“I came north to fulfill my dream of making pinot noir,” says Robert Brittan of Brittan Vineyards, discussing his move from Napa to Oregon. In a state that boasts more trees than people, Brittan chose Oregon’s Willamette Valley, home to over 300 wineries, many of them famous as producers of world-class pinot noir.
The decanter from which to pour and enjoy the valley’s fine wines is the Allison Inn & Spa, a wine country resort in the city of Newberg. Surrounded by vineyards, orchards, and farmland, this jewel of a resort is beautifully designed and appointed; the decor includes polished woods, copper accents, and fabrics in ochre, pumpkin, aubergine, and leaf green, reflecting the surroundings. One of only 20 hotels in the world to be awarded LEED Gold certification, the 85-room Allison—named by the late Joan Austin, the driving force of the project—is the pinnacle of Northwest elegance.
Art features prominently at the Allison as Austin was a great supporter of the local art community. The Art at the Allison is a private collection which showcases over 500 works from 100 Oregonians—watercolours by Bill Baily, pottery by Nathan Miller, photography by Loren Nelson, wood carvings by Totem Shriver, paintings by Kathleen Jones, and glass works by Gil Reynolds are just a handful of mediums and names featured throughout the property. Loni Parrish, Joan Austin’s daughter, has curated the collection and operates from her own art gallery in Newberg, Art Elements, where many of the featured Allison artists are represented.
The spa is similarly noteworthy; the design mixes rock and wood, and the facilities boast a sleek pool and a menu of signature treatments. As the Allison is a vino-centric destination, expect wine treatments such as the Grape Seed Cure, which begins with a crushed grape seed scrub and an organic honey and wine wrap to purify and exfoliate the skin, followed by a shea butter hydration massage.
And at Jory, the resort’s restaurant, executive chef Sunny Jin prepares cuisine inspired by the region’s bounty that entices all your senses. The likes of cedar planked Oregon chinook salmon accompanied with green-garlic gratin and pearl onions and Douglas fir verjus blanc sorbet with candied fir tips and pine nuts exemplify the high level of finesse—not surprising, as chef Jin’s professional history includes Napa’s French Laundry, Sydney’s Tetsuya’s, and Spain’s elBulli, arguably the most influential restaurants on each of the three continents.
Chef Jin has his own garden on property comprising 1.5 acres, and this summer brought the installation of a greenhouse. Among the foods chef is growing: a generous variety of heirloom greens, some of which include red choi, speckled trout’s back lettuce, and Bordeaux spinach; peppers like Lipstick and Padrón; as well as blocks of vegetables. “This is my go-to happy place,” says Jin with his arms outstretched as if blessing his land of plenty. ”I commit myself to two hours in the garden each day. I sit with a shade and write my menus.” A few dishes chef has created for fall harvest include sweet corn soup with Dungeness crab, Padrón peppers, and lovage oil; heritage ham salad with young potatoes, cipollini, celery branch, crème fraîche, and brown butter; as well as wild king salmon with fall corn polenta, black kale, pancetta, and horseradish-maple glaze.
Lest we forget the wines: over 40 by the glass and an 800-label list. The Allison has collaborated with Willamette Valley winemaker David Adelsheim to produce its own Austin Knoll 2012 pinot noir, which will debut at Jory in December. The vintage comes from the Allison’s seven-acre on-property Austin Knoll vineyard. A preview taste results in aromas of cherry on the nose with a palate of tea-like tannins that linger. It comes as no surprise that the wine label was a special commission and created by local artist Marilyn Higginson.
The sophistication level of the Allison’s various offerings might seem rather incongruous in this laid-back area of the Pacific Northwest, but not so—this is all cultivated beauty.