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Taking a Wine Country Road Trip from Portland to the Oregon Coast

By Matt Wastradowski

For nearly a century, Oregon Route 18—more commonly known in the Willamette Valley as Highway 18—has been one of the most popular driving routes between the Portland area and the Oregon Coast. The 60-mile stretch of highway begins in Newberg and ends just north of Lincoln City; along the way, drivers are treated to thick forests, sweeping farmland, pastoral vineyards, and cozy communities.

Highway 18 heads through the heart of wine country, making it easy to break up your drive to or from the Oregon Coast with a stop at some of the area’s tasting rooms and vineyards. (Of course, that close proximity also makes the region a popular day trip from Portland.)

So whether you’re heading out to the Oregon Coast, returning from a weekend in Lincoln City, or simply wanting to dive deeper into Oregon Wine Country, here’s how to make the most of your next trip via Highway 18.

As it heads southwest through Oregon Wine Country and toward the Oregon Coast, Highway 18 passes through the McMinnville American Viticultural Area (AVA)—one of several wine-producing regions in the Willamette Valley. Broadly speaking, an AVA is a region where wine grapes are grown—one that’s distinguished for its unique soil types, weather patterns, and other quirks that help shape the taste of the wines produced there.

In practical terms, that means a pinot noir crafted in the 39,000-acre McMinnville AVA (which sits along Highway 18) may taste drastically different than a pinot noir produced in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA or Dundee Hills AVA—even though the latter AVAs are just a few miles away. It’s not a matter of which region grows the best wine, but rather an invitation to explore the differences between varietals and dive deeper into the nuances of the Willamette Valley’s wide-ranging wine scene.

Dominic Allen, President of the McMinnville Winegrowers Association, says that McMinnville AVA pinot noirs (by far the most popular grape grown in the region) routinely sport dark fruit flavors—such as dark cherries and blackberries. According to Allen, similar wines produced in the Yamhill-Carlton or Dundee Hills areas tend to sport brighter fruit flavors.

Even so, wines within a certain AVA may sport wide-ranging characteristics; pinot noir grapes planted in the region’s sedimentary soils at sea level, for instance, will taste different than grapes planted in the region’s volcanic, nutrient-rich soils at higher elevations (up to about 1,000 feet above sea level). And the cool marine air drifting in off the Oregon Coast—a gentle afternoon breeze that covers much of the McMinnville AVA—extends the area’s growing season and creates idyllic conditions for pinot noir grapes to thrive, according to Allen.

Maysara Winery

In recent years, the woman-led Maysara Winery has earned acclaim for a commitment to sustainably produced wines with biodynamic practices. (Learn more about biodynamic wineries in the Willamette Valley.) The Maysara tasting room, just southwest of McMinnville, pours a mix of celebrated pinot noir, pinot gris, and other varietals.

Youngberg Hill

Located only 25 miles from the ocean in the shadow of the coastal range mountains, Youngberg Hill is the perfect place for spending a long afternoon or a special occasion like weddings or a romantic getaway. Their dedication to organic and biodynamic farming without the use of irrigation is notable and shows the great care they give throughout the winemaking process.

Yamhill Valley Vineyards

Just southwest of McMinnville, where the farmland of the Willamette Valley begins to give way to the rolling foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, Yamhill Valley Vineyards was established in 1983—making it the oldest winery in the McMinnville AVA. Today, visitors can sip the winery's estate-grown pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, rosé, and other offerings on a sun-kissed deck that overlooks old-growth oak trees.

Ready to hit the road? Plan your visit to the wineries of the McMinnville AVA or Book a wine tour company to handle the driving.

Wine Country Road Trip from Portland to the Oregon Coast

At the eastern edge of McMinnville, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is most famous for being home to the Spruce Goose—the largest wooden aircraft ever built. And while the massive plane is certainly worth a stop, the museum also hosts aircraft and exhibits that explore aerospace history, the impact of World War II on aviation, and the evolution of space travel.

Agriculture has been the backbone of the Willamette Valley for decades—and the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center pays tribute to that history by showcasing more than 100 antique tractors and pieces of vintage equipment, old-school firefighting equipment dating back to the 1890s, and other old-school displays.

Indigenous communities have called the Willamette Valley home since time immemorial—and the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center, launched and operated by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, honors that history through interpretive panels, artwork, storytelling, and more.

Turn your day trip along Highway 18 and through the McMinnville AVA into an overnight outing with a stay in one of our celebrated communities.


The community of Newberg, one of the first you’ll arrive at in Oregon Wine Country after heading southwest from the Portland area via Highway 18, is home to a bustling downtown—and sits surrounded by hillsides covered in grapevines. Treat yourself to a stylish stay with a night at The Allison Inn & Spa—noted for luxe amenities, a refreshing spa, and Jory Restaurant (which serves a seasonal food menu crafted from fresh, farm-to-table ingredients).


Beloved for cozy tasting rooms lining Highway 18 through town, Dundee offers a variety of popular eateries and easy access to nearby wineries in the heart of Oregon Wine Country. Just outside of Dundee, The Vintages Trailer Resort hosts nearly 20 historic trailers that have been refurbished for the modern traveler; at the southern edge of town, meanwhile, The Dundee is home to 22 spacious rooms—not to mention four on-site tasting rooms.


Technically, Highway 18 heads just south of McMinnville, bypassing the community altogether. But the city of 35,000 is nevertheless home to charming Third Street Corridor (chockablock with hip eateries, mom-and-pop boutiques, and buzzworthy tasting rooms) and is one of the Willamette Valley’s most popular destinations. A few suggestions for overnight stays include the luxurious Atticus Hotel (which occupies a historic building in downtown) and the hip McMenamins Hotel Oregon (noted for whimsical rooms and a rooftop bar).

For more, start planning your trip with a free travel guide—and check out our beginner’s guide to wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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