Cellar Notes

Wine & Dine

The Willamette Valley’s best meals to pair with your local bottles

By Condé Cox March 23, 2012 Published in the April 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

Spaghetti with meatballs at Nick’s Italian Café

LIKE THE GRAPES ripening on the area’s world-class vines, a cottage industry of hyper-wine-friendly restaurants has also matured in the Willamette Valley. Some, like Nick’s Italian Café in McMinnville, are “old vine”—by 1987, decades of informal gatherings of local winemakers there had morphed into the world-famous International Pinot Noir Celebration, now attended by thousands of wine lovers every July at McMinnville’s Linfield College.

Other fine-dining options represent newer generations: the Dundee Bistro, owned by the same family that started the Ponzi Vineyards; Dayton’s Joel Palmer House; and McMinnville’s Thistle, run by Eric Bechard, known for his highly local and seasonal ingredients. Perhaps one of the most intimate vino-loving restaurants in the region is Tina’s, also in Dundee, where chef-owner David Bergen’s commitment to wine-friendly cooking is downright palpable. Next time you head for wine country, don’t miss these pairings of finest wines and dining.


Nick’s Italian Café, McMinnville

  • Nick’s classic minestrone soup with fresh pesto: 2009 Eyrie Pinot Gris
  • House-made “square spaghetti” with meatballs and tomato sauce (only available in the Back Room): Willamette Valley pinot noir—any producer, any vintage. Nick’s has a large selection at a variety of price points.

Tina’s, Dundee

  • Lamb stew with lentils: 2008 Brittan Basalt Block Pinot Noir
  • Rabbit risotto with pancetta and braised leeks: 2008 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Laurene Pinot Noir

Thistle, McMinnville

  • Netarts Bay oysters with mignonette: 2008 DePonte Melon
  • Classic beef tartare: 2008/09 Cameron Reserve Pinot Noir
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