Fourth-generation Oregon farmers Tim and Pierre Paradis began Paradis Vineyard in 2017. The Catholic brothers have created a classic selection of wines available at their tasting room in Mount Angel. (Courtesy Paradis Vineyard)
Fourth-generation Oregon farmers Tim and Pierre Paradis began Paradis Vineyard in 2017. The Catholic brothers have created a classic selection of wines available at their tasting room in Mount Angel. (Courtesy Paradis Vineyard)
“I can’t help but conclude that Oregon is right now the single most exciting winemaking area in the United States,” wrote Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine critic in 2017, and the buzz has only grown bigger since then.

The state’s preeminent grape is pinot noir, which loves the Willamette Valley’s terroir, that is, the climate, soil, terrain and tradition. Most recently, vintners have been producing rosés from the pinot noir variety.

In the Salem area, history and wine meet. Vibrance and innovation mark the winemaking around Eugene. Southern Oregon is akin to Spain’s famous wine regions.

Nearby all are Catholic parishes, retreat houses and monasteries that will make for a vacation with a balance of fruit of the vine and fruit of the spirit.

Yamhill region

This summer, the Willamette Valley became the second U.S. wine-growing region (after the Napa Valley) to be awarded the prestigious European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

To find the heart of the valley’s vineyards, head to Yamhill County.

You’ll be joining tourists and connoisseurs traveling from around the world — and while some of the establishments can be so pricy as to take the fun right out of it, other tasting rooms offer affordable fine vintages. Try these memorable family-owned tasting rooms: Seufert Winery in Dayton; Four Graces and Erath in Dundee; Remy Wines and Yamhill Valley Vineyards in McMinnville. All offer great wines and snacks at a price that doesn’t take your breath away.

Don’t miss the breathtaking views, some of which belong in the movies — they’re that beautiful. Consider visiting Sokol Blosser, Winter’s Hill Vineyard, Erath, Bella Vida or Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee; Stoller Family Estate or Domaine Drouhin in Dayton.

Winter’s Hill, for instance, is 35 acres of vineyards nestled into 150 acres of Oregon White Oak and Douglas Fir woodland, which includes part of the Willamette Valley Birding Trail.

Make Mass at St. James Church in McMinnville part of your vineyards tour. The stained-glass window behind the altar — a Resurrection in vivid colors that no camera can properly capture — will lift your heart, as will the excellent homilies from Fathers Mike Walker and Arjie Garcia.

Also in the region is the sublime Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, which not only is a haven of prayer, but has warehouses to store local wines.

Salem area

Salem is a place to witness the inner workings of state government as well as the stunning cherry blossoms in spring. But the city and its surrounding farmland has much more than flowers and bureaucracy. The rolling hills of the Willamette Valley have been home to farmers for generations, bringing the world hazelnuts, hops and now grapes.

Just off Interstate 5 near the small town of Turner, Willamette Valley Vineyards sits along a hillside bringing an estate feeling. The winery has won numerous accolades and is best known for its pinot noir.

West of Salem is Eola Hills Wine Cellars. The sustainably managed brand offers classic wines, along with sparkling and dessert wines.

For those seeking a true Oregon flavor pallet, Salem’s Honeywood Winery brings a fun variety, including wines made of pears, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, peaches and strawberries.

In nearby historic St. Paul, Catholics Jerry and Elaine Owen bring an award-winning selection of red and white wines from their five-generations-old family farm, named Lady Hill in honor of the Blessed Virgin as well as the strong family women.

Drawing its name from the French word for paradise, as well as the growers’ family name, Paradis Vineyard in Mount Angel offers a venerable selection from two Catholic brothers.

Include a visit to beautiful and historic churches: Booming St. Joseph Parish in Salem is just steps from the state Capitol; St. Paul in St. Paul offers an unmatched history to those curious about the archdiocese’s founding; St. Mary in Mount Angel, as well as two Benedictine monasteries, anchor that hometown. Not far away, near the farm community of Amity, the Brigittine monks have a quiet priory.

Eugene and environs

Art, education, an outdoorsy culture, countercultural politics and tasty craft beer — not notable wine — may be top of mind when you envision Eugene. But the southern tip of the Willamette Valley has many great spots to sip vino.

Avid cyclists can consider embracing a Eugene style of transpiration and bike to the assortment of wineries within 15 miles of the city. Wine aficionados recommend Sweet Cheeks and Silvan Ridge, located across from one another. Sweet Cheeks offers spectacular views and a large tasting room. The space allows guests to find their own spot to sample and chat without a crowd. Silvan Ridge has an extensive wine list and a staff known for expertise and hospitality.

If a motorized vehicle is more your style, add in Broadley Vineyards and King Estate Winery. Both share a commitment to sustainability.

Antiquum Farm, about 24 miles northwest of Eugene, has an especially unique dedication to sustainability and to creation. Though officially known for its pinot noir, it’s also beloved for the creatures — sheep, pigs and poultry — who graze and forage between grape vines.

According to its owners, grazing-based viticulture was first conceived and implemented at the vineyard. They eschew fertilizers or compost and instead use animals that, according to their website, “complement each other, and support an intricate, living, breathing ecosystem.”

Begin a day of Eugene-area tasting with Mass at one of the city’s many churches: St. Jude, St. Mark, St. Mary, St. Paul or St. Peter, or the St. Thomas More Newman Center, spiritual hub for Catholic students at the University of Oregon. West of town is the peaceful home of Carmelite nuns.

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon’s climate and soils resemble those of Spain’s prized grape-growing regions. Abacela Winery, in the Umpqua Valley near Roseburg off Lookingglass Road, has produced lauded Spanish varieties of tempranillo. Hilda and Earl Jones, founders of Abacela, are scientists who found just the right place in the quiet rolling hills. In addition to producing the lively and rich tempranillo, Abacela has grown Albariño grapes. Wine Enthusiast magazine nominated Abacela as winery of the year in 2015.

Other fine and fun wineries dot Southern Oregon, which calls to mind God’s bounty.

Lexéme, founded by a young couple, has a tasting room right in Elkton along the Umpqua River. The vineyard is just six miles south. They specialize in pinot noir, gamay and a Swiss varietal called chasselas, which produces a full, dry and fruity white. Lexéme grapes are planted in close rows too tight for tractors and so are tended by hand.

Rellik Winery near Jacksonville grows its own cabernet sauvignon grapes plus chardonnay, grenache, malbec, viognier and tempranillo. The scenic tasting room includes views of vines and a pond. From the kitchen come tasty tapas. A bed and breakfast is now tended by the founding couple, Delando and Zoey Pegan. Alpacas and llamas live on-site.

Nearby these Southern Oregon vineyards are St. Joseph Church in Roseburg, Sacred Heart in Medford, Shepherd of the Valley in Central Point and tiny and lovely St. Joseph in Jacksonville. For peace and prayer before or after wine tasting, try St. Rita Retreat in Gold Hill.