Willamette Valley wineries are delicious, beautiful spots to visit
By Vanessa Salvia
The southern Willamette Valley, and especially Lane County, is a beautiful area surrounded by forested mountains and hills to the east and west, and stretching from the sand and surf of the Pacific Ocean to the snowy ski slopes of the Cascade Mountains. With the Willamette River flowing through the valley for more than 100 miles, from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene, the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s leading wine region, and rivals California in its production of some of the finest pinot noir and pinot gris in the world.
The Willamette Valley’s gently rolling hills and mild climate have made it a prime area for producing some of the world’s best pinots, which prefer warm days and cool nights. More than 200 wineries have chosen to settle in the Willamette Valley, which is designated as an American Viticultural Area, the largest in the state at 5,200 square miles with six sub-appelations.
Eugene’s outlying areas enjoy a high concentration of wineries, with several wine producers in close proximity. Most of Oregon’s wineries are small, winemaker or family-owned, and are delighted to provide visitors with a tasteful and informative experience. To fully appreciate the beautiful area and the abundance of great wines, take a self-guided winery tour! There are ample opportunities to stop and take in a great view along the way, and enjoy samples of delicious wines and some of the northwest’s finest dining.
An afternoon at a winery is one of the most memorable ways to spend a day. Lane County wineries are scenic, with views of the surrounding hills, such as at Noble Estate Vineyard, which produces very small batches of pinot noir, pinot gris, and chardonnay from Willamette Valley soils.
In addition to delicious wine, some wineries offer concerts and festivals throughout the warm summer months. Secret House Winery hosts wine and blues festivals, birdwatching festivals, and many concerts. Secret House is also among the closest to town, so you can head there for a quick escape from the ordinary.
Sweet Cheeks Winery produces pinots, riesling, and chardonnay in a 50-year old building that was scheduled to be demolished, and was rescued and moved to the vineyard as the tasting room and winery.
Some Lane County wineries are discovering that they can do more to protect the earth and produce their wines with a smaller environmental footprint. Pfeiffer Vineyards is completely solar operated. The Pfeiffers are leading the way in Lane County and are among only a handful of wineries in the state that are operating on solar power. Solar panels produce enough electricity to power all 70 acres of their Mediterranean-style villa and vineyard with enough left over to sell some back to the electrical grid.
The three vineyards sourcing Territorial Vineyards’ grapes are certified sustainable and salmon safe by L.I.V.E. (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), an organization that promotes protecting the biodiversity and environmental health of the vineyards. Territorial has a tasting room and wine bar conveniently located in Whiteaker, a dynamic and colorful neighborhood with many independently owned shops and restaurants.
Some Eugene area wineries are among the first handful that was established in the 1970s, as the region’s potential came to notice. Silvan Ridge-Hinman Vineyards began in 1979, and today is located just 15 minutes outside of town. An art gallery on-sight provides a visual feast as well.
Chateau Lorane produces some truly unique wines using rare and exotic varieties, and also produces mead using some of the fruits of our warm Oregon summers, like huckleberries, apricots, and wild blackberries.
LaVelle Vineyards is in Junction City but operates LaVelle Wine Bar & Bistro in the 5th Street Public Market, one of Eugene’s prime shopping destinations. High Pass Winery, also in Junction City, is well-known for their pinots and desert wines. Founded in 1994, the winemaker produces premium wines on their 20-acre parcel of hills.
Iris Vineyards has only been open since 2001, and though the winery is still young, the wines are consistently high quality. Organic, estate-grown grapes on their 44 acres south of Eugene produce wines of good value using sustainable practices.
Eugene Wine Cellars operates b2, a wine bar in Eugene. EWC was founded by Bruce and Brad Biehl, who both have decades of experience in wineries. Bruce leased his first vineyard here in 1978, and Brad was recruited to help build one of the most venerable wineries and vineyards in our area: King Estate. Iris Vineyards president, Mike Lambert, was also part of the start-up team at King Estate.
When you’re done driving around for your winery tour, King Estate is a great place to end the day with a meal in their gourmet restaurant and a glass of their pinot noir, pinot gris, or chardonnay. King Estate is the largest local winery at more than 1,000 acres, nearly half of which is certified organic vineyards. The menu at King Estate’s restaurant is focused on seasonally-changing organic produce from the estate’s own 30 acres of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, and is crafted to provide a taste experience that best highlights both the food and wine. The view is spectacular, so is the food, and of course, the wine.
Wherever you choose to start or end your day here in the Willamette Valley, a glass of our fine wines make things just a little better. The soil, the sun, the coastal breezes filtered through forests of pines and cedars, and rich soil all combine in the bottle, for a delightful taste experience that you just won’t find anywhere else in the world.
27415 Siuslaw River Rd., Lorane
Eugene Wine Cellars
255 Madison St., Eugene
Tasting room hours by appointment only
B2 Wine Bar
2794 Shadow View , Eugene
High Pass Winery
24757 Lavell Rd., Junction City
195 Palmer Ave., Cottage Grove
80854 Territorial Rd., Eugene
89697 Sheffler Rd., Elmira
Wine bar at 5th Street Public Market: (541)338-9875
Noble Estate Vineyard
29210 Gimpl Hill Rd. , Eugene
25040 Jaeg Rd., Junction City
Secret House Winery
88324 Vineyard Ln., Veneta
Silvan Ridge-Hinman Vineyards
27012 Briggs Hill Rd., Eugene
Sweet Cheeks Winery
26961 Briggs Hill Rd., Eugene
(541)349-WINE (9463); (877)309-WINE (9463)
907 West 3rd Ave., Eugene