To hear The Allison Inn & Spa’s assistant general manager Steve Hurst talk about the high-end resort 25 miles outside Portland, you might get the impression that it’s not as special as it really is.
“What we’re doing is not all that innovative,” he says. “It’s a throwback to simpler times.”
And in a way, he’s right. The low-footprint, high-regard-for-nature philosophy the Newberg, Oregon, property espouses is the kind of thing that is characteristic of another era, one before convenience and consumerism took hold of public consciousness. But that’s exactly what makes this eco hotel so inventive.
Set in the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s wine country celebrated for its Pinot Noirs and other varietals, The Allison sits high on a hill among vineyards, orchards and agricultural farmland. One of only a handful of LEED Gold Certified hotels worldwide, the property takes sustainability seriously — but in doing so, shows that luxury need not be sacrificed. (If you feel like you’re missing anything at The Allison, I can only assume you live a life I could never dream of!)
After being impressed by the spaciousness of the room and envisioning how much time I’d spend reading while perched on the pillow-covered bay window seat, I started to explore the room’s amenities — and they did not disappoint. No plastic bottles are used on the property, and the wet bar faucet includes a filter, giving you endless refills on the cute glass water bottles they leave filled in the rooms. A complimentary snack basket includes only treats from local purveyors.
In the palatial bathroom, which includes a soaking tub with a sliding panel so you can see the views outside, there are none of those throwaway bottles that must add a mighty impact to landfills. Instead, shampoo, conditioner and body wash are in large bottles that are refilled, and the hand soap was a wonderfully fragrant Lemon Verbena bar from Bonny Doon Farm out of California. Drinking glasses made of recycled wine bottles sit between the sinks.
A gas fireplace, local art, automated window shades and climate controls, a custom built-in closet, and luxe furnishings were just a few of the touches that made me wish I was booked for longer.
Fine, Sustainable Dining
Even those not curling up for a good night’s sleep in the lap of luxury would be wise to visit Jory, the on-site locavore-focused restaurant.
“It’s almost redundant to say you’re farm to table; it’s basically expected,” says executive chef Sunny Jin. “We take that so seriously and it’s so tied to what we do.”
Food comes from as nearby as possible — within walking distance is preferable. An acre-and-a-half garden supplies many of the greenery that covers plates. On the night I ate dinner, everything was remarkably fresh, from the fennel soup poured tableside to the grapefruit sorbet intermezzo to the carrot puree that accompanied the steelhead. (I was wary of the carrot puree, which one cook described as “baby food for adults,” but it might just have been my favorite.)
“If someone says, ‘These potatoes are great; how did you make them?’, first, we tell you how they’re grown,” Jin says. “It’s an ingredient-driven restaurant.”
As you might imagine given the location, the wine pairings were spot on (Jory won a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence in 2013 for its fantastic list, which includes biodynamic, organic and sustainable options).
The spa, too, has just as much of an eco-focus — and almost as much wine. It’s known for its “pinotherapy” treatments that incorporate wine grapes into everything from facials to body wraps. The same garden that supplies food for Jory also supplies ingredients used creatively in the spa menu.
“I’m a fan of the whole farm-to-fork concept, and it’s the same thing to me in the spa: farm to massage table,” says Tara Calton, spa director. “On a nutrition level, the ingredients are great for your skin. It’s very much the same as working from the inside out, and we’re supporting our own local region.”
In the spa gift shop, the majority of the products are eco-friendly, and they evaluate the carbon footprint of each company they work with, stocking the best combination of local, organic, sustainable and high-quality that they can find.
It’s that kind of ethos that runs through the entire property. On the roof, solar hot water heaters, photovoltaic cells and sedum green eco-roofing do their jobs. The resort is within the urban limits of Newberg, so development didn’t encroach on the environmentally sensitive agricultural lands. In fact, the importing of mature trees and gardens resulted in a net agricultural gain — there’s now been more vegetation brought on to the property than displaced by construction.
If you’re not looking closely, though, you might not notice anything beyond the friendly service from employees (many of whom ride their bikes to work), beautiful surroundings and posh touches. And that’s all by design.
“Enough companies are now providing materials and goods without sacrificing the guest experience,” Hurst says. “The driving force was never to inconvenience a guest with green certification.”
The Allison’s room rates start at about $350 per night. Valet or self-parking and Wi-Fi are included.
Looking to stay not so far from home? Check out our Through Travelers Eyes post.
Photography courtesy of Andrea Johnson Photography