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World Class Wine Tour

Published: July 07, 2020

 

It can be difficult to get out and explore wine country during this time. This itinerary has been vetted with COVID-19 safety in mind, and while it is always a good idea to call ahead, every place on this list is prepared to keep you safe during your visit.

Indulge your senses exploring Oregon's wine country on a two-day tour of some very special boutique wineries along Territorial Highway. Taste the region's lauded Pinot Noir wine, enjoy an abundance of farm-to-table gourmet offerings and soak up the beauty and quiet of the Willamette Valley.

Wine Tasting During COVID-19: What you need to know

  • Call ahead to every winery.
  • Some wineries require reservations and/or have limited seating and/or limited hours.
  • If a winery is closed to tasting, you may still be able to order wine for delivery or curbside pick up.
  • Wineries may only be offering wine by the bottle or glass and please note: it is unlikely that flights or tastes will be poured
  • Open physical tasting rooms require masks. Most will be offering tables on the patio—which, with the weather and views, is just lovely!  
  • Depending on the winery, masks may be required throughout the property as well, except when at your table.
  • Tables may have time limits in order to serve more customers and facilitate sales for the winery and servers that are already struggling under reduced capacity. 
  • Tours may not be offered.
  • Food service may be limited or vary from winery to winery, so do bring your own provisions just in case.
  • You may also wish to bring your own glassware or wine tumblers as some wineries are using disposable plastic cups.
  • Restrooms will likely be outside portables with hand washing stations.
  • Please be kind and respectful to your wine hosts and the staff that is working hard to stay open and serve you, while abiding by state regulations.
  • For more information on Oregon's Phase 2 guidelines.

For maximum comfort, stay in pristine accommodations in downtown Eugene, which is adjacent to many urban tasting rooms and centrally located to the valley vineyards. For a world class venture, some great hotel choices include Inn at the 5th, the Campbell House and Valley River Inn.

Next choose how you will tour— by personal car, limousine or on a guided tour. Reservations will need to be made in advance for most wineries and tour companies, so plan ahead. 

Sunshine Limo in Wine Country by Melanie Griffin
Sunshine Limo offers luxurious and informative transportation through wine country. Photo by Melanie Griffin

 

Day 1: Territorial Highway North

For your first day explore a cluster of five vineyards known as Prairie Mountain Wineries, all within a ten-mile radius, all with extraordinary views, personable service and excellent wines. Here are some recommended stops:

Start your morning with coffee at Provisions Market Hall. Shop their delicatessen for fine cheeses, charcuterie, fresh produce, baguettes, sandwiches, salads and pastries to fill a wine country picnic basket so that you can nibble throughout the day. You may also wish to stop by Camas Country Mill Bakery & Store in Junction City. This amazing little bakery showcases pastries and breads baked from family grown and milled wheat. Eat in a historic schoolhouse repurposed as a charming dining room (temporarily closed summer 2020).

Pfeiffer Winery

Tasting at Pfeiffer Winery is more than a visit, it is an experience. First of all, the owner winemakers, Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer, are larger than life characters — warm, welcoming and masterful storytellers. In fact you can read about their history and the origins of this vineyard from sheep farm to award-winning winery, as part of Danuta Pfeiffer's book "Chiseled". Two things you'll want to accomplish, have Danuta autograph a book for you and arrange for a "Pinot Clinic" with Robin — he can take you on a deep dive into this finicky grape and set you up right for the rest of your Oregon wine tasting journey. Additionally, Pfeiffer wine is excellent and their Blue Dot Reserve Pinot Noir has even graced President Obama's table. And lastly, the vineyard estate is lovely with outdoor water gardens, a large pavilion with a fireplace and a cozy wine tasting grotto. 

Junction City Wine Tasting Pfeiffer
Learn about all the nuances of the Pinot grape with a private tasting at Pfeiffer Winery.

 

Walnut Ridge Vineyard

Walnut Ridge's immaculate and intimate tasting room was designed in a New Orleans architectural style with hand-hewn timbers, gas lamps and wood burning fireplace. Step out onto the patio for stunning 360 degree views of the 30-acre vineyard and adjacent countryside. The proprietors, Wendy Golish and Jim McGavin, are committed to sustainability. The vineyard is LIVE certified and has a Salmon Safe designation. You will not want to miss the gourmet food offerings here (please no picnics at Walnut Ridge as their food is part of the experience). The small plates menu frequently changes but may feature a selection of cheeses, meats, deviled eggs, cookies, assorted baked goods, and even fondue.

Brigadoon Wine Co

Another nearby boutique winery, Brigadoon Wine Co, has three generations of winemaking behind their very special Oregon vineyard. Stemming from Rutherford Vineyard in Napa Valley, proprietors Chris and Sheree Shown brought their love of grapes to the fertile Willamette Valley—and what makes their organic vineyard so special? Brigadoon is the producer of the highest quality Oregon grown rootstock and scion wood used by many other vineyards across Oregon and even in other states. Here you can learn all about the careful cultivation of sturdy, healthy vines. Picnic in their terraced gardens overlooking 66-acres of bellpine soil vineyards. This lovely location may be cooler than other sites, so bring a light jacket or sweater.

