McMinnville - Welcome to the heart of Oregon Wine Country
AREA: 10.58 square miles
FOUNDER: William T. Newby
NAME: Named after Newby’s hometown of McMinnville, Tennessee.
What does a city do after years of accolades for having one of America’s best downtowns and earning awards as one of the best foodie small towns?
If it’s McMinnville, it certainly doesn’t settle for such praise. It looks to the future and decides where it can improve the overall experience in the heart of Oregon wine country.
Summers in McMinnville are always busy. There are numerous events, like the International Pinot Noir Celebration and the UFO Festival drawing huge crowds from around the world. Even without a particular celebration on tap, the traffic of visitors is constantly moving around the downtown core.
But McMinnville is no longer just a summer stop, thanks in part to the work of the city’s tourism association. Jeff Knapp, executive director of Visit McMinnville (VM), said their focus is promoting year-round tourism, offering more reasons to visit in the shoulder seasons of late fall to early spring.
This year, the agency worked with the Oregon Truffle Festival to expand from its base in Newberg to McMinnville for a series of January winemaker’s dinners centered around the delectable truffle.
“We’re looking for those types of opportunities, even when it’s a little wet,” he said.
Speaking of which, rain is a necessity in the Valley. Without it, there would be no farming and no wine industry. But a shower can certainly dampen the experience of downtown McMinnville, which is why VM placed umbrellas throughout downtown shops, tasting rooms and restaurants. The umbrella-sharing program is simple. Just grab one at a participating business, and leave it at the next stop.
The umbrellas are branded with VM’s new Wine Walk passport program — another promotion to help boost traffic in the offseason.
Visitors can find a Wine Walk passport at any of the 22 participating winetasting rooms (or the five craft beer and spirits locations on the map). Have your passport stamped at each place you visit. Once you’ve earned enough stamps, retrieve your prize at the Evergreen Aviation Museum.
Knapp and his team have plenty of highlights to market: A world-class aviation museum; a downtown that seems to be highlighted on a national “best of” list each month; world-class wine, food and agriculture; a picturesque college (Linfield); and much more. He said those items tend to sell themselves, so VM is looking at the many lesser known assets of the city.
For instance, he envisions loads of opportunity in growing the city’s small but strong arts and culture community, especially the McMinnville Short Film Festival. Now in its seventh year, the festival continues to grow and was named one of the top 100 best-reviewed festivals by FilmFreeway. McMinnville is home to a community theater, a monthly art walk, several fine arts galleries, a music festival and two summer music series. Linfield College, one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the state, offers a robust calendar of arts and entertainment offerings, too.
The next step for McMinnville, Knapp said, is to combine the charm of its small town life with amenities to accommodate the needs of the wine industry that finds itself on the global stage. VM is investing in a feasibility study this year to determine the economic opportunities and impact of additions like new conference and events centers. McMinnville is already a popular destination for weddings and smaller events. But Knapp believes it can become a logical location for corporate getaways and other significant outings.
VM is also leading the way to improve the city’s signage and instruction for people visiting the town for the first time.
Like all of McMinnville’s leaders, Knapp knows the popularity of McMinnville will continue to grow, and they must prepare properly for that next step.