The Willamette (pronounced "wil-lam-it") Valley has become a wine lover’s Shangri-La, particularly in the northern Yamhill and Washington counties between Interstate 5 and the Oregon Coast, a region that is not only carpeted with vineyards but encompasses small hotels and inns, cozy restaurants, and casual wine bars.
The valley divides two mountain ranges (the Cascade and Coast), and contains more than 500 wineries. The huge wine region is made up of six subappellations: Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Eola-Amity Hills, and McMinnville. With its incredibly rich soil perfect for growing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling, the valley has received worldwide acclaim for its vintages. The region's farms are famous for producing quality fruits, vegetables, and cheeses that are savored in area restaurants. During spring and summer there are many roadside stands dotting the country lanes, and farmers' markets appear in most of the valley's towns. Also delicious are the locally raised lamb, pork, chicken, and beef. The valley also is a huge exporter of plants and flowers for nurseries, with a large number of farms growing ornamental trees, bulbs, and plants.
The valley definitely has an artsy, expressive, and fun side, with its wine and beer festivals, theater, music, crafts, and culinary events. Many residents and visitors are serious runners and bicyclists, particularly in Eugene, so pay close attention while driving.
There's a longstanding collegiate football rivalry between the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis and University of Oregon Ducks in Eugene; getting a ticket to the annual "Civil War" game between the two teams is a feat in itself. Across the state, but particularly in the Willamette Valley, Oregonians are passionate fans of one team or the other. If you happen to be visiting the area during the event (usually held in October or November), be prepared for some serious traffic and some closed businesses.