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Tasting the Willamette Valley

While visiting wine country, days on end of wine tasting can wreak havoc not only on your mouth and palate, but also on your liver. No fear. As it turns out, wine country offers a lot more than just wine to taste. Here are three of my favorite places to experience something other than wine in wine county.


Jam jars at the Republic of Jam in Carlton, OR

Jennifer Cossey / OPB

Jams and Preserves at The Republic of Jam

The Republic of Jam is an adorable shop in the middle of downtown Carlton that focuses on artisan preserves made from fruit sourced locally. Perched upon its exposed wood shelves are rows and rows of homemade jams, culinary syrups and preserved fruits made right in the store. For $5 enjoy a “Swanky” flight of four jams paired with a food item. For example, an apricot ginger jam serves as the filling in coconut bars with a rich shortbread. Blackberry lime jam with ginger and sriracha is used as sauce for baked ribs. And their spiced pomegranate syrup is mixed with Italian Soda for a refreshing beverage.

Want to try a jam that isn’t on the menu? There is pretty much one of everything open to please your taste buds. Prices for jams range from $4.75 to $6 for the small containers and $8-$10 for the larger ones. Culinary syrups run $6-$12 depending on the size. Find them online to find out what’s on the weekly “Swanky” menu.

Republic of Jam
211 West Main St., Carlton, OR 97111 / 503.395.5261

Open year-round Thursday- Monday 12 - 5


Pouring a taste of olive oil at the Oregon Olive Mill in Dundee, OR

Jennifer Cossey / OPB

Olive Oil at the Oregon Olive Mill

The city of Dayton, Oregon is home to the Red Hills of Dundee, where you will find some of this state’s most celebrated wines, and also to Red Ridge Farms, home of Durrant Vineyards and The Oregon Olive Mill. The property boasts 13,000 olive trees that cover more than 17 acres. The fruit from these trees is used in three of the five olives they produce. Their tasting room offers these to taste, free of charge, along with some beautiful vinegars. Small cups are provided to sip the savory and spicy oils and small pieces of bread are available to cleanse your palate between tastes.

The oils are available for purchase for $17.95 for a standard 12.7-oz bottle and a refillable gallon container is available for $75 with several more pricing options also available. For a more in-depth and personal experience, call ahead to set up a tour of the mill, which is complimentary but requires a reservation. Or arrange for a private sit-down tasting and tour for $25, which includes a food pairing. The shop itself is alive with an abundance of swinging plants which drip from the ceiling, an outside nursery known for exotic plants, and lavender-filled gardens set with colorful ceramics and peaceful water features. Special classes and events occur throughout the year.

Red Ridge Farms & Oregon Olive Mill
5510 NE Breyman Orchards Rd., Dayton, OR. 97114 / 503.864.8502

Open year-round Tuesday-Sunday 9-5

Salami for sale at Fino in Fondo in McMinnville, OR

Jennifer Cossey / OPB

Cured Meats at Fino in Fondo

Just slightly off the beaten path of downtown McMinnville, tucked away at the end of the street, is where husband-and-wife entrepreneurs, Carmen Peirano and Eric Ferguson, created their own little piece of Italy in the heart of wine country. Fino in Fondo (which translates to “until the end”) is a salumeria incorporating traditional and time-honored techniques of cured meat production using only free-range/antibiotic-free hogs from a local farm. They stuff, tie and cure their own meats onsite (sometimes for up to 18 months) and serve them sliced on their sandwiches along with wild arugula, fresh-made bread and olive oil or butchers plates, perfect for picnics. They also sell meats by the pound to take home for your own creations. In addition, they vend a bevy of Italian sundries including olive oil, pasta and bulk dry beans, just to name a few.

Stop in for a salami flight ($5) and taste five or six selections like their Tartufo, Gentile, Soprassata and Calabrese salamis along with some Salumis meats like Coppa and Pancetta all sliced to order and served on a barrel stave board. Salamis are available for $27/pound and the salumis range from $12-$40/pound. It’s more of a take-out place than a sit-down one, but this summer they plan to put in a few seats outside and maybe even a fire pit for people to relax and enjoy Oregon’s most beautiful season paired perfectly with its best cured meats.

Fino in Fondo
777 NE 4th St., McMinnville, OR. 97128 / 503.687.1652

Open year- round Thursday-Sunday 10-7

Jennifer Cossey works as the wine director for Veritable Quandary in Portland. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. 

Do you have a favorite place to taste Oregon’s bounty of foods? Tell us about it.

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