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McMinnville, Ore.: Gourmet Weekender

This Willamette Valley town is nationally known for its winemaking and cuisine. You can also enjoy cool shops and a popular flight museum.

  • picture view from Youngberg Hill’s inn and tasting room in Willamette Valley
    Photo caption
    Youngberg Hill’s inn and tasting room overlook 50 acres of land.
  • picture croque madame with egg on top is served at the Barberry
    Photo caption
    The traditional egg tops a croque madame at the Barberry.
  • picture KAOS building exterior in McMinnville
    Photo caption
    The KAOS building houses a winetasting room.
  • A vintage U.S. mail biplane and the Spruce Goose are on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.
    Photo caption
    A vintage U.S. mail biplane and the Spruce Goose are on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.
  • picture server at Valley Commissary in McMinnville, Oregon
    Photo caption
    Valley Commissary offers both lunch and Saturday brunch.

Sights and Events Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum The history of American ingenuity takes flight in a vast hall where visitors can step into a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, explore a Titan II rocket, and tour Howard Hughes’s massive air boat, the Spruce GooseHistoric Walking Tour Take in a Carnegie library with a stained glass lunette, the Queen Anne flourishes of the brick Wright Building, and other architectural delights on a self-guided stroll along 14 tree-lined blocks. Sip! McMinnville Wine & Food Classic More than 6,000 epicures gather at this annual festival (Mar. 8–10 this year), held at the Evergreen museum, for winetasting workshops, cooking demos, and regional delicacies such as smoked bison.

Eats The Barberry One of two eateries in the KAOS building (named for a former radio station), this spot shines for its weekend brunch featuring oysters on the half shell and a croque madame with truffle-laced béchamel. Peirano & Daughters A cheerful deli offers small bites, house-made pasta, and Italian imports. Pura Vida Cocina Try an arepa (hand-pressed corn cake) with fried pork belly and pickled red onion or the crispy-meets-creamy fried avocado at this artsy Latin American joint. Thistle Diners from across the country come to this tiny restaurant for nostalgic cocktails and locally sourced fare including tender duckling with celery root, black kale, and bacon. Valley Commissary The city’s best lunch spot delivers beautifully plated dishes such as a pork belly sandwich with house-made kimchi or mac & cheese with peas, mint, and basil. 

Shops Alpaca Naturally Ward off the spring chill with ultrasoft alpaca wool products from this downtown boutique. La Bella Casa Pick up Oregon-made pottery, handknit scarves, jewelry, and household goods at this all-in-one crafts emporium. Currents Gallery Admire plein air pastels by Nathalie Equall, whimsical paper carvings by Doug Roy, and works by other Oregonians at this artist-owned gallery. Honest Chocolates Artisanal techniques and local ingredients—think hazelnuts, walnuts, and pinot noir—go into the confectioner’s unforgettable truffles. Third Street Oil and Vinegar Home cooks can sample 21 types of olive oil and 26 different vinegars.

Sips The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot noir is king in McMinnville thanks to Eyrie cofounders David and Diana Lett, who planted the first pinot vines in the valley. Their son, winemaker Jason Lett, continues the legacy with intense reds plus lighter options such as Chasselas Doré, made from a Swiss grape and best served chilled. Grain Station Brew Works Inside a renovated barn, a familyfriendly brewery serves up live music and craft beers such as crisp Haystack Gold (an American blonde ale) and creamy Grain Station Stout. R. Stuart & Co. Wine Bar Pair a glass of floral pinot or sparkling blanc de blancs with a cheese plate in this inviting tasting room and wine shop. Youngberg Hill Overlooking rolling rows of organic vineyards, this family winery and inn produces wines—the robust, ruby-red 2015 Jordan Pinot Noir, say—that epitomize the McMinnville viticultural area’s earthy, dark fruit flavors.

Photography by Robbie McClaran; courtesy of Youngberg Hill (inn); courtesy of Evergreen Museum (planes)

For more culinary adventures, check out Willamette Valley Gourmet Escape. 

This article was first published in Spring 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.