If the Willamette Valley is fated to become the next Napa, it will likely do so in a signature Oregon way. Its first destination resort — The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg —offers a great model for that. First opened in 2009, the luxury property all about comfortable elegance. “We are very high-end, but very understated,” said Pierre Zreik, managing director.
But The Allison has also made a name for itself with a commitment to sustainability. The resort achieved LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and is one of fewer than 25 hotels in the world to do so. “We are trying to be as green as we can,” said Zreik.
Situated in the foothills of the Chehalem Mountains, the 85-room resort, spa and restaurant are set on 35 verdant acres, including a five-acre vineyard, one-acre Chef’s Garden and berry patches. The contemporary design, which incorporates many wood and stone features, is complemented by the natural setting. Comfortable and spacious rooms include private terraces or balconies, deep window seats, gas fireplaces and custom furnishings. Roomy baths integrate large soaking tubs with beautiful views of the surrounding area. The access to the 200 wineries of the Willamette Valley is immediate, with the closest winery just a mile away. Zreik said The Allison simply doesn’t have any competition for this level of accommodation anywhere in the state.
Yet, within that context of luxury, The Allison’s commitment environmental stewardship stands out. Solar panels on the roof provide seven percent of the property’s electricity, and one wing of the building has a living roof — planted with sedum — which helps with cooling. Plastic water bottles aren’t used on the property. Instead, guestrooms are stocked with refillable glass bottles, and each wet bar has an individual water filter. Glassware is made from recycled wine bottles.
Zreik said the motivation behind the sustainable model is both personal and professional for owner Joan Austin. For one thing, “The owner is a land lover. She wants to protect it as much as she can.” For another, he said, many U.S. companies won’t hold meetings at properties lacking LEED certification.
The green philosophy is apparent at the resort restaurant, JORY, which is named for a soil particular to the Willamette Valley. JORY has won accolades from the likes of Food and Wine, Esquire, and The Oregonian. The restaurant recently won a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for its wine list. In addition to using onsite vegetable and herb gardens, Executive Chef Sunny Jin buys produce from a farmer down the road, and eggs come from chickens next door. This localism certainly decreases JORY’s carbon footprint, but also means really fresh food. “The chef can cook it within minutes of harvest,” Zreik said. (Jin —who’s worked for The French Laundry in Napa, Sydney’s Tetsuya, and Spain’s El Bulli — has remarked that he likes to sit in the garden and plan the day’s menu.)
Of the 15,000-square-foot spa, which offers plant and herbal elements like pinot grapes, pear and berries in treatments, Zreik said it is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest.
Whatever the draw — JORY, the spa, or the deluxe rooms, the concept seems to be working. Zreik said he’s been blown away by the support from locals; wine growers regularly congregate at JORY, and Oregonians, who make up almost half of The Allison’s customer base, regularly make repeat stays. “It’s a huge compliment,” he said. And the commitment to stewardship will continue. “It’s for our kids. Our kids and grandkids,” he said.