Oenophiles drink in the view and the pinot noir at Penner-Ash.
The view from Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, near the towns of Yamhill and Carlton in Oregon's Willamette Valley, is certain to make your heart sing. It may also stop your watch. On the flagstone terrace of the winery's glass-and-wood building overlooking Ribbon Ridge, time seems suspended as you gaze across a landscape of vineyards and grassy fields unfurling to hills that mask all but the tips of Mounts Hood and Jefferson. A few miles to the west, along Highway 99W, winetasting crowds hurry toward their next stop, but here, the few cars visible in the distance move at the pace of the lazy clouds above.
If your ideal wine country weekend is equal parts wine and country, hop off the highway and amble over to Carlton and Yamhill. Separated by three miles of road and boasting a combined population of 2,370, these two towns full of old granaries and vintage storefronts have retained their sleepy feel even though they've recently become important wine centers.
As elsewhere in the region, pinot noir is king here. You can taste fine examples of that varietal, and others, at Penner-Ash, at Yamhill's WillaKenzie Estate, and at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, where 10 independent vintners share equipment and create their own wines. For a selection from 60 Willamette Valley producers, drop by the old bank building in Carlton that now houses the Tasting Room. Proprietor Jay McDonald offers his own EIEIO wines—no barnyard aftertaste, guaranteed.
If you're coming from Portland, skip busy Highway 99W and take the road less traveled—Highway 47. Winding through scenic farmland, it's a great start to a relaxing country weekend.
Try pairing the local vintages with French specialties such as coquilles St. Jacques at Cuvée, a cozy Carlton restaurant, or with gourmet dishes at meals served on a regular schedule at the Winemakers Studio and at Cuneo Cellars, also in Carlton. For less exalted but still tasty fare, head to Penguin's in Carlton for a sandwich and a slice of "orchard pie"—an addictive combination of strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, apples, and blackberries—or to Zippy's Pizza in Yamhill.
If you need a break from the pleasures of vine and table, you may enjoy perusing the lavender soaps and crisp linens at Lulu, a country-chic French import shop in Carlton. Or in Yamhill you can hunt for treasures—from old cat's-eye marbles to a carved oak hunting cabinet—at RD Steeves, an emporium in a cavernous 1940s granary filled to the rafters with tangible reminders of a gentler, though not necessarily slower, time.
Photography by Mark Downey
This article was first published in September 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Get the AAA Oregon & Washington TourBook guide and map. Contact the Yamhill Valley Visitors Association, (503) 883-7770, www.yamhillvalley.com. Area code is 503 unless otherwise noted.
Cuvée 214 W. Main St., Carlton, 852-6555. Penguin's Café 'n Ice Cream Shoppe 217 W. Main St., Carlton, 852-6715. Zippy's Pizza180 S. Maple St., Yamhill, 662-3025.
Abbey Road Farm $195. 10501 NE Abbey Rd., Carlton, 852-6278. The Carlton Inn $80–$115. 648 W. Main St., Carlton, 852-7506. Lobenhaus Bed & Breakfast $135–$155. 6975 NE Abbey Rd., Carlton, (888) 339-3375. Willakenzie House $100–$195. 19700 NW Adcock Rd., Yamhill, 662-4297.