogs, so what could be more natural than taking your dog on a three-day road trip to dog-friendly wineries? Your pup can’t be your designated driver, but you’ll still enjoy sipping a glass of wine gazing out at the exquisite landscape with Bowzer by your side.
So with yorkie/maltese pup Nandi, we set off to explore Oregon wine country. Known for its pinot noir, the Willamette Valley was named 2016 Wine Region of the Year award by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Over two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards are in this region, totaling nearly 500. Other cool-climate varietals grown here include pinot gris, pinot blanc, chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer.
We spend the night at the Best Western Plus Rivershore Hotel in Oregon City, so as not to battle Portland’s rush hour traffic, and breakfast at its Rivershore Restaurant, which looks out on fishing boats floating by on the Willamette River. We go for a quick walk on the riverfront path behind the hotel to burn off some energy then it’s a short hop to our next destination: the nearby marina for a morning kayak trip.
After a quick safety and paddling lesson from Sam Drevo of eNRG Kayaking, we’re off in a tandem kayak for our guided tour of Willamette Falls and other river landmarks. Human gear is provided, but don’t forget to bring a life jacket for your dog. It’s Nandi’s first time kayaking and he has some serious doubts about embarking on this watery adventure. Mainly, he doesn’t want to get wet. By the end of the journey, he’s confident enough to perch on the bow of the kayak and tell off the barking sea lions on the dock. Drevo’s golden mix, Mojo, who’s joined us for the trip, has seen it all before and barely lifts his head up from resting on the kayak. As Drevo dispenses historical tidbits about the river, Oregon City and the paper mill, we catch glimpses of sturgeon jumping out of the water and ospreys circling overhead. Drevo recommends kayaking only for small and medium-sized dogs. Bigger dogs run the risk of tipping the kayak over.
After the 90-minute tour, we head to the dog-friendly covered patio at McMenamins Old Church & Pub in Wilsonville for lunch. They serve Northwest-style pub fare with locally and regionally-sourced ingredients. Their Cajun tots come highly recommended.
Next, we drive out to family-run Whiskey Hill Winery in Canby and try the white pinot noir for which they’re known. The winery has its origins in a land-use technicality. Their farm couldn’t get a permit to host events—but a winery with 15 acres of pinot noir grapes could. Winemaker Chris Helbling’s background is in exercise science, but he’s delved into the art of wine making. Dogs aren’t allowed in the tasting room but are welcome on the covered, outdoor patio.
We next arrive at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, barely ahead of a rainstorm. We’ve caught the end of the tulip season, but there are still plenty of blooms. After strolling the tulip fields and admiring the bright spots of color, we make our way to the tasting room. Admission to the tulip festival held here each spring includes two free tastes of wine. Their sparkling blush moscato has won awards, but it’s the Marechal Foch that tasting room worker Gina introduces to visitors as her “tall, dark and handsome” boyfriend. The farm also offers tours on a wine wagon that dogs can join. Leashed dogs are welcome in the indoor tasting room as well as the tulip fields. The farm occasionally hosts fundraisers and other events for dog rescues, as well.
When we pull into the Willamette Valley Vineyards parking lot later in the afternoon, it’s still drizzling in Turner, but that doesn’t detract from the stunning views from their deck. On a sunnier day, their lush lawn would make the perfect place for a picnic with your pup. Gourmet Nandi approves of the tiny bites of Anderson Ranch lamb loin chop he is awarded for sitting patiently through dinner. We end the meal with rich creamy vanilla crème brûlée in mason jars.
Once we’re checked in at the Phoenix Inn and Suites in Albany for the night, Nandi takes full advantage of the suite accommodations by scattering his toys across the floor.
First on the next day’s agenda is McDowell Creek Falls County Park in Lebanon. The Falls Loop hike is an easy outing offering an array of waterfalls. It’s still early enough in the season that the falls are a steady column of water instead of a trickle. At one point, we had to find another route due to a downed tree, but we still managed to view all of the waterfalls.
Once we’re at Springhill Cellars in Albany, we gather on the patio to eat box lunches and discuss winery life and production with Conner McLain, vice president of operations and sales. The family-run winery’s best-seller is their Mer Vin pinot noir, named after McLain’s grandfather. On a tour of the grounds, we visit with the chickens in their newly-built coop with Nandi at a safe distance. We’re shown around the tasting room, event space and see where the wine is made. We’re offered samples straight from the barrel, which is a novel experience. The indoor tasting room at Springhill Cellars is dog-friendly, as is the patio.
