Elk Cove Vineyard

A Review of Friends Wine Tours in Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the most picturesque wine regions in the world. The valley is home to more than 500 wineries, and the scenery is simply breathtaking. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and lush green vineyards. The valley is also home to a variety of wildlife, including eagles, ospreys, and herons.

Willamette Valley

The Willamette Valley is renowned for its Pinot Noir wines. In fact, the majority of Oregon’s Pinot Noir production takes place in the valley. The climate is perfect for growing this delicate grape variety, and the soils are rich in nutrients. As a result, the wines produced in the Willamette Valley are some of the best in the world. visitors can enjoy tours and tastings at many of the region’s wineries. There are also a number of excellent restaurants where you can enjoy locally-produced wines with your meal. Whether you’re a casual wine drinker or a serious connoisseur, a visit to Oregon’s Willamette Valley is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Carlton grain storage
For our girls weekend, we rented an Airbnb near the town of Carlton. Photo by Karen Chow.

Friends Wine Tours

Here in Willamette Valley, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to wine tours. But if you’re looking for a tour that is both fun and informative, I would highly recommend Friends Wine Tours. On our most recent tour, we visited Bellingar Estates and Elk Cove Vineyards, and had an excellent time at both places. 

Friends Wine Tours offers customized tours of the Willamette Valley, Yamhill Valley, and Dundee Hills. Our tour guide was Alexis Dunham, and we loved having her do a wine tour for our annual girls weekend. She was friendly and bubbly, and we enjoyed having her host us. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Alexis moved to Portland five years ago to build Tiny Homes. However, it was not long before she fell in love with the beauty of the Dundee Hills and decided to make it her permanent home. It was during this time that she also developed a taste for wine, which she now loves to share with others.

Alexis from Friends Wine Tours
Our friendly tour guide Alexis. She is the owner of Friends Wine Tours, and took great care of us. Photo by Alexis Dunham.

She picked us up from our Airbnb, so that we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and it was super relaxing! She took care of all the details, so all we had to worry about was having a good time! Our tours include reservations at local wineries, lunch orders delivered to the winery, complimentary hazelnuts and water, professional photos taken in front of stunning scenery, and much more. We rented an Airbnb locally, but it is also an easy day trip from Portland, Oregon.

Elk Cove Vineyards

Our tour began at Elk Cove Vineyards where we were treated to sweeping views of the forest and Yamhill Valley.

Elk Cove Vineyard
The beautiful views at Elk Cove Vineyard. Photo by Karen Chow.

We learned about the different varietals of wine produced at Elk Cove, and got to try a few glasses as well. The staff was very knowledgeable and more than happy to answer any questions we had. 

Elk Cove Vineyards
The sign at the front door of Elk Cove Vineyards. Photo by Karen Chow.
The front of the tasting room at Elk Cove Vineyards
The front of the tasting room at Elk Cove Vineyards. Photo by Karen Chow.

Elk Cove Vineyards was founded in 1974 by Joe and Pat Campbell. The vineyard was truly a family business, with all five Campbell children helping out during the summers. Adam, the youngest of the children, decided to stay close to home for college and attend Lewis & Clark. After graduation, he joined the family winemaking business so he could learn from his parents. Adam is now responsible for making Elk Cove’s wines. He oversees six vineyard sites with 380 planted acres.

delicious looking grapes at Elk Cove Vineyards
Some of the delicious looking grapes at Elk Cove Vineyards.

That’s over 10 times the total acreage of all Oregon vineyards when Pat and Joe planted that very first vine in 1974. The Campbells’ goal has always been hand-crafted, Estate-grown cool climate ­wines that rival the best in the world. As a second-generation vintner, Adam is committed to carrying on that tradition and ensuring that Elk Cove Vineyards produces only the finest wines.

Inside the tasting room at Elk Cove Vineyards
Inside the tasting room at Elk Cove Vineyards. Photo by Karen Chow.
A cute sitting area at Elk Cove Vineyards
A cute sitting area at Elk Cove Vineyards. Photo by Karen Chow.

Pinot Noir

The Willamette Valley is recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir–producing regions in the world, and Elk Cove’s wines have played a part in putting Oregon on the international wine map. Today, Elk Cove produces several Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs as well as their flagship Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, made with fruit from all six of their vineyard sites. Each of these wines showcases the unique character of the associated vineyard site while maintaining the consistent style that has come to be expected from Elk Cove. Their wines are food-friendly and approachable, with bright acidity and soft tannins that make them perfect for any occasion.

Bellingar Estates

Next, we visited Bellingar Estates, a family-owned and operated winery in the heart of Willamette Valley Wine Country. The moment we stepped out of our car, we were greeted by Kim, the owner of Bellingar Estates.

Kim is the owner of Bellingar Estates
Kim is the owner of Bellingar Estates. She is so friendly and knowledgeable (and a great quilter, look at these amazing art quilts). Photo by Karen Chow.

Bellingar Estates is a family-owned winery located in the heart of Willamette Valley Wine Country. The vineyard is nestled at the base of the Chehalem Mountains, and visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The winery produces a variety of red and white wines, and visitors can also taste some of Kim’s homemade jams and jellies. The cut flower garden is a beautiful spot to relax, and they have amazing artwork and quilts on their walls. Kim is friendly and knowledgeable, and they make you feel like part of the family. I would highly recommend a visit to Bellingar Estates. You won’t be disappointed!

Beautiful art quilt at Bellingar Estates in the tasting room
Beautiful art quilt at Bellingar Estates in the tasting room. Photo by Karen Chow.

Evan Bellingar had a vision to start a winery that would be a living farm, and would avoid getting a “real job” at all costs. He wanted to build a legacy for his family. That vision took him from Northwest Washington, where his family has been farmers, tradesmen, and rascals by turns, for over 100 years, to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Bellingar has been amazingly lucky to have designed, developed, and managed many of the finest vineyards in the state of Oregon, worked with dozens of amazing winemakers, and tasted wines that reminded him of the vision he had for his own winery. Today, Bellingar Estates is a successful business and a testament to Evan’s original vision.

healthy looking grapes at Bellingar Estates
Some healthy looking grapes at Bellingar Estates. Photo by Karen Chow

When we visited, we went into the vineyard where we learned all about the wine-making process from grape to glass. We then got to sample some of their delicious wines, and even ended up buying a bottle to take home with us! 

Pretty flowers at Bellingar Estates
Pretty flowers at Bellingar Estates. Photo by Karen Chow


Overall, we had an excellent experience on our Friends Wine Tour. Our guide Alexis was very friendly and knowledgeable, and we learned a lot about Oregon wine country while also getting to sample some delicious wines. If you’re planning a trip to Willamette Valley, definitely consider booking a tour with Friends Wine Tours!

For more travel ideas, here are 40 best vacation destinations for nature lovers.

What wine areas have you been to before? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. We sure do love to do wine tasting on our travels. So we would definitely check out these wine tours in the Willamette Valley the next time we get to Oregon. I love the personalized tour you got on your tastings. And how much you learned about the wineries.

  2. Sounds like a beautiful place to visit with all the greenery. Are there any other activities to do in the valley except the wine tour? I don’t drink alcohol but I would love to visit Willamette Valley.

  3. What a nice wine tour to go on! This is definitely something I would love to do with my mom who loves trying out different wines.

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