Rooted in Nostalgia: Discover the Culinary Haven at The Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard
Produced in partnership by Travel Dundee and the Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association.
Executive Chef, Chase Williams, and Sous Chef, Zack Ehrlich, refuse to play it safe at Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard. Together, they’ve created a culinary haven where nostalgia meets innovation at the luxurious bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of Oregon’s Dundee Hills.
They build menus around unexpected pairings including main dishes featuring cured, smoked and thinly-sliced duck breast with pickled blueberries served with a Dundee Hills Gamay, as well as desserts built upon the flavors of berries with popcorn,. And most importantly, they’ve become known for unfamiliar presentations of ingredients that transform into memories, like Grandma’s lasagna, at first bite.
Food is a sentimental experience for Chase and Zack. Both have strong memories of gathering around their family tables with multiple generations represented, running through their grandmas’ gardens, watching their mothers stir simmering crock pots. They carry those themes forward in the dishes they cook today: “Nostalgia is an ingredient in every meal we cook,” says Chase.
Chase remembers saving his family’s annual fish fry as a young teenager when a day spent on the water without a bite turned into him hauling in a 90-pound grouper he later cooked and cleaned himself. He served it basted in butter and garlic as his friends and family came together around a table to enjoy it. “That‘s the moment I fell in love with the idea of cooking for people as what I wanted to do in my life,” Chase recalls.
Early in his career, he couldn’t shake his attraction to wine country. In culinary school, he’d fallen in love with wine education and the interplay of food, wine and service for the sake of offering guests the highest caliber of experience. He dreamed of being a chef at a vineyard, got a tattoo of grapevines to cement the intention, and packed up his Uhaul to head west. He landed in the Willamette Valley and the lauded Painted Lady restaurant where, shortly after, he met an intern named Zack. The two have been preparing menus and meals together ever since.
They function as mind readers in the kitchen, anticipating each other’s next move and working seamlessly to create unforgettable dining experiences for their guests. That sort of partnership is an aspirational dream for most chefs. For Chase and Zack, it’s the standard.
They cook together because their friendship and honesty fuels creativity, new techniques and unexpected pairings. “We never do the same menu twice, which is fun for us,” says Zack. “There are ideas we return to each year, but we never repeat a meal.”
The Black Walnut Inn takes advantage of its stunning surroundings in Oregon’s premier wine region to infuse a sense of place into each dish. In addition to using the grapes grown in the onsite vineyard, Chase and Zack love featuring the edible plants growing across the estate including native hazelnut and walnut trees, wood sorrel, and wild fruit trees, all of which find their way into the kitchen.
“The Dundee Hills is an amazing place,” notes Zack. “The view we have at Black Walnut is one of the best in the valley. The amount of great produce we have to work with is incredible and the quality of wine is impeccable. I can’t think of a better spot to be.”
Dining at The Black Walnut Inn isn’t just about savoring exquisite dishes; it’s a journey through nostalgia, a celebration of the region’s bounty, and a testament to the artistry of two passionate chefs who use their rich culinary backgrounds to create a dining experience that’s steeped in tradition and brimming with creativity.
To experience one of these celebrated meals for yourself, visit Black Walnut Inn. Breakfasts are included in the stay for guests, and dinner with wine pairings is open for guests to enjoy as an additional purchase. Everyone is welcome to make reservations for their three-course lunch with wine pairings.