Regenerative Wine Experiences in the Willamette Valley
You and your winemaker can do more than fill a glass.
Willamette Valley growers, farmers, winemakers and tastemakers are driven by their desire to harvest and create something that reflects a sense of place. Ask any one of them, and you’ll find they are eager and earnest about sharing the place they work and live. And while they are, of course, proud to share their experience and serve the literal fruits of their labor with you, they serve this land first. Preserving, protecting and conserving the health of their river valley is vital to their mission for a better Willamette Valley.
More than half of Oregon’s vineyards were farmed sustainably before it was trendy, and Oregon today boasts the greatest commitment to sustainable farming of any wine region in the United States. In essence, as growers, they let nature do most of the talking.
And as the world embraces sustainability from all corners, Oregon farmers, winemakers, and tastemakers (who are generally known for pushing the bar) are gearing up for the next challenge: regeneration.
Regeneration, by definition, aims to go beyond the slowing of degradation and strives to restore a relationship in a new and ongoing way. Regenerative tourism in the Willamette Valley aims to craft sustainable solutions that create deeper, more enriching experiences for the visitor. It is about creating a new map of sorts, one that navigates the tourism industry’s every facet and shows how it can improve the lives of everyone it touches—line cooks to tour guides to hoteliers.
The way we see it, when you come to the Willamette Valley, your experience shouldn’t be limited to visiting a winery to taste and take some home (though we do recommend you do that while here!). Rather, it might mean talking to the vintner on a visit, learning about the winemaking process, and understanding why wine is so important to the region and local economy—and how sustainable practices build a balance in an ongoing ecological system.
It creates a deeper, more meaningful experience for everyone; winemakers can better share their stories, and visitors, part of a more holistic experience, head home with enriching memories.
So strike up a conversation around conservation on your next visit and learn a little about how you can leave the valley stronger just by visiting.
It is an honor to shine the spotlight on a handful of wineries and vineyards that are changing the travel experience through conservation and making strides in regenerative practices for a better Willamette Valley.
Many, many more Willamette Valley wineries employ organic, biodynamic and sustainable practices in the vineyard and cellar but choose not to pursue certification for a variety of reasons. You’ll find that no matter where you go in the Willamette Valley, caring for the planet is a way of life.Willamette Valley Wineries Association
Brick House Vineyards is a 31-year-old winery and it takes a more organic-heavy approach to wine production. Guests love to enjoy a glass of the popular “Les Dijonnais” Pinot Noir on the main deck, overlooking the vineyards and surrounding hills. The Brick House invites guests to also wander the vineyards, getting a first-hand look at the grapes that go into their glass. “Biodynamic takes into account the role of the farmer in a positive, action-oriented way, rather than measuring what you don’t use.” Brick House Vineyards owner and winemaker Doug Tunnell.
King Estate Winery, the largest biodynamic-certified vineyard in North America, is nestled at the southern edge of the Valley. The first grapes were planted at the 1,033-acre farm in 1992 and have remained rooted in the King family’s dedication to supporting the climate and unique terroir of the landscape. Additionally, Wine Press Northwest named King Estate its “Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year” in 2021.
Antiquum Farm, sitting in the southern Willamette Valley, is 140 acres in total with 20 dedicated to grapes. A range of livestock also calls their land home, which only helps further the ardent ecosystem that the Antiquum team nurtures. As for the wine, a small, curated lineup of Pinots are available with a sparkling option; reservations are required for tastings, which feature a special wander through this unique agricultural setting.
The Carlberg family is dedicated to farming with a conscience: They want to promote the overall health of their soil, the vitality of plants and animals, and the authenticity of our wines while farming to build natural beauty, ecological diversity, and sustainable productivity. The family believes in a symbiotic relationship with the local environment—and in using correct timing and soil remediation to build balance and energy in both soil and fruit of the plants grown there.
“We need to learn the difference between living purposefully and merely existing by taking the time to sharpen our awareness and figuring out how to do things in the right way for the right reasons.”Chris Carlberg
Founder Jim Bernau believes that Pinot Noir made with consideration for the environment, employees and community simply tastes better. All of the vineyards are certified sustainable through L.I.V.E. and Salmon-Safe programs. Learn about the unique story of the winery as you take in sweeping views of the vineyard and valley at the winery’s Estate Tasting Room. Enjoy food and wine pairings in a relaxed setting with cozy fireplaces, an expansive patio, spacious courtyard and a 65-foot lookout tower. Private Tours & Tastings and Small Bites Pairing elevated experiences are also available.
Four generations of winemaking tradition, commencing in Germany and culminating in Oregon. The vineyard, which is L.I.V.E. Certified, is located where maritime air currents maintain cooler temperatures, allowing for longer fruit hang time and a deeper development of the signature flavor profiles. In addition, this region consists of well-drained sedimentary soil with high mineral content, a result of the Missoula floods that took place between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago.
Learn more about the principles of regenerative tourism and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals designed to help solve community challenges in the destinations we visit.
L.I.V.E. (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) Certified. (www.livecertified.org)
Salmon-Safe (www.salmonsafe.org) is a corollary certification that certifies farming practices that restore and protect healthy streams and rivers, focusing especially on control of soil erosion and runoff.
USDA Certified Organic. Organic food production is based on a system of farming that mimics natural ecosystems and maintains and replenishes the fertility of the soil.
Demeter Certified Biodynamic. The Demeter Association certifies farms and products to international biodynamic standards that date back to 1928. In order for a farm to be certified, it must demonstrate that it has undergone biodynamic stewardship for a minimum of two years.
Biodynamic producers adhere to a strict set of standards when it comes to making wine. In its simplest terms, biodynamic wines are those made with minimal intrusion from the winemaker, letting the soil, water and natural processes dictate how the vines grow.