Eugene & Lane County: A little bit of city and a little bit of country

Eugene & Lane County: A little bit of city and a little bit of country

The stunning view from Iris Vineyards

When people think of Oregon wine tasting they immediately think of the beautiful rolling hills in the Willamette Valley. Or they may think of the vibrant urban winery scene in Portland. But if you take the time to expand your horizons there are many other equally beautiful places to visit around the state.

Oregon's second-largest city is a wonderful place to visit, just two hours south of Portland. Great hotels, excellent restaurants, and a great combination of both urban wineries and off the beaten path wineries in the hills surrounding the town.

If you're ready to check out this politically-active, football-obsessed, up-and-coming foodie city and the countryside around it, here are some suggestions for your trip:

Where to stay. There are a host of mid-range hotels in Eugene catering to students visiting the University of Oregon and their families. But in the last five years there has been an uptick in visitors who are looking for a higher-end experience and the Inn at the 5th is just the place. Centrally located, this upscale boutique hotel has a variety of accommodations and is surrounded by the Fifth Street Public Market where guests can shop, dine, and relax.

Where to eat. Eugene definitely has a burgeoning foodie scene and whether you're looking for good brew pubs and pizza or innovative upscale dining, there is something for everyone. Check out Belly Restaurant which serves a creative, amazing but affordable combination of American and European farmhouse cuisine with a Southern soul twist. If you're staying at the Inn at the 5th, look no further than Marché Restaurant, a Parisan style café right in the Fifth Street Market. And if it's seafood you're craving, a short drive across town will take you to Fisherman's Market where you can get local fish right off the boat grilled, fried, or cooked however you like it.

Ready to taste some wine? The Eugene area is a wonderful place to explore the breadth and depth of Oregon wines and to experience the best of both urban and rural wineries. So, let's go wine tasting! Whenever I'm looking for new selections for the Cellar 503 wine club, I start with Eugene's active urban winery scene. In addition to the wineries I've featured below, check out the entire list of wineries on the Eugene Urban Wine Circuit as well as upcoming events.

Once you arrive at the first stop, this tour is about one hour of driving (plus stops) and includes five wineries. Here's our Google map with all the stops below. Be sure to confirm when/if folks are open -- outside the Willamette Valley, hours can be unpredictable! If you're a Cellar 503 member, don't forget your Explore 503 wine country pass for tasting room discounts!

Oregon Wine LAB

488 Lincoln St, Eugene, OR 97401, 458-201-7413

The Oregon Wine LAB features wines by multiple small producers and is a production facility for William Rose Wines.

When you're there, be sure to ask about the legend of William Rose, the fabled bootlegger and rapscallion. We've featured them twice in our club -- the 2012 Dry Riesling and the 2011 Merlot. They have weekly events and food carts parked right outside.

J. Scott Cellars

520 Commercial St Unit G, Eugene, OR 97402, 541-357-5279

Another favorite just 10 minutes away is J. Scott Cellars, whose astonishing range of excellent wines and fun weekend music make it a great place to visit with friends.

Winemaker Jonathan Oberlander loves experimenting and dabbling with new varietals, so be sure to try some unusual wines while you're there! We've featured his wines three times: a lovely Grenache Rosé, a perfect-for-summer Zinfandel, and his exquisite 2013 Avanté blend.

Ready to move outside the city and see some gorgeous scenery? You don't have to go far. There are close to a dozen wineries within an hour of Eugene. From big, grand chateaus to small, intimate houses you'll get a great glimpse into the range of wines made in the middle of our state. These wineries feature their own take on the Willamette Valley's classic Pinot Noir but they are also making darker, heavier reds and light, fruity whites.

Sarver Winery

25600 Mayola Ln, Eugene, OR 97402, 541-935-2979

It's your longest driving stretch of the day -- just 20 minutes to get into the hills at Sarver Winery. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley from their expansive deck. It's worth sticking around to enjoy their nice list of food items to be paired with their wines including an unusual Arneis and luscious red blend, Melange.

Iris Vineyards

82110 Territorial Hwy, Eugene, OR 97405, 541-242-6588

Then drive 15 minutes deeper into the hills and visit Iris Vineyards. This hidden gem will astonish you with stunning views once you trek over the river and through the woods to their gorgeous tasting room overlooking the entire valley. Here you'll get a good sense of the style of Pinot Noir grown in the middle of the state but don't overlook their hearty reds and keep an eye out for a new sparkling wine coming soon!

Chateau Lorane

27415 Siuslaw River Rd, Lorane, OR 97451, 541-942-8028

And if you're looking for something really fun and out of the ordinary, drive 10 more minutes and check out Chateau Lorane. This expansive resort area was once home to a corporate retreat center and is now the scene for many summer weddings.

Their extensive tasting list shows off winemaker Linde Kester's talent for seeking out highly unusual grapes like Baco Noir, Huxelrebe, Marechal Foch, Léon Millot, Melon de Bourgogne, and Pinotage. We featured the Pinotage in our "back to school" unusual varietals selection. Luscious!

Posted on October 28, 2018 in Wine Country Tours.