Photographs by Collette Wylie

 

 

 

 

Chef Bonnie Morales is as amiable as she is ambitious. Her restaurant, Kachka, is a must-visit for anyone exploring the culinary scene in Portland. Her menu which features Russian-inspired stylings paired with ice-cold shots of vodka, has earned her such a loyal following, that she had to reopen in a more spacious location last year. 

 

 
 

 

 

When it’s time to step away from her growing empire, the Willamette Valley calls. With more than half the state’s wineries and vineyards dotting this narrow valley of lush farmland, and a brewery and culinary scene that is on the rise, this is truly a chef’s escape.  

 

 

 

 

 

Soter’s beautiful hilltop tasting room provides a commanding view of their seemingly endless, rolling vineyards. They’ve also figured out what the Europeans have known all along: wine is best savored when paired with food. Their impressive culinary program sources ingredients directly from the farm at the base of the hill. 

 

 

 

Renowned for its Pinot Noir, Soter also dabbles in smaller batches of racy Chardonnay and dry Rosé, which are perfect if you’re visiting during the hotter months. The tasting room is open by appointment only, and Morales says you should definitely book the Chef’s Pairing Menu, created daily from what’s best on the farm. 

 

 

 

“The wine is timeless. The food is delicious. Soter is not to be missed.”

 

 

 

Chef Jeremy Whyte (left) grew up in McMinnville, refined and honed his pizza techniques in Italy, then returned to invest his efforts back into his hometown. Along the way he recruited fellow pizzaiolo Kyle Munroe (right), and their dedication to the art of pizza is abuzz in the Valley. 

Their weekly pop-up, Pizza Capo, serves up the best Neapolitan style pizza in the region according to Morales. To meet growing demand, they plan to open a brick and mortar space in McMinnville this summer.

 

 

Making good pizza is surprisingly technical, and for Morales, it’s the dough that really makes Pizza Capo shine. “When many other places do wood-fired thin-crust, the dough’s not right so it ends up being floppy. Pizza Capo has a crust that’s firm, but not too thick.” 

 

 
 

 

Wolves & People is a farmhouse brewery with a laid back vibe and absolutely intriguing beers. Founder and head brewer Christian DeBenedetti (below right) takes a decidedly experimental and culinary approach to his process, adding locally sourced ingredients like Montmorency tart cherries and elderflower to his seasonal brews. 

 

 

 

One of Morales’ favorites is La Truffe, a stout featuring hazelnuts grown on the surrounding property and Oregon white truffle. “Truffles are so elusive, their flavor hits your mouth and then poof, it’s gone. The beer holds the truffle, allowing you to ponder it, and explore its different facets of its flavor.”

 

 

 

With hiking and biking trails through old growth forests, and quaint streets that lead through quiet, picturesque towns, there’s plenty of ways to work up an appetite while visiting. Your reward for making the trek will be the overwhelming hospitality and creative talents of the farmers, winemakers, brewers and chefs who proudly call the Willamette Valley home.