Carlton - Much to do in the ‘capital’
AREA: 563 acres POPULATION: 2,067 INCORPORATED: 1889 FOUNDER: Wilson Carl NAME: Reputedly named after town founder Wilson Carl, owner of the original post office, although some historians dispute this claim.
The self-proclaimed “Capital of Oregon Wine Country” lives up to the title in many so ways.
Featuring more than two-dozen wineries and tasting rooms and several top restaurants, Carlton is at the center of the Yamhill Valley wine industry. Shops, restaurants and tasting rooms invite locals and visitors alike to stop in and sip, savor and perhaps return home with a few souvenirs.
It also stays active with numerous events for a small town. Annual celebration of food and drink include the Flavors of Carlton, Carlton Crush, the Wine Country Half Marathon and Porklandia. The downtown association is frequently adding to the calender, like its recent creation of the quarterly Ladies’ Night In Carlton.
The winetasting scene feels unique because of the structures that have been transformed to tasting rooms. In 2016, Elk Cove Vineyards opened “home away from home” in Pike Road Wines, located in a former bank. Furthermore, Ken Wright Cellars’ tasting room is the original train depot. The old firehouse was transformed into a winetasting venue by De Ponte Cellars, while the original feed store houses another.
There’s more than simply wine to taste. Specialty food stores like Honest Chocolates and the Republic of Jam highlight the craft food products produced in wine country.
Downtown features a bakery and several restaurants, antique shops and tasting rooms, many ensconced in brick buildings dating from the early 1900s. On Friday and Saturday nights, locals enjoy live music at The Horse Radish.
The city boasts three parks, the largest being Wennerberg Park, named for an early settler, featuring picnic sites, baseball fields and a shady oak grove on the banks of the North Yamhill River. An outdoor swimming pool in the upper city park is a major draw to area residents during the summer.
Several bed-and-breakfast inns and rental lodging facilities are available both in town and nearby.
In 2010, a city mural was painted, depicting the history of the area, from train and logpond days to the current era of wine, other agriculture and tourism. In 1904, the North Yamhill River was dammed, forming a large lake on the westside of town. The lake, drained in 1965, was a major tourist draw. But now visitors flock to Carlton for its wine industry, dining options and local small town charm.