The adorable wine town of Carlton is in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country and, although (perhaps) surrounded by more famous Oregon wine country towns like namely Dundee and McMinnville, Carlton has an identity all its own. As I love to tell people, it is a one blinking stop-light town with enough wineries, tasting rooms, and restaurants to keep you busy for days.
Driving to Carlton is as much of a treat as enjoying time in the town itself. I love to drive down the winding roads, relaxing and enjoying the landscape of idyllic farms tucked away in the hills and valleys. One comment we often hear in the tasting room from visitors that live in other regions is, ‘It’s so beautiful here, but where are all of the vineyards?’ In this area, grape vines thrive on hillsides. This means that wineries and tasting rooms are often tucked away on sites that aren’t always visible from the road. I mean, the landscape is just picturesque. The lush green quality of the vegetation here is famous and why the Willamette Valley has such a strong agricultural heritage.
Despite the fact that there are dozens of wineries and tasting rooms in this little town, it wasn’t always a wine-focused community. Carlton (not unlike the rest of the Willamette Valley) has a rich agricultural history and robust economy that continues today – vineyards and wineries are only one small patch of the beautiful quilt of farms.
Many people are very encouraged to find that the Willamette Valley is a large producer of hazelnuts, and they just so happen to taste delicious with wine! Just about any crop will grow here, but our area is also known for seed crops, hops, and tons of fruits and vegetables. In fact, many of the original farms in the Yamhill-Carlton area were fruit orchards. Our farm, Finn Hill Vineyard, produced Bartlett Pears and Italian Plums. The farm was complete with a prune dryer all the way up to 1974 when it was purchased by our founder David Teppola.
You’ll find this romantic little town about an hour’s drive southwest of Portland, and about a half and hour drive north of Salem, Oregon’s capital. If you’re not up for a day trip solely to visit wineries and vineyards, pencil-in one wine tasting stop on your way to -and-from the coast. Carlton is the perfect midway point between Portland & Lincoln City, or a number of other charming towns on the coast.