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The cool weather in Oregon’s Willamette Valley creates ideal growing conditions for wine grapes, most notably pinot noir. This is one reason why the Willamette Valley is now a world-renowned destination for wine touring and tasting. The mild summers, green mountains, rambling rivers and ample waterfalls also mark this as a spot for impromptu outdoor adventures and feasts. Not surprisingly, our five top picks for the best things to see and do in the Willamette Valley involve food, wine and outdoor adventure:
1. Meet a winemaker. It takes a special kind of winemaker to love the notoriously fickle pinot noir — a grape that requires great attention and care. Most Willamette Valley wineries are still small-scale and family-run. Besides the gorgeous views, one of the undeniable charms of visiting the Willamette Valley wine country is that the boot-clad person pouring wine in the tasting room just might be the farmer and winemaker.
2. Pick local berries. In addition to the beautiful wine region, the valley is home to many farms and outdoor adventures. In the summertime, add berry picking to your list — especially the plump, juicy and sweet marionberry, — it’s Oregon’s official state berry.
3. Climb a tree. Oregon is known for ancient groves of giant green beauties. Check out organizations like the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute for a guided expedition through the canopy of an old growth Douglas fir tree. You’ll soar to great heights — from 250 to 300 feet in the air — affording majestic views of the Cascades.
4. Cycle the scenery. Grab a bike and two-wheel a portion of the 132-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. The route passes by Willamette Valley hop farms, beautiful vineyard rows, wildflower patches and charming towns. Stop for wine tastings and berry picking along the way.
5. Taste olive oil. Walk the olive groves at Oregon Olive Mill, where the Durant family has planted more than 13,000 trees over 17 acres in the Dundee Hills. The groves include Italian, Greek and Spanish olive varietals like Arbequina, Koroneiki and Picual. You can taste test the difference between all of the varietals — from nutty to fruity to spicy — and pick up bottles of your favorites at the gift shop.