If you grew up in Yamhill County, there was no route more dreaded than Highway 99W through Dundee. The town’s drag of a main drag was constantly clogged with cars: beachgoers destined for Lincoln City and Newport, gamblers hoping to win big at Spirit Mountain Casino and locals just trying to get back and forth from Newberg to run errands. It was never a destination you’d look forward to driving through, let alone spend the night in—not until the last five years or so.
Now that the bypass is complete, traffic has let up (somewhat). But more importantly, the wine industry continued to flourish over the last few decades and bring more tasting rooms to the arterial, which gives incentive for business owners to offer those folks a place to sleep off a day of tasting. Perhaps the best option to do just that right now is in a loft hidden above Methven Family Vineyards Dundee Tasting Room (130 SW 7th St., Dundee, 971-832-8665, methvenfamilyvineyards.com). The Mediterraneanesque structure with rounded window frames and a Spanish-style tiled roof offers overnight accommodations in a 1,200-square-foot space that’s bigger than plenty of Portland apartments. That means there’s plenty of room for you, the king bed, a walk-in closet that no one could ever fill with only a weekend’s worth of clothes (but it still feels nice, just in case), and a cast-iron soaking tub. If you ended up buying a couple of bottles downstairs and just kicked it inside all weekend, we couldn’t blame you.
After this weekend splurge, you’ll be tempted to go even bigger next time around by renting Allen and Jill Methven’s 11,000-square-foot Tuscan-style villa on the estate vineyard. Champagne wishes, right?
Where the cool grass grows
Last winter, when downpours, frigid temperatures and even a brief blast of snow, made outdoor pandemic wine tasting unbearable, Methven’s Tasting Room was the savior of those small outdoor gatherings. The property tied down a heavy-duty tent in its sizable yard and filled it with powerful propane heaters, allowing numerous tables to be spread 6-feet apart. That gear has been stowed in favor of a lighter, open-walled canopy for shade, making a visit in summer even more pleasant. While more people are allowed to congregate inside, at least half of Dundee is on the grass listening to live music, which takes place every Wednesday through Sunday. Join them after ordering a glass of Stinger Pinot Noir, made with grapes from the cooler 2017 growing season, which led to a lighter color than other wines of its ilk, but offers a satisfyingly salty plum depth.
Line up for Dundee’s best Mexican food
Mexican food might not be the first pairing to come to mind with Methven’s wines, but order dinner from the bright yellow food cart, Los Kopitos (130 SW 7th St., Dundee, 503-560-0019), anyway. Chilaquiles are packed with intense flavors from the spicy chorizo, acidic red onion and salty cotija that cut through the pinot’s richness. And a line that doesn’t stop until well beyond the truck’s closing time speaks to the popularity of this humble kitchen.
Wander through a vineyard
Wine tasting, for most, is a leisurely activity. People pay good money to be shuttled around in fancy vehicles from vineyard to vineyard, then fork over even more to work their way through flights in opulent tasting rooms, low-lit storage caves and Adirondack chairs on patios facing postcard-worthy views. It’s not too often the owner invites you to tromp around the grapes themselves, but that’s exactly what Knudsen Vineyards (9419 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee, 503-580-1596, knudsenvineyards.com) wants people to do: sample as close to the source as possible to demystify blocks, blends and budding. That led to the creation of a guided hike series, where visitors are led through the 230-acre property by the founders’ daughter and now-managing partner, Page Knudsen Cowles. There are multiple routes, but to avoid sweating into your stemware, register for the “Captivating Chardonnay” trek with less elevation gain. You’ll tour the south slopes and sample two wines in the field. As you sip, recall that Oregon Wine Country license plate the DMV rolled out about a decade ago. That image is not an artist’s rendering of an amalgamation of Willamette Valley vineyards. It’s based on a painting of the land you’re walking through.
Stroll along America’s best main street
It seems like every year, McMinnville is among the finalists in a competition to anoint one city’s main thoroughfare as the best in the country, but then falls victim to the “always a bridesmaid” phenomenon. Well, we’re just going to speak the truth: 3rd Street is the finest six-block stretch that has ever existed in the United States. There’s basically no reason to ever leave this road because it has everything you’d ever need: restaurants, boutiques, taphouses, a gourmet market. In winter, the street poles are festooned in Christmas lights and there are carriage rides; in summer there’s a giant parade led by a person dressed in a turkey costume. They’ve even gone and painted the street corners with puns you’d normally hate, like “We’re grapeful you’re here.” Somehow adorable-as-fuck McMinnville can pull it off.
Do shots of fancy olive oil
Before your next flight of wine, pound little plastic cups of the liquid fat extracted from olives. Third Street Oil and Vinegar (424 NE 3rd St., McMinnville, 503-474-2668, thirdstreetoilandvinegar.com) will open your eyes to the variety of intensity and flavor that can be exhibited by this commonly used cooking ingredient. Start with the mild California Arbequina that tastes of creamy almonds and work your way up to the Tunisian Chetoui, which has an extraordinarily high phenol count and will leave you gasping for water but still appreciating the peppery punch on the tongue.
