This New Hotel in Oregon's Stunning Willamette Valley Has a Hidden Cellar Bar and an Organic Farm

In the heart of Oregon's wine-drenched Willamette Valley, the brand-new Tributary Hotel and micro-seasonal ōkta restaurant open July 13, 2022.

ōkta exterior entrance
Photo: Evan Sung

There's local and then there's hyper local. The latter is very much on display at Tributary Hotel, which opened in Oregon's Willamette Valley wine country on July 13. Within a restored 100-year-old former hardware store, Tributary is a culinary-focused hotel highlighting local producers and purveyors plus carefully grown goods from its own off-site farm. Progressive culinary artistry is a driving element of Tributary Hotel and its dining destination ōkta, thanks to chef/partner Matthew Lightner, formerly of NYC's Michelin two-starred Atera. Here, he crafts edible magic intimately connected to the terroir from ōkta's open kitchen.

"Our goal was to build a destination that could encapsulate our love for the region — its products, its flora, its fauna, and the people, the spirit behind it as well," Lightner told Travel + Leisure. "So we want to be super hyper focused on that. A lot of it comes down to us being stewards to nature and being able to give our guests an opportunity to live with us in the moment." The boutique hotel and 26-seat restaurant in McMinnville strategically opened on the cusp of summer's bounty (think: tomatoes, eggplant, alpine strawberries, and a multitude of herbs).

By following the micro-seasons, Lightner's dishes reveal a delicious yet fleeting moment in time. And they are ephemeral: take sprouting cauliflower and fresh elderflowers that mimic each other and bloom simultaneously. The ōkta farm has a fermentation lab and R&D area where the team seeks to discover the hidden beauty of microscopic nature. "That's where we started to really geek out in the sense of trying to create and express flavors of our local area, region, and products into new experiences," Lightner explained.

Duck, Hinona Turnip, Lavendar at ōkta
Evan Sung

His tasting menu — about 70% of which comes from Tributary's high-yield, high-diversity permaculture farm — is served on stoneware made by Pacific Northwest ceramicists Lilith Rockett and Natasha Alphonse, and Madre table linens sewn less than an hour away in Portland. Tables were locally crafted, and the white oak banquettes' soft, pillowy tops reference the cloud cover so signature to the surrounding farmland. In fact, ōkta's name is an ode to the measurement for cloud cover and climate.

Day to day, the farm truly dictates what happens in the kitchen, as opposed to the other way around. Some produce only has a three-week cycle; they train to be nimble and responsive, "so the experience is one of a kind, unique in that exact moment. We're OK with having guests for four or five [dinner] services try a dish and then we move on to the next exciting thing," said the chef, who has been in the Portland area since his culinary school days. "Nature is expressing itself at its highest quality point and we're going to grasp it and go with it."

Interior seating at ōkta
Evan Sung

This approach is sustainable to its core, especially when paired with a rule of thumb to only source and use products that actually benefit the Earth. Take Northern California purple sea urchin, an invasive species that needs to be removed to save and restore important kelp beds. "Everything we do has that mark of giving back," Lightner said. Beef comes from a rancher in eastern Oregon who's using carbon sequestration to lower the footprint of farming cattle.

Ōkta's wine program is, unsurprisingly, robust. A given, too, considering Lightner's partners are husband and wife Shaun Kajiwara and Katie Jackson of Sonoma County's Jackson Family Wines. And while the bottles are curated from all the distinctive wine-producing regions in the world, there is particular focus on the Valley's own standouts, from current releases to exclusive reserve bottles. There's also a bespoke bar program showcasing small-batch and regional producers, plus a hidden cellar bar, lounge and wine library downstairs.

Living space seating at Tributary Hotel
George Barberis

Tributary Hotel is named for and informed by Oregon's waterways, with each of eight suites named for a different river in the Valley. "But it's also deeper than that," Lightner said. "We're paying tribute to a place Shaun and Katie fell passionately in love with." That comes through in materiality and also coziness and warmth. All three sizes of suites are styled to feel residential, walking the line between rustic and modern with exposed brick walls, oak beams, eye-catching fireplaces, and art from Pacific Northwest artists. Soaking tubs are stocked with custom artisanal soaps and bath salts made just seven miles away by Darcy Pendergrass of Rough Cut Soap Co.

Bathtub shower at Tributary Hotel
George Barberis

On a charming main street, the hotel is meant to be a place to slow down. That said, the "full-on personal concierge" is on hand to make recommendations and bookings for wine tastings, tours, and more. The aim is five-star hospitality. "Our general manager is versed in blow-your-mind level concierge [service] of doing our research about the people coming in and giving them things they might not even know they want." Eventually lunch on the ōkta farm will be on the menu. In the meantime, breakfast at the hotel is, in chef's words, "our version of a super killer almost-continental," with all pastries and spreads made in-house and the egg dishes, fruits, and veggies coming straight from the source.

Guest bedroom bedside with natural light coming in through the window
George Barberis

"For me, the highest echelon of dining and hotels is that it's transformative," Lightner said. "It can take you to different places at the same time." And the same holds true for even repeat diners. "If you're staying at Tributary for two nights, you're gonna want to eat here for both of them," he said. "After the set menu, [guests] can let us know what they love and want to try again, and how much creative freedom we have." The rest is up to the farm.

Tributary Hotel is open as of July 13, 2022, with rooms from $975 a night.

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