The Estate House at Stoller Family Estate in Dayton. ##Photo provided
Youngberg Hill outside McMinnville. ##Photo provided
The Loft Cottage at Vivid Vineyards near Amity. ##Photo by Patty Mamula
Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Wine Country Sleepover

The comfort, luxury and superior hospitality of Willamette winery lodging

By Patty Mamula

For a superlative Willamette Valley wine experience, spend a night or two at a winery, mere steps away from the vines and the wines. Depending on the season, soak in the excitement of harvest, enjoy the serenity of a winter morning, bask in the beauty of bud break or simply celebrate summer.

Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of the state’s largest producers, embodies the perfect host for such a wine-soaked expedition. Located off 1-5, south of Salem, the winery and tasting room offers a surprising view of the surrounding 50 acres, Marys Peak and the Coast Range.

The living room of the Upper Guest Suite at Willamette Valley Vineyards shows a view overlooking the estate. ##Photo by Jen Young

Six years ago, the winery completed a major remodel, revamping and enlarging the tasting room, enhancing the outside event and deck area, and building two upscale suites. Similar in size, contemporary décor and price, both sleep four, with a master bedroom, living area, efficient butler kitchen, a patio and a private parking space directly outside the front door. The units feel private and separate, discretely divided from the main areas by hidden stairways and plantings.

Emi Bernau, founder Jim Bernau’s daughter and guest services assistant, says, “We select one of our wine ambassadors to personally host our guests. They receive an exclusive tasting experience with six individually selected wines and a cheese pairing. We also give them a complete tour, including production, cellar spaces and vineyards. Guests on private tours often have long conversations with our cellar team.” 

The price includes a wine voucher to use on site, two complimentary bottles, as well as breakfast items.

Vivid Vineyards, located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA near Amity, offers two distinctive guest cottages, each a uniquely designed retreat. Open available to registered guests, the scenic five-acre vineyard produces 25 cases of wine a year; any leftover fruit is sold to Grochau Cellars.

Angelica and Bruce Wianecki ##Photo by Patty Mamula

Owners Angelica and Bruce Wianecki bought the property in 2013, planting 7,000 vines that year, half Pinot, half Chardonnay. Bruce says, “It’s a perfect spot for Pinot, as one of my neighbors told me soon after we bought it. The soil is 100% Jory with a south-facing slope at 500-feet elevation, right in the path of the cool Van Duzer winds.”

Bruce walks the vineyard daily during the growing season, meticulously checking the fruit after a team of workers leave. The investment in the wine is a financial backdrop to the income from the lodging.

The two are no strangers to serving guests. Each has had long careers with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of Marriott International. Bruce was an executive pastry chef; Angelica, director of hospitality.

Bruce designed the cottages, accomplishing much of the work himself. Originally a barn with metal struts, the first house measures 2,000 square feet with vaulted ceilings and skylights. A separate bedroom and small loft can be found upstairs. On the main floor, the living area boasts floor-to-ceiling windows — with remote-controlled drapes. The industrial-style kitchen showcases a commercial oven with cookware by Le Creuset.

The second cottage, at 1,000 square feet, exudes a French country vibe with a massive 300-pound farmhouse butcher block. Both houses contain laundry facilities, free-standing wood-burning stoves and picturesque outdoor spaces with serene views.

Angelica, interested in owning a bed and breakfast since her teens, did all the research for the property. And she takes pride in all the extra details of the Vivid experience. “We stock our kitchens with organic foods and usually have a cheese plate and wine waiting when our guests check in,” she says.

Somewhat farther north, outside Lafayette on the southern tip of the Dundee Hills AVA, sits the Stoller Family Estate with lodging for groups. The 400-acre property, in the family since 1943, was originally a turkey farm raising 700,000 turkeys — one-quarter of the Oregon turkey industry at the time.

Stoller purchased the property from his family in 1993, planted his first grapes in 1995 — 10 acres each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Originally, he planned to sell the fruit, but eventually made wine, starting in 2001. The winery currently farms 225 acres of grapevines on the original site. In 2018, Stoller produced 60,000 cases.

Michelle Kaufmann, the winery’s communications director, confirms, “Stoller is the largest contiguous vineyard in the Dundee Hills.”

