Allison Inn and Spa Pool
Allison Inn and Spa Pool

At the Allison Inn and Spa, they hit the bullseye.

Nestled almost coyly into the low rolling hills at the northern tip of Oregon’s willamette Valley wine country, sits the Allison Inn and Spa. It is ideally situated, less than ten minutes’ drive from proximate wineries, while only 90 minutes from even the most remote wineries of note in the valley.

Just a couple of examples: the tiny, exquisite pinot noirs the Tina and Mark Hammond grow at Prive Vineyard are literally just up the road from the Allison, less than five minutes away. Appointment necessary, but worth the trouble, especially if the Allison’s wine country liaison Denise Seroyer is on the job. Denise knows just about everyone in the valley, and makes visiting an eclectic array of vineyard properties a true highlight of any stay here.

Ken Wright Cellars Carlton Station Tasting Room
Ken Wright Cellars Carlton Station Tasting Room

The legendary Ken Wright, who makes his eponymous pinot noirs after many years developing various terroir-driven sites in partnership with others, first in California and then in Oregon, well before it became the respected entity it is today, is an encyclopedia of the geography and history of the entire region. It goes a long way to explaining the unique and varied character of his various bottlings. As he puts it, “we are a very small operation, and my only partner is my wife, so it is pretty much what I want it to be, these days.” Still, it is an agricultural product after all, and he smiles before adding, “each year is unique, the conditions may be similar to other vintages, but never the same. That includes yields, and, finally, how much wine we can make each year. It is a tough, precarious business. I suppose that is why I have dedicated my life to it.”

“Prive and Ken Wright Cellars are part of a small wine community that has gained international recognition, and includes, in part, Wine Advocate founder and editor, Robert Parker, who is part owner of Beaux Freres Vineyards.”

Ken Wright Cellars tasting room
Ken Wright Cellars tasting room

Prive and Ken Wright Cellars are part of a small wine community that has gained international recognition, and includes, in part, Wine Advocate founder and editor, Robert Parker, who is part owner of Beaux Freres Vineyards. Jeff Woodard, Wine Director of The Carlton Winemakers Studio, explains that “the vast majority of wine growers in this region are in it for the love of it, not the moaney. Plus, the challenge of working the the notoriously finicky pinot noir grape.” Jeff’s establishment is a winery facility and tasting room, in which state of the art equipment is available for temporary lease to small-batch  wineries, who can achieve world-class results but do not have enough volume to really afford to buy their own equipment. Carlton is a picturesque 40 minutes from the Allison, and well worth the drive. Plus, Ken Wright’s own tasting room, a former railway station, is a few blocks away.

The wine story is worth telling, because the Allison is the hotel of choice for the wine world as it visits the region. It sets a new standard for excellence, in every respect. The team assembled by General Manager Pierre Zreik has only one thing on its collective mind: to make a stay there a completely memorable one. That means the service is crisp but not formal; congeniality seems to run in the family. And at the restaurant, where Tom Bean runs the wine program with great aplomb and insight, there are treats that are not generally found at retail, single-vineyard efforts that are once in a lifetime opportunities to see and taste the best of Oregon wine.

Allison Inn and Spa
Allison Inn and Spa

Executive chef Sunny Jin, fresh from both the French Laundry in Napa, and El Bulli in Spain, is a wonder of creativity with a clear focus on local ingredients. “We have a tiny ranch of our own, even, to go along with the herb and vegetables gardens. and there is so much fantastic produce in this region, so I can’t ask for anything more.” Best to experience it for yourself, but Sunny Jin’s cooking is light on its feet, and has a symbiotic relationship with the wines, making for some startlingly great experiences in wine and food matches.

Allison Inn and Spa Jory Restaurant
Allison Inn and Spa Jory Restaurant

“The property is obviously beginning to establish itself as an integral part of both the wine community, and the overall community, of Newburg, but of the region, too.”

The property is obviously beginning to establish itself as an integral part of both the wine community, and the overall community, of Newburg, but of the region, too. It feels a bit like Napa Valley did 20 years ago, before things really took off there. The Allison Inn and Spa may be the advent of bigger things to come in this part of the world, but for now, it stands comfortably alone as the destination hotel, befitting of the sublime wines found in the hills all around it.

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James Tobler was Editor first of NUVO and then MONTECRISTO magazines, over a period of 20 years. He edited and wrote the Passport blog for Kiwi Collection for its first two years as well. He has written four cookbooks, with the chefs, for Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, West, and Cin Cin. He has contributed to a wide variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Okanagan Life, Fox News Lifestyle, and Wine Access magazine, where he was Managing Editor. He currently works with Mark Taylor on Gem City Guide, and, now, Inside Spirits magazine.

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