Photo by Frank Barnett
FOODIE FINDS NEAR THE CHERRY CITY
Much of Salem lies within Marion County, which produces more agricultural products than any other county in Oregon - growing everything from tea leaves and turnips to juicy berries and ripe cherries. Coined the Cherry City for its thriving cherry industry, Salem offers a myriad of delectable treats, as well as the opportunity to see how they are grown or made.
Cherries & Chocolate
Salem’s cherry industry dates back to 1847, when pioneer nurseryman Henderson Lewelling brought 700 small trees with him from Iowa. Today, the industry continues to thrive, and just west of the city lies Cherry Country Orchard & Chocolate Factory – a family-owned orchard and chocolate factory specializing in all-natural cherry products, including their signature product: dried cherries covered in rich milk or dark chocolate. Visitors are welcome to stop at the factory store for delicious samples and views of the lush cherry orchards.
In addition to dozens of wine tasting rooms, the Salem area is also home to one of the state’s few spots devoted entirely to cheese tasting. Willamette Valley Cheese Company was created by owner Rod Volbeda, who spent more than a decade perfecting cheese recipes and nurturing his herd of jersey cows. The result is more than 30 varieties of buttery, handcrafted cheeses. Guests who visit the tasting room can learn more about the cheese making process, plus sample nearly all 30 varieties.
There are more than 29,000 acres of hazelnuts grown in Oregon and Pacific Hazelnut Candy Factory located just north of Salem, turns these delectable nuts into mouth-watering confections. Visitors can tour the factory to see how the candies are made and then sample them in the gift shop.
Berry Pies & Other Delights
If pastries and pies filled with fresh, local fruit makes your mouth water, then you definitely don’t want to miss a visit to Willamette Valley Pie Company. Their farm store is located on the same property as the bakery and processing plant where guests can tour the facilities and berry fields, watch the bakers in action and then finish the experience with a slice of warm pie à la mode.
Wineries, Cidermakers & Craft Brewers
Within a short drive of Salem — and right in town — it’s possible to taste a world of wine, cider and brews. While largely known for its world-class Pinot noir, the Willamette Valley produces a wide range of award-winning wines and has also attracted a new crop of cider makers and craft brewers. No matter which direction you take, you’ll find cozy tasting rooms and opportunities to chat with producers while quaffing a glass of your favorite beverage.
View Wineries, Cidermakers & Craft Brewers Itinerary in a larger map
For in-town tasting, visit and sip from a rotating list of local, regional and international wines. Enjoy wine by the glass or bottle, paired with mouth-watering flatbread sandwiches, salads and handmade lasagna.
Honeywood Winery, Oregon’s oldest producing winery, offers complimentary tastings of its varietal, fruit and specialty wines – including mead – and a gourmet marketplace selling Oregon foods and wine-related gifts.
For a wine loop south of Salem, start with Willamette Valley Vineyards. Founded in 1983, the estate is one of Oregon’s leading wineries, best known for award-winning Pinot noir, along with excellent Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot gris. The winery sits on a picturesque hilltop, with a tasting room and deck that offer sweeping views across the valley. Enjoy a picnic lunch assembled from the local cheeses and artisan products from the tasting room. Look for annual events like the Pinot and Chocolate Celebration, Pear, Wine and Cheese Jubilee, Father’s Day Weekend, and the fall Grape Stomp Competition.
Farther south, overlooking the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, is Ankeny Vineyards. There, owner Joe Olexa and winemaker Andy Thomas turn out small, handcrafted lots with an emphasis on Pinot noir and Pinot gris. Nearby Trinity Vineyards, a family-owned boutique winery producing Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Viognier and Rosé, features a tasting room deck overlooking the vines and with views of the surrounding hills.
To the east of Salem lies a handful of small wineries, including Pudding River Wine Cellars, a winery producing small lot, boutique wines like Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Viognier, and Riesling. In Aumsville, Piluso Vineyard and Winery offers red and white varietals along with port and dessert wines. Piluso’s Vintner’s Garden is a delightful spot to enjoy a bottle of wine and a picnic.
By far, the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards is west of Salem. Visiting one, or a handful, makes for a pleasant and easy day trip.
Head west along Highway 22 to loop through the Van Duzer corridor. Here vines get the benefit of temperate afternoon breezes and cool evenings – perfect growing conditions for exceptional Pinot noir. Wineries in this area include Johan Vineyards, Firesteed Cellars and Namasté Vineyards. At Van Duzer Vineyards, visitors are treated to award-winning wines and breathtaking views of the valley from the trellised terrace off the tasting room – the perfect spot for a picnic lunch.
If you’d rather break up a day with a more traditional lunch stop, head to Left Coast Cellars; the cozy café, decorated with a Scandinavian twist, features soups, panini sandwiches, pizza and small plates that complement the house wines. From there, head south to Eola Hills Wine Cellars. Open year-round and producing more than two dozen wines, Eola Hills’ serene setting and koi ponds offer a relaxing spot to pass an afternoon.
Another option for a wine loop west of Salem is up and along the ridge of the Eola Hills. This will take you by Cubanisimo Vineyards, St. Innocent Winery, Witness Tree Vineyard, Redhawk Vineyard & Winery, and Stangeland Vineyards and Winery – each one producing standout wines.
Cider & Brews
Traditional hard cider is experiencing a revival in the Willamette Valley. Two early adopters are Wandering Aengus Ciderworks; E.Z. Orchards. For a taste of both, head to Wandering Aengus’ tasting room and sidle up to the sustainable hardwood bar to sample from a rotation of ciders, ranging from semi-dry to floral. Lite fare, local beers, wines and cheeses are also available.
Beer-lovers should seek out Gilgamesh Brewing, whose innovative brews have spawned a devoted following. Gilgamesh can be found at their own tasting room (open on select dates), on local menus, or at frequent pop-up events.
Salem’s Ram Restaurant & Breweryis home to Big Horn Brewing Company and its ales, lagers and handcrafted brews. Just across the Willamette in Independence (once the hop capital of the world) is an outpost of one of Oregon’s most lauded brewers, the venerable Rogue Ales. Raise a glass of artisan brew at the Chatoe Rogue Tasting Room, take a tour of the adjacent hop fields and processing facility, or relax with a friendly round of croquet.