There are many words to describe the Yamhill Valley’s association with Oregon Wine Country: the heart, the hub, the capital, etc. Once you enter the Valley, you feel it. Of Oregon’s nearly 1,000 wineries, more than half are sited in the Yamhill Valley. The same ratio exists for the 1,000-plus vineyards within the state. In an increasingly diverse industry, our wineries are spread across the countryside and clustered in towns, particularly McMinnville, Carlton, Amity, Dundee and Newberg. These Yamhill Valley locations are slices of great small-town America; communities in every sense of the word that have welcomed and grown with the burgeoning wine industries. Tasting rooms become gathering places in downtowns, bringing together locals and visitors for drink, conversation and entertainment. Despite the local wine industry’s five decades of development, the Valley has remained refreshingly unpretentious. We are changing, however, as some of America’s largest wine companies inves in the local industry. There’s now a broad range of wineries and tasting rooms — from expansive corporate ventures to humble mom-and-pop shops — all within miles of one another and offering a truly unique wine country experience. Here the Pinot Noir grape is king — representing about 70 percent of the production — but Oregon Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Rieslings have established names at the international level, too. Local winemakers continue to challenge themselves to grow new varietals and expand the results to visitors. You’ll find delicious Syrah, Viognier, Melon de Bourgogne, Tempranillo and more, some sourced from other Northwest regions, but also from fruit grown locally. When you step into a winery tasting room, don’t hesitate to ask your server about the special atmosphere surrounding the industry in such a positive way. And be sure to inquire about the origin of the wines they are pouring. You’ll be amazed at their eagerness to share their knowledge. Tasters, from avid oenophile to fanatic foodie to casual visitor, will enjoy the wine more by knowing its history. The wine community takes pride in a product they recognize as special; their camaraderie defines the character of Oregon Wine Country. While the Valley’s popularity increases each year, it’s still very distinct from the crowded wine regions south of Oregon. The more relaxed pace and exceptional dining scene of the Yamhill Valley has an appeal like no other.