Spin the black
Scheduled to open this July, HiFi Wine Bar (711 NE 3rd St., McMinnville, 503-376-8285, martinwoodswinery.com) will not be your parents’ stodgy tasting room. Martin Woods, a winemaker located in the foothills of the Coast Range, is launching its first location in the McMinnville city limits, promising to turn the sampling experience into more of a clubby lounge scene, where people will linger to shoot pool or browse through the library of vinyl largely amassed by the brand’s founder, Evan Martin. You’re welcome to add to the collection and also request what will spin next on the two turntables that sit in the middle of the bar below a chandelier made out of an old root stock.
Take a beer break
In a way, Sean Burke came full circle when he left Portland’s Von Ebert Brewing last year to start his own operation in McMinnville called ForeLand Beer (777 NE 4th St., McMinnville, 503-925-4653, forelandbeer.com). While organizing the building that once housed Allegory Brewing, he came across stacks of barrels that he had used at the Commons before it closed in 2017, many still bearing his handwriting. Some of those vessels that still have life in them will continue to be used, since ForeLand is going to focus on wine-beer hybrids, though he’ll always have other styles on tap, including a crisp Italian Pils that’s ideal for hot days on the sun-soaked concrete patio and Shape Creation, a classic, West Coast IPA. Launching during the pandemic had its challenges, but unlike many breweries he didn’t have to worry about packaging tanks full of tap-ready beer. Instead, Burke started canning before serving people in person. “We built it not having the pivot,” he explains. “Our pivot will be ‘Gee, we have to do draft at some point.’ Given my choice, that’s not what I wanted to do, but I got to learn really quickly.”
Stock up on plants and produce
Portland’s food hall scene has taken off, fueled in part by the benefit of businesses joining forces during the pandemic, and now McMinnville has gotten its own collection of food and beverage purveyors under one roof. Mac Market (1140 NE Alpine Ave., McMinnville, 503-687-3606, macmkt.com) is located in a 10,000-square-foot former shoe grease warehouse now anchored by Collab Kitchen. There you’ll find a constantly rotating menu inspired by locally sourced components, like sausage-and-moo-shu pancakes with pork from a pig that Michelin star-experienced chef Kari Shaughnessy likely processed herself. In addition to that is a beer bar, a cocktail bar and two levels of seating. However, many just come to shop, and almost all leave with giant armfuls of fresh greens from the Even Pull Farm cooler or beautiful house plants sold from a vintage orange Airstream.
Get into a jousting match
Last year, touching an unsanitized joystick in an arcade would’ve been about as appalling an act as licking a toilet-seat under normal circumstances. But now that you are vaccinated, it’s almost easy to go back to touching shared objects without thinking twice—and if you do, just use the hand sanitizer provided at Joysticks Arcade & Eatery (211 NE 3rd St., McMinnville, 503-857-0899, joysticks-arcade.com) after you switch games. Chances are though you’ll likely be stuck swearing at the Joust console, your ostrich-mounted knight always dying before the second level.
Land at Lumpy’s
If you’re an out-of-towner staying anywhere within a 15-mile radius of Dundee, your night will end at Lumpy’s (975 Highway 99W, Dundee, 503-538-9719). Even world-class sommeliers who descend on McMinnville every year for the prestigious International Pinot Noir Celebration show up to order shots at the longstanding dive bar in the center of town. It’s the kind of place where the television plays the DIY Network when sports aren’t on, there’s always a gloved pool shark playing by himself to warm up even at 4 pm on a Wednesday and the bartender calls all of the regulars “boss.”
Take one last wine crawl
Checkout is at 11 am, which is perfect timing because that’s when most of the tasting rooms open their doors. Roshambo to decide who gets out of designated driver duty and complete a trio of final tastings. Dobbes Family Estate (240 SE 5th St., Dundee, 503-538-1141, dobbesfamilyestate.com) may look like an old fur trading fort on the outside, but behind those walls is the Hideaway, a backyard oasis opened in 2019 with comfortable couches and breezy white ceiling drapes.
Across the street is Alit Wines (531 Highway 99W, Dundee, 503-487-6341, alit.wine), which garnered attention last summer by hosting an outdoor Crunchwrap Supreme pop-up with Le Pigeon. Sadly, no fast food-inspired Gabe Rucker collaborations are scheduled for this year, but a Mexican food truck will soon start serving guests. Drink your honey-forward Muscat inside to escape the roar of highway traffic and admire the cork wall meant to reflect the layers in soil.
Argyle Winery (691 Highway 99W, Dundee, 503-538-8520, argylewinery.com) has long been the star of the Willamette Valley’s sparkling wine scene. Tour the spiraling garden path before your tasting, which was planted with native and drought-tolerant plants meant to attract pollinators, then end your weekend with the Pop Flight, a selection of blanc de blancs and bruts that are effervescent and delightfully geared toward day drinking.