The winery has won numerous awards for its pinot noir, which we tasted, and puts a premium on being eco-friendly and sustainable by dry farming (not using an irrigation system) and planting cover crops.
Nathan Warren and Amanda Sever own Harris Bridge Vineyard in Philomath, which specializes in dessert wines, aperitifs and vermouth made with pinot gris and pinot noir grapes. Drinks made for the end of a long day. Their wine club is called Ivy’s Axe, so named after a town prohibitionist in the 1900s who chopped up illicit moonshine barrels with her axe. Some of the bottles come with short stories written by the former resident vineyard writer. The vineyard dog, Cork, a two-year-old Chihuahua, accompanies us on a leisurely stroll around the vineyard that takes you over the covered bridge, past the river and summer swimming hole and to a place to picnic under the oak trees. It’s a gathering spot for the community, and neighbors were coming over later to play soccer on the grass. Dogs are allowed on the covered, outdoor patio as well as the tasting room.
On a sunny weekday night at Block 15 Brewery and Tap Room in Corvallis, tables are packed and menu items are rapidly crossed off as the kitchen runs out. The chipotle tri-tip sandwich I’ve chosen is still a safe option. Block 15 offers a variety of craft styles including ale, lagers, stouts, and wilds and sours. After a day of wine tasting, most of our table sticks to house-made root beer. Dogs are allowed on the patio.
Afterward, we watch the sunset from the riverfront walking path behind the Holiday Inn Express and help ourselves to freshly baked cookies and milk set out daily for people with late night snack cravings.
In the morning, a walk on the riverfront leads us to Tried & True Coffee in downtown Corvallis. They serve coffee from their sibling company, Bespoken Coffee Roasters, and lattes here are artfully poured. Dogs are allowed on the outdoor patio if you can find a spot, but there are only three small tables. Returning to the nearby riverwalk offers more seating options.
The next stop is Peavy Arboretum, which is operated by Oregon State University and free to the public. Dogs are allowed to be off leash if under voice control. It’s a shared forest, so watch out for logging trucks, cyclists, horses and wildlife. The shade is welcome on one of the first truly hot days of the year, and Nandi thoroughly enjoys inspecting all the smells.
If you’re looking for a special meal, Gathering Together Farm in Philomath is a cozy farm-to-table restaurant focused on highlighting its produce. The 50-acre farm grows over 50 different types of vegetables. Featuring Italian peasant cuisine, the seasonal menu changes often. Dogs are not allowed indoors or in the patio, so find a reliable pet sitter if you wish to partake. This day is too warm for their otherwise tempting fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza, so I shared a crisp salad and duck confit and then hustled back to the pup.
On the three-day whirlwind tour of Oregon wine country, we met many winemakers ardent about their craft and sampled their wares. We had some outdoor adventures and visited local attractions. Nandi found bliss in rolling in the grass at each vineyard and winery. So, if you’re thinking about planning a dog-friendly winery trip to Oregon wine country with your pup, tell them CityDog says hello!
Editor’s Note: This article was written before Covid-19, so be sure to check with each location regarding safety protocols prior to visiting.
Best Western Plus Rivershore Hotel
1900 Clackamette Drive, Oregon City
1701 Clackamette Drive, Oregon City
Wilsonville Old Church & Pub
30340 S.W. Boones Ferry Road, Wilsonville
Whiskey Hill Winery
29510 S Barlow Rod, Canby
Wooden Shoe Vineyards
33814 S Meridian Road; Woodburn
Willamette Valley Vineyards
8800 Enchanted Way SE, Turner
Phoenix Inn and Suites
3410 Spicer Drive SE, Albany
McDowell Creek County Park
43170 McDowell Creek Drive, Lebanon
2920 NW Scenic Drive, Albany
Cardwell Hill Winery
24241 Cardwell Hill Drive, Philomath
Harris Bridge Vineyard
22937 Harris Road, Philomath
Block 15 Brewery & Tap Room
3415 SW Deschutes Street, Corvallis
Holiday Inn Express On the River
781 NE 2nd Street, Corvallis
Tried & True Coffee
160 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis
Gathering Together Farm
25159 Grange Hall Road, Philomath
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