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Willamette Valley: Carlton, Ore.

The smallest of the valley towns surprises with big winery offerings and sweet eats.

The Carlton Winemakers Studio in Carlton, Oregon, image
Photo caption
Sample the wares of 11 Oregon wineries at the Carlton Winemakers Studio.

Tiny Carlton (population 1,790) is so small that you could probably drive the entire main drag in 10 seconds. But don’t do it, for the delights of wine country are plentiful here. The town may employ only 10 full-time city workers, including three police officers, but it does have a fine French restaurant and several top-notch wineries. Yamhill Valley Visitors Assocation: (503) 883-7770,

Area code is 503.

to do
The Carlton Winemakers Studio is the best place to learn the differences between, say, the fruit-forward 2006 pinot noirs grown in the Willamette Valley in 2006 and the subtler pinots from cool and rainy 2007. Eleven small vintners crush their grapes here, and in the airy, high-ceilinged tasting room you can sample all of their wines—and savor the architecture. Constructed in 2002 to exacting eco-friendly specifications, the studio boasts vast windows affording copious natural light and a tasting-room door built out of discarded high school bleachers. 801 N. Scott St., 852-6100, At Cana’s Feast, winemaker Patrick Taylor specializes in Italian varietals including nebbiolo, sangiovese, and barbera. The barrel-lined tasting room opens onto a stone patio with a spectacular view of the nearby Oregon Coast Range. There’s also a bocce court, and the attached Cucina offers luscious weekend lunches and dinners. 750 W. Lincoln St., 852-0002,

It hardly gets more authentic than tiny Cuvée, where chef/proprietor Gilbert Henry, a native of France’s Alsace region, serves fine yet comforting French country cuisine. Henry’s celebrated crab juniper—a winter dish featuring sweet Dungeness and comice pear atop a filet of cod—is so good that some foodies fly in from Sweden and France every year to savor it. In summer, the produce comes mostly from Henry’s organic gardens. 214 W. Main St., 852-6555, For an ice cream cone or a casual lunch between winery visits, try the homey Filling Station Deli, which offers standard deli fare (subs and BLTs) along with a few quirky offerings, among them Gone Fishin’, a salmon fillet topped with peach salsa. 305 W. Main St., 852-6687,

The Winery Lofts, in the heart of downtown, feature four suites lavishly appointed with sumptuous bedding, wood floors, and original paintings. Bonuses include exposed brickwork, tidy kitchenettes, cable TV, and Wi-Fi. 121 W. Main St., 852-7010, To find a place to stay, visit

Photography by Clay McLachlan


Check out the rest of our Willamette Valley package:
Dayton: Historic buildings and acclaimed restaurants
Dundee: Knockout eateries and pioneering wineries
Forest Grove: Sip sake or bird-watch
McMinnville: Airplanes, UFOs, and a charming downtown
Newberg: Convenient tasting rooms and nearby vineyards

This article was first published in August 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.