Celebrating local makers in the Salem area
Editor’s Note: To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Oregon has enacted a four-tier risk framework for counties. Effective December 3, restaurants, bars & tasting rooms in Marion & Polk Counties can offer limited outdoor seating. Indoor seating is prohibited; take-out and curbside pick-up are encouraged. Indoor recreational facilities including museums and gyms remain closed. Retail shops are open but are limited to 50% capacity. A joint travel advisory is in place for Oregon, Washington and California. To protect our communities, we ask everyone to follow Oregon's Safe+Strong guidelines: wear a face covering, wash your hands and maintain social distance. We’ll get through this together.
updated January 11, 2021
The past year doesn’t look like any other in recent memory. But for all the changes this year, at least one constant remains: The Salem area is home to inventive producers, culinary crafters, and talented artists eager to share their gifts with the wider world. (Where else, after all, will you find locally grown tea, several varieties of honey, and chocolate-covered hazelnuts?)
So, while you’re dreaming of a trip to the Willamette Valley, consider sharing the signature products of the Salem region with loved ones near and far or bring them home for yourself. We’ve compiled a list of some of the area’s top makers, all with online shopping opportunities for the safest possible experience.
Minto Island Tea Company
Who doesn’t love waking up—or warming up—with a cup of steaming tea?
This season, give the refreshing gift of tea with a little help from Salem’s own Minto Island Tea Company.
Since 1988, Rob Miller and John Vendeland—the brains behind Minto Island Tea Company—have cultivated some of the region’s best-loved tea varieties on one of Oregon’s only dedicated tea farms. (In fact, each of Minto’s teas are grown, picked, and processed at the company’s farm.) Today, Minto Island produces green, oolong and black varieties—all certified organic.
Visitors can purchase those teas on Minto Island Tea Company’s web store. There, each package of loose-leaf tea is labeled by when it was harvested, so dedicated tea aficionados can explore the subtleties unique to each yield. For instance: Minto Island's Steamed Green Tea, picked and processed in July 2020, sports notes of hay and sweet cream—while its mid-spring variety, picked just two months earlier in May, offers hints of lemongrass, straw, and orchid.
Pacific Hazelnut Farms
It’s impossible to overstate the close relationship between the Willamette Valley’s agricultural community and the beloved hazelnut: The hazelnut, first planted in Oregon in 1858, is today the official state nut—and grows on 80,000 acres throughout the region. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, 99% of the U.S. hazelnut crop is grown in the Willamette Valley each year.
So if you’re looking to share the flavors of the Willamette Valley this holiday season, you could scarcely do better than the Aurora-based Pacific Hazelnut Farms.
You’d be forgiven for buying yourself something, too: Pacific Hazelnut Farms’ beautifully packaged boxes—almost as much a treat as the contents inside—are filled with natural, roasted, seasoned, chocolate-covered, and candied hazelnuts. Naturally, all are grown in the Willamette Valley.
Willamette Valley Pie Company
Every summer, Willamette Valley Pie Company transforms into a kind of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for fresh, locally grown fruit: That’s when the Salem-based outfit processes roughly 12 million pounds of strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, marionberries and other fruit at its plant near Salem.
And since 2001, Willamette Valley Pie Company has used portions of that fruit for its regionally famous pies, bursting with sweet, savory, and decadent flavors.
This holiday season, you can taste the magic yourself, as the company ships its 9” pies (in packs of two) throughout the United States. In all, buyers can choose among more than 20 flavors—including four varieties of marionberry pie, a sweet “forest berry” pie (which includes marionberries, blackberries, and blueberries), and seasonal selections (like pumpkin and pecan).
Honeywood Winery got started churning out fruit brandies, cordials and liqueurs in 1933 and, today, is Oregon’s oldest winery—no small feat in a region synonymous with wine.
And while the Willamette Valley is home to more than 500 wineries, few boast the kind of creativity, inventiveness, and all-around fun that’s become a hallmark of Honeywood.
Honeywood’s web store features a variety of wines suited to every palate—including a dry chardonnay, a balanced merlot, and a playful birthday cake wine. (Yes, you read that right: The white wine boasts subtle hints of frosting and cake batter.) Other items in the company’s wide-ranging gift shop include novelty towels, bottle tags, and gourmet food items from local purveyors (like small-batch jerky and hazelnut scone mix).
For the dog lover on your list, consider a bottle from the winery's "Dog Gone Wine" label, sales of which benefit local animal organizations and rescue shelters.
Flying Bee Ranch
Since 1999, Salem’s Flying Bee Ranch has produced some of the region’s most fascinating honeys—no surprise, since the ranch is home to roughly 500 colonies—and several of those creative varieties are available for holiday shopping on Flying Bee’s web store. (Helpfully, Flying Bee makes shopping easy by explaining how each varietal is best enjoyed—whether as a dollop in a cup of tea or slathered on fresh baked goods.)
One varietal, for instance, incorporates alfalfa—which boasts a mild floral flavor that's perfect for teas and baked goods. Another honey incorporates Oregon Coast cranberries and pairs well with dark tea or brie cheese on a charcuterie board. And Flying Ranch’s best-selling blackberry honey is noted for a smooth sweetness and hints of berry flavor.
A work of art is a gift unlike any other—it can be a one-of-a-kind expression, a colorful decoration, a reflection of place, and so much more.
And River Gallery, run by a collective of 13 artists, has a little of everything for the art lover on your list this holiday season.
The gallery features the work of 67 artists, with works running the gamut: Watercolor paintings, mixed media, photography, ceramic sculptures, fiber works, and oil paintings are just some of the media you’ll find on the River Gallery website. If you can’t make it into the gallery on the Independence riverfront, works are available for shipping.
You can count on high-quality works, too: River Gallery has represented Northwest artists since 1998, and its stated mission is to spotlight works from Oregon artists.
Barbara Storey’s Rum Cakes
Barbara and Steve Storey, partners at Barbara Storey’s Rum Cakes, can make one of the most unique, most fun boasts in all of Oregon: The husband-and-wife team claims to be the largest purchaser of rum in the entire state. (Yes, that includes your college bar and your neighborhood liquor store.)
That boast is a testament to the popularity of Barbara Storey’s Rum Cakes, which has been crafting the region’s most beloved holiday treats since 1992. In all, Barbara whips up nearly a dozen mouth-watering flavors—including chocolate fudge, cinnamon rum raisin, banana, whiskey, and more. Whether for yourself or loved ones, Storey’s cakes can be picked up locally or shipped.
For more gift ideas that represent the spirt and beauty of the Mid-Willamette Valley and Oregon, check out the Built Oregon Marketplace – an online shopping platform showcasing products crafted or created by Oregon artisans and entrepreneurs.