The living room inside the Estate House at Stoller Family Estate. ##Photo by Patty Mamula

The winery remains a family place for Stoller, who lives on the property. He wants people to feel at home when they’re here. The outside patio and adjoining field are filled with kids and dogs during summer, and visitors are welcome to bring food for picnics. The three guest homes on the property are extensions of that feeling. “They were family homes, and they fill up quickly. Demand is high for them,” says Kaufmann.

Although the homes have been updated and refurbished, they retain much of their original 1950s charm and character.

The Wine Country Cottage, built by Bill Stoller’s father, Harvey, contains three bedrooms. The Estate House, which sleeps eight, once belonged to Aunt Helen and Uncle Wilbur, the couple who managed the farm. The garage on this house has never had a door, and it never will. “He is a very sentimental guy,” says Kaufmann, noting he named all six wines in his legacy series after family. Both houses are a short walk to the tasting room.

The Farm House remains the largest, accommodating up to 12 guests. Bill Stoller’s cousin, son to Helen and Wilbur, used to live here. It’s a bit farther from the winery and surrounded by farmland.

Kaufmann says, “We want to be authentic here. We want to be very Oregonian about our winery experience. We want to shepherd our Oregon roots with people, products and experience.”

Youngberg Hill, on the western edge of the McMinnville AVA, offers a different experience. The nine-bedroom bed and breakfast, built at the highest point on the property, overlooks the vineyard, the Cascades and the Willamette Valley. The newly built event center nearby faces the Coast Range and surrounding valley.

Wayne and Nicolette Bailey bought the 50-acre property and inn in 2003, moving from Chicago. Wayne started his working career as a mechanical engineer, following by sales, marketing and consulting.

One of his assignments brought him to Burgundy, where he fell in love with grape farming and winemaking. “I stayed there two years to learn how to grow grapes and make wine. I spent that time being a sponge and learning everything I could about winemaking and growing great grapes. It was a hands-on education. In the end, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

He planned to grow Pinot and Chardonnay in a cool climate. He quickly focused in on the Willamette Valley, looking for property on the western fringe, closer to the ocean and thus cooler to mitigate effects of climate change.

“This property was perfect,” says Wayne. “It’s at 525-feet elevation at the gate and curves up to 800 feet at the top. I knew it had potential. It had volcanic soil with a shelf of shale and marine sediment uplift.”

Wayne Bailey of Youngberg Hill. ##Photo by Patty Mamula

His friend, Jimi Brooks, the celebrated winemaker who died tragically at 38 of an aortic aneurysm, helped him locate the parcel. Wayne explains, “There were already two blocks of grapes planted, 11 acres total, so we could easily sample them for quality.

“I considered closing the inn, but my wife, in her wisdom, wanted to keep it open.”

Originally, the inn was part-lodging, part-residence, but in 2007, the Baileys built a family home on the property with plenty of room for their three daughters. This freed up space in the inn and expanded to the current nine rooms — each with a private bath, most with a fireplace and a few with walkout balconies. Youngberg’s tasting room and offices exist on the main floor, along with a private dining area, kitchen, and large breakfast area for guests, plus a deck that wraps around three sides of the building.

The inn overlooks 23 acres of grapevines, the most recent three acres of Pinot planted last fall to the left of the mile-long driveway as visitors drive down from the inn.

From the beginning, Wayne, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, assumed management of the vineyard and began transitioning to Biodynamic farming, allowing nature to do what it does best. He compares it to homeopathic medicine. All the animals on the farm contribute to this balance — the cows, chickens and pigs. “We don’t irrigate the vines,” he says. “Dry farming makes the vines work harder and puts more emphasis on the fruit.”

An overnight stay includes a delicious two-course breakfast every morning. Becky Looney, inn manager and proud McMinnville native, plans and or prepares each one.

“We have many return guests,” she says. “We even have a couple who comes every spring break from North Pole, Alaska — we have the best guests.”

Sometimes, families rent the entire inn for a celebration or anniversary. “We always rent all the rooms in the inn when we have a private event,” says Looney. Otherwise, the lodging is reserved for adults.

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