More Fun Things to Do

Next visit Diamond Woods Golf Course, a championship golf course voted one of the "Top Ten Golf Get-aways" by the Oregonian newspaper. Conclude the day's wine tour with a round of golf. From the greens, enjoy views of the vineyards, farmland and distant snow capped mountains. If you have a small group, you may even wish to stay onsite here at the Inn at Diamond Woods, a well-appointed, 6,000 sq. ft. guest house overlooking the golf course. With four large suites, each with its own bath, three event rooms and a full caterers' kitchen, this is a stunning private space to gather with family or friends. 

Another fine finish to your day of wine tasting is to take a jet boat tour of the Willamette River, departing from Harrisburg. Cruise the scenic waterways relaxing with your favorite bottle of wine from the day's tastings. Watch for wildlife along the shore and learn about the history of the watershed. 

Back in Eugene, enjoy dinner at Marché Restaurant. This destination foodie hot spot serves up French-inspired cuisine with farm fresh ingredients and regional wines that celebrate the bounty of the region. 

Day 2: Territorial Highway South 

Start the day off perfectly with breakfast from Creswell Bakery. Like Camas Country Mill, this family-owned, farm to table bakery is a destination stop for foodies. Serving up local fare beyond pastries and sandwiches, you'll be able to stock your picnic hamper if so desired. Next, swing by Emerald Valley Golf Course for a round of golf where the University of Oregon's golf teams practice. Or, if shooting is more your interest, visit the clubhouse at Creswell Clay Target Sports.

After a morning of sport, you'll be ready for a leisurely afternoon once again sampling Oregon's famous Pinots.

Saginaw Vineyard

If you chose target shooting, Saginaw Vineyard is nearby and the perfect follow up stop. Otherwise, head on to King Estate. At Saginaw Vineyard, the tasting room is a classic red barn and the country vibe is strong. You may see sheep in the vineyards as you approach. Saginaw is known for their fun fruit wines along with the traditional varietals. Try something new!

King Estate

King Estate's restaurant and tasting room are temporarily closed due to COVID-19. However, you can still purchase bottles to go.

Visit King Estate, Oregon's largest producer of Pinot Gris (their signature wine) and Pinot Noir. This grand wine estate is not only staggeringly beautiful, crowning the hill with its European-style winery, it offers elegant dining. Reserve a view table for lunch and enjoy mouth-watering Northwest dishes paired perfectly with a King Estate wine. Owned by Ed King, the acreage includes organic vineyards, orchards, vegetable, fruit and herb gardens. Beneficial insects and raptors such as owls and kestrels are used to combat pests and King Estate has partnered with the Cascade Raptor Center, a wild bird rehabilitation center, as a raptor release site. 

Iris Vineyards

Tasting room is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 but you may call them at 541.942.5993 to order wine.

Iris Vineyards is a boutique family winery owned by Pamela Frye and Richard Boyles. It is a charming place for a picnic with beautiful vineyard views. Discover the romance of wine country as you share the wine tasting experience.

Iris Vineyards patio by Joni Kabana
Relaxing on the Iris Vineyards patio by Joni Kabana
 

Visit a Covered Bridge

This sweet side trip is perfect if you have only picked up bottles of wine along the way and haven't had lunch yet. Unpack your hamper of delicious treats from Creswell Bakery after exploring the historic Coyote Creek Covered Bridge. This tiny covered bridge was built in 1922 and vehicles up to 16 tons can still drive through it. Watch for birds and other wildlife.

Coyote Creek Covered Bridge by Jeanine Heindenreich
Contemplation at Coyote Creek Covered Bridge by Jeanine Heindenreich

 

Sarver Winery

If you've made Coyote Creek Covered Bridge one of your sightseeing stops, go further to visit Sarver Winery. Sip wine on the patio overlooking a sweeping view of the valley toward the Three Sisters Mountains. Winemaker David Hook, together with owners Chris and Erin Server, produces excellent estate wines featuring Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Early Muscat, and Gewurztraminer.

Sweet Cheeks Winery

Founded by Dan Smith, Sweet Cheeks is one of the few wineries you can currently enjoy a self-guided flight of wines that were crafted by winemaker, Leo Gabica. Enjoy the wines with views of the vineyards that gave this winery its name on the expansive outdoor patio. Taste estate grown Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling or maybe celebrate with a bottle of sparkling wine made from estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes — named "Trio" for the three additions to the Sweet Cheeks Winery's third generation who were born the same vintage the grapes were harvested. 

Sweet Cheeks Winery by Rachell Coe
A summer evening at Sweet Cheeks Winery by Rachell Coe
 

Silvan Ridge Winery

Right across from Sweet Cheeks is Silvan Ridge Winery. A natural amphitheater setting with grassy lawns makes this the ideal destination for enjoying live music. Silvan offers weekend concerts with limited space (reservations required) to enjoy one of their evening events. Bring a blanket, low chairs and a picnic dinner and relax beneath the twilight skies with a great bottle of wine. Wrap up your day of wineries with a gentle, musical finish.

More Fun Things to Do

If you skipped the concert, head back to Eugene and have dinner at Excelsior Inn near the University of Oregon Campus. This exquisite restaurant serves a rotating menu, locally sourced from their own farm. Or try Grit Kitchen in the artsy Whiteaker Neighborhood for a fixed four course dinner, also farm-to-table. Retire to your hotel suite for a restful slumber and start planning your next indulgent staycation.

Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.