Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard is the realization of innkeeper and owner Karen Utz’s lifelong dream to own an inn. In early 2002, Karen, her husband of 30 years, Neal, and their son, Kris, stumbled upon a unique opportunity in the form of a former plum orchard in the Red Hills of Dundee.
As the story goes, the family and their dog Bailey followed a deer trail through the overgrown brush until they reached the top of an overgrown 42 acre parcel. Before them unfolded a spectacular view of the Willamette Valley and surrounding vineyards with Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in the distance. The combination of the central Willamette Valley location, along with the breathtaking view and the potential of creating an exceptional Pinot noir presented the Utz’s with an opportunity they could not refuse. And so, the adventure began.
In order to achieve this dream, all three had to continue working full time at their respective professions: Neal a pharmacist, Karen a teacher, and Kris a chef. Evenings and weekends the family worked together to build the Inn, with Kris clearing land on the new tractor by day and going to his job as a chef at a local Dundee restaurant in the evenings.
From the beginning, the Inn was a labor of love and a family affair. Karen and her daughter Melissa painstakingly decorated each suite, taking inspiration from their favorite locales around the world. You will also find many features of the Inn that have been created by the family, including the breakfast tables made by Karen’s cousin, a local artisan. The hardwood floors and heavy wooden doors are also family milled, built and installed. To this day, family remains an important part of the inn, and guests are likely to meet various family members during their visit. You may even see Neal or Kris driving the tractor through the vineyard or making their own stash of wine in